The Bitch Slap: You Run a Business, Not a Free Clinic

bitch slap: you're a business, not a free clinic

On Saturday morning, I woke up with a lengthy Facebook message from the lovely @Cara19. While it had absolutely nothing to do with something requiring an ointment, it inspired me to hash-out this post about the “free clinic” approach to business.

Last I checked, you run a business. I run a business. While some of you run a non-profit business, that doesn’t mean all of us don’t run businesses with a few goals in mind:

 

  • Pursuing our passions
  • Earning a living
  • Helping others

If you want to run a free clinic, I suggest you head to medical or nursing school. Quit doing it with your business.

You don’t have to be Facebook friends with everyone who’s a fan of your blog or who once bought something from your store. Better yet, if the guy wanting to be your friend is a friend of a once-removed friend, you don’t have to accept his friend request because you see that he’s in a wheelchair.

You don’t have to accept every bit of work that comes floating into your inbox or though the phone line. Stop acting as if you’re lucky to have the work and start looking at the work as if you earned it. If you’re booked and can’t take it, hire a subcontractor or push the start date. Better yet, explain that you’re sorry you can’t help out this time because you’re SLAMMED but to please keep you in mind for future projects.

And you certainly don’t have to accept work that’s below your normal rate because the economy sucks. Seriously? Screw the economy. If a client wants to haggle over price, there are two options to pursue:

  • If you truly want to work on the project, offer a Project Discount. 10% is more than fair and 15% if you’re working with a non-profit organization.
  • Explain that these are your rates. I’m fortunate that I rarely have to defend my pricing, yet when I do, I say one thing and one thing only: “I’m not the least expensive professional you will find, but you can get work that’s a whole lot crappier for a lot more money.”

The “state of the economy” is no reason to discount what you do for a living. Taxes don’t get any cheaper, gas and groceries cost the same. You can’t haggle with the gas company because the economy is in the shitter.

You. Are. A. Service.

You. Have. Value.

You have no obligation to do anything in your business except treat each and every person who approaches you with respect and professionalism.

You are not in the business of treating a raging case of the clap or bandaging-up victims of a bar room brawl. Pay attention to the fact that you opened a business for a reason and invest your energy there. It’s so easy for us to want to open a conversation and help everyone who shows up on our doorstep. God knows, I have 2 dogs and 2 cats, all from shelters. One more damn animal and I’m going to have to build an ark the next time it rains! My charity has limits, but that doesn’t mean I’m a cold-hearted and uncaring bitch.

It means that I understand I have limits and while I would like to help everyone:

  • Not everyone can afford me
  • Not everything fits into my production schedule
  • There are clients who pay my full rate for my time and energy
  • If I delude myself into thinking that clients who pay less for my services will rate the same as those who pay full rate, I’m simply a fool and over time, I’ll under serve those clients.
  • If I give away my expertise for free, I devalue myself and what I bring to the table.

So today, step back and take a good hard look at your table. There’s nothing wrong with lending a hand and giving advice, but reassess your milk-and-cow scenario. Mama was right that if you give away one, you’ll never sell the other.

Stop being a free clinic. Be a business. You’re worth it.

You’ve been slapped.

Do you like getting slapped? Check out The Bitch Slap collection – blunt advice, delivered.

71 comments
Cassie Witt
Cassie Witt

I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I needed to make my "social media work" portfolio better so I partnered with a company who offers the service, but needed to have someone to actually do the work. We had agreed on a price (which was much lower than what I normally charge) and the next day the business owner came back with a price that was even lower because the business owner only pays one of their other freelancers "that rate". I was incensed, but since I was "desperate" at the time to get out of my old job, I accepted and didn't put up a fuss.  3 or 4 clients (with this business) down the road and I realized that I'd gotten myself into a real "pickle". It took me a little while, but I managed to wrangle myself out of that agreement without  damaging the relationship. It sucked, but it had to be done. Now, I don't discount my services at all. Thankfully, I have not had anyone else that has looked at my rates and ran the other way. But if they did I would say "good riddance", because someone that will only look at price and never at "value" is not someone I want to work with. BTW, I'm a redhead, too. I love your blog...er rant! :)

Softwindblows
Softwindblows

WOW.................. Thanks for the slap, I needed it,,,,,,, Now can you kick my ass into gear!

Geoff
Geoff

Thank you for the truth and great inspiration. You made my day. Geoff

JojoNH
JojoNH

Great article!! It was so refreshing to read this. . . I too run a business and get so tired of others thinking I need to lower my fees and my standards in order to meet their needs!! One particular person kept calling trying to get me to do some very involved design work for less than minimum wage. . . the final call I asked the potential customer " Do you go into the grocery store and haggle like this with the checkout person?" NO! was the immediate reply, then a long silence and a simple thank you for my time. I value my talent and service that I offer and I am the only one who can make the decision to "take a cut in pay" . Thanks for the Slap!!

LMFDesign
LMFDesign

Yesterday a potential client suggested that in exchange for a professional redesign of his PowerPoint presentation, he would provide "publicity" to the audience about me and feed me for free. I wanted to ask him if he meant "Feed me and my family for free for a month," which would have been fairer compensation for the services. Instead, I gracefully ignored his suggestion and told him that since a project of that kind is very involved that I would be happy to provide a quote upon seeing his presentation. I got a variation of "Thanks, but no thanks."

Toreinne
Toreinne

I work in a profession where you're expected to spend the first part volunteering before you can find something paying. Unfortunately, I've made it with a paying gig now, and can't seem to stop volunteering with other people. I keep thinking I'm going to miss an opportunity if I do, but it's left me with no social life.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Right you are, Angela. When they're out kicking the tires, they're just spinning your wheels :)

Angela
Angela

Wow - great post!! And a lesson I learned the hard way this past year (clearly I'm a slow learner). In my experience, I've found that when people are pushing for a discount, whatever you offer is never enough, and they never really intended to hire you anyway. If they can get you cheap enough, they might consider it, but really they're just out 'kicking tires'.

Joyce Jagger
Joyce Jagger

This was sent to me by one of my students! Thank you so much, I have a tendency to overdo and give way too much away! Thank you so much! I am going to post this on my wall!Joyce JaggerThe Embroidery Coach

The Redhead
The Redhead

Oh, family...You can't kill them, they can't afford to hire you. QUANDARY! ;-)

Jon Warren
Jon Warren

Thanks! I needed that slap. Now I just need to set up an automatic recurring emailing of this to me every few days to keep me on track.

Kory
Kory

This post hit home. I'm starting a new business and I've already been approached by several family members wanting free services. Thank you for slapping the hell out of me. It felt good.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Hey - that's what I'm here for: blunt advice :)PS: remind me to TAKE my own advice every now and then!

Cherry Woodburn
Cherry Woodburn

Too often I can forget the importance of this message. Thanks for the reminder.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Joe - you can use the term "fuckers" any time here at Redhead Writing. Let's face it: some people ARE simply fuckers. Wait - you've inspired a blog post. Tune in Thursday!

Joe Ray
Joe Ray

I love the term bitch slap! I've been using it for years but this was a good back atcha bitch slap! Well said! I can't stand these fuckers who walk into our office pleading poverty, insanity, etc. then I look out the window and see them hop into their expensive cars. Usually the car thing doesn't bother me but their begging compounded with the nice ride does.I get it on two fronts- I not only run a design agency but I'm also an artist. So I get the "it's for a good cause " spiel tossed my way. Heaven knows artists are a bunch of rich fuckers...This is great, I've used the word fuckers 3 times in one simple business correspondence and I feel good about it and I feel in great company. Life is a good cause!

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika,Excellent advice; if you don't think that you're "worth your hire," neither will prospects and customers.i've run a consulting business for thirty years. May i add two more items to your list.1. Never, ever discount. If you were worth $200 an hour yesterday, you're worth it today. Find 'creative' ways to price your work if necessary. But never discount.2. Always charge for proposals. If you spend X hours working on a proposal, you deserve to be paid for it. Have a special proposal rate --perhaps 50% of your normal rate--which you offset against the overall fee if you get the job. Don't auction yourself to the lowest bigger. They wont value your work anyway.That's all. Slap, slap: except,of course,make sure you have fun.REgards Leon

The Redhead
The Redhead

PROPS, Alex - you don't haggle with your heart surgeon, do ya?

Alex
Alex

Damn right. I've turned down a couple of jobs because the client apparently thought I donated my services or cited the fact that they had "no budget." Of course my first instinct was to help them out and drastically cut my fees--but I quickly came to my senses for the reasons you state here. It's not fair to me or the client. I don't want to accept a job for one third of my usual rate and then hate myself in the morning. The prospective client has to appreciate that just as they probably wouldn't try to lowball their lawyer, doctor or dentist, they shouldn't do it to a veteran PR consultant.

The Redhead
The Redhead

You betcha - in my *best* Sarah Palin voice.

Joyce Cherrier
Joyce Cherrier

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post! The timing could not have been better. I need to read this on a daily basis and make it my mantra!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Nice work - way to set up shop in the RIGHT place!

christina
christina

Great Post. Made me smile and I love the line that you can get a lot crappier work and pay a whole lot more....thanks!

Deb Dobson
Deb Dobson

Excellent, excellent, excellent. And much needed to do. Closing the free clinic door, taking down the sign as I write this. THANK YOU!!

The Redhead
The Redhead

WOOOOOOOOOOO! Seriously - you don't want to hear me sing.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, thanks for stopping by, Sylvia! And I'm a HUGE fan of "THE DISCUSSION." ;-)

Mikel King
Mikel King

Great post! Fantastic write up, very inspirational!!!

shellykramer
shellykramer

Every time I do a good deed, it bites me in the ass. The clients I take on because I feel sorry for them and want to help end up being rude, demanding, not valuing me and kicking me in the ass until I get smart enough to kick their asses out the door.I have quit doing it and, clearly, you have too. Amen, sistah ... sing it!

LynetteRadio
LynetteRadio

GAH! I get that all the time! Some of my favorites - barter 'links' on the new $20k website & marketing package I do for them in exchange. "But you'd get a ton of business from this ONE link on my website - you'll make a killing!" Uh. No.

Sylvia
Sylvia

Thanks so much for this reminder on how to keep our value alive. I find myself turning away some business because some people want a lot of something for nothing. My favorite is :" but it cost only $10, why should I pay $20 to fix it?" That's when I have the DISCUSSION with my client. You are so right on target with this whole post.

Mark Aaron Murnahan
Mark Aaron Murnahan

If you let us have at it once, we will expect it again the next time. Didn't you ever read any of the series of children's books by Laura Numeroff, including "If You Give a Moose a Muffin"?NOTE: I have three kids, so I am quite capable of producing good excuses for my juvenile behavior. Did you still want to go there? :-)

Mark Aaron Murnahan
Mark Aaron Murnahan

Yes! That is a pretty popular method. BTW, I wonder if the term "black hat SEO" has anything to do with the hat having been exposed to POO while it was up somebody's bum.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Why, you're welcome, Jen! Thanks for stopping by!

Jen
Jen

yes Yes YES!!! Thank you for putting this out there. I have practically framed it and put it up over my desk.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Mike - yet ANOTHER reason I'm so glad you're a reader. It has everything to do with confidence - you're 100% right. When we fear our place, that's when we make missteps. Or no steps at all...

The Redhead
The Redhead

Caleb - welcome to the world of controlling your own destiny :) Grab it by the balls!

Caleb
Caleb

I like this. A great read, as I'm likely about to pursue freelance work full time myself.

The Redhead
The Redhead

With a business blog, I don't think you have to give away the milk. I think you can give away an ice cream cone - no one know how you made it, but they like the way it tastes nonetheless :)

Doyle
Doyle

I've declared 2010 as the year of "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished." the last several projects I've discounted have not worked out well. So, while I may be a slow learner, I'm a learner nevertheless. The first six months of 2010, we've refused. I think everyone's happier, actually. Great advice!

Suzanne Vara
Suzanne Vara

ErikaIt is tough with a business blog and not giving a bit away for free. There are some that are DIY where others are seeking out our knowledge before reaching out. However, when you are met with price justification, asked to do a *favor* it many times is the right time to walk away. The economy sucks, well it does, but at the same time I think that some businesses are trying to use that and leverage/take advantage of it by trying to make people think that they have to work for less. Sadly, people do which we can understand in a way but at the same time its lessening the value of the work for the entire industry. Prices are the prices. Do we ask the chinese restaurant to lower their prices after we see the menu? @SuzanneVara

The Redhead
The Redhead

I'm just going to let you guys have at it here. This is far more entertaining than anything I can write :)

JGibbard
JGibbard

You mean buy it, keyword optimize it and resell it?

Mark Aaron Murnahan
Mark Aaron Murnahan

Are you trying to say that we are both bold enough to call stinky shit by the name "stinky shit" instead of calling it bad smelling excrement and then trying to sell it as fertilizer? OK, I'll buy that.

Mark Aaron Murnahan
Mark Aaron Murnahan

Oh, I am always happy to weigh in ... I just avoid promising that anybody will enjoy it as much as me. :-)

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Bitch Slap: You Run A Business, Not A Free Clinic:  Say it with me: You are a service. You have value. You are NOT a free clinic.   Stop discounting what you do for a living because the moment you do, everyone else will, too. […]

  2. […] to say no. If you’re a freelance who can’t say no, you need to go get bitchslapped because you run a business, not a free clinic. Your time and creative energy are valuable. You can say no. And sometimes you should. Article […]

  3. […] on how you prioritize TCB is welcome (here’s a few choice words from one of my favorite redheads to get us started). In the meantime, I’m going to post just […]