Many service business owners these days are
"giving away" their business services – and then
wonder why people aren't hiring them in droves. In
the name of "marketing," business owners are
providing way too much information for free. Some
shifts in thinking are necessary if these business
owners expect to be in business years from now.
Even trained coaches, I believe, do too much
pro-bono work. Why? They say that they need to
practice, but the bottom line, IMO, is that they
don't value their gifts.

What can you say to people who 1) ask outright
for free information, or 2) want to "pick your brain"
or 3) just start talking to you about something, and
you realize that they're trying to "borrow" your
valuable resources without becoming a client? Here
are some ideas. Try them on to see which ones "fit"
you best.

23 things to say when someone asks you - a service
business owner – for free information!

1. My charge for an initial consultation is "x."
If we turn out to be a good match, and you hire
me, I'll apply 1/2 of "x" towards your commitment.

2. I'm happy to give you 5 minutes or less of free
time, however, most issues are more quickly &
effectively resolved in an undisturbed session(s).
May we schedule a meeting so I can give you my
undivided attention?

3. If someone is very persistent, whip out a
stopwatch & say "For $2 a minute I'd be happy to
go into this now. May I start the clock & do you
prefer to pay with cash or check?"

4. What I can do is refer you to a free resource
on "_______."

5. I do work with two pro-bono clients, who are in
desperate need financially. I'll take your card
and add you to the waiting list.

6. Yes, I do work with clients on "name the
issue." Would you like to set up a consultation?

7. That will cost "x" per hour.

8. There's a lot I can do for you that's similar
to the work I did for "xyz" client. Would you like
to get together and build a marketing plan? (And
then charge for those services.)

9. Well, I'd love to suggest something; however,
my fees are "xxx" per hour.

10. Are you looking to hire me?

11. Are you looking to hire _____? Well, I'd love
to talk to you about that; my fees are "x" per

12. You may call me for a 15-minute talk, very
focused, on that issue.

13. "Well, the answer to that question depends"
and then spend a few minutes explaining some of
the options and considerations. For example, I may
explain that the best way to identify the
"solution" is to work backward from the desired
end result and process. That provides a natural
lead-in to: "If I were to work with you on this
project, here's how we would do it..."

14. Sorry, I can't answer that unless you pay my
fee (or hire me).

15. A complete answer to your question is going to
take more than 15 minutes over the phone. Would
you like me to send you a proposal on this?

16. I have really enjoyed talking with you and
would like to help more. May I send you one of my
brochures and a rate card?

17. Do you have a time line and/or budget in mind
for solving this problem?

18. Have you looked at cost estimates from others
who would like to help you solve this problem or
complete this project?

19. It's not a good time for me to begin a session
right this minute. Would you like to briefly
discuss session times and fees?

20. Are you seeking generic free information on
"the topic" or to work with a "your profession
here" to address your specific situation? [If I
have a free resource, I'll ask for their email
address and send it to them.]

21. I provide a general 3-4 sentence overview of
how I would address their concern with them. Then
I say that I've found that the sorting of the
information available and subsequent application
of that information is so specific to each
individual that I always recommend hiring a "your
profession here" for getting that one project

22. Well what I can offer you on that subject is
an ebook (CD, audio, etc) called ________. I’ll
email you the link.

23. Refer them to these "free" or "almost free"
Ø The library has books/tapes/audios/CD/reference
Ø To an outsider, your local SBA and SCORE Offices
"look" free. They're really not "free" either.
Their classes "cost $" and their advice is paid
for by all of us as part of our taxes.
Ø Find a professional who needs your services and
see about some sort of in-kind exchange or barter.
Again, this isn't totally free, as you do need to
report it on your taxes, but in most cases, there
isn't any money exchanged.
Ø Join lots of ezines by experts in the area
you're looking to learn about, but do it quickly
while they are still free. And know that the 'best
of the best' contain ads and affiliate programs,

Marcia Yudkin, Marketing Consultant, Speaker and
Author says this in Marketing Minute:
"You can head off a good portion of that from
paying clients by settingdown in
writing what your fees cover and do not
cover. While you don't want to come off as some
sort of dictator with a stringent rulebook, it
helps to set forth guidelines for a productive
relationship. For folks who are not yet clients,
feel free to copy what I do. If I can answer a
question in five minutes or less, I generally just
go ahead and do so. If a question is more
complicated than that, I reply, 'I couldn't do
justice to your question without a consultation.
My consulting rates are ...' Prevent hassles by
making expectations explicit!"

Remember, as a service business owner, part of
what you "offer" clients and what they value from
you is your knowledge and expertise. It's as much
a part of your "services" as any tangible
materials you produce. So make sure to treat it
as such, and get compensated fairly! When you
value your services, others will, too.

With special thanks to members of the CoachU
Alumni Helping Alumni List, Digital Eve Seattle and
Freelance Seattle, discussion lists for
sending me their questions and observations, which
contributed greatly to this article.

Author's Bio: 

Maria Marsala. Elevating Your Business helps women who own service businesses and independent service professionals make more money, work fewer hour and enjoy life even more. Through the use of S.I.M.P.L.E. Business Solutions, we provide our clients with a confidential "ear", resources, tools, ideas and support that increase their organization and efficiency. Subscribe to SIMPLE Steps newsletter at our