Something for free? There should be no such thing!

Everyone likes a bargain. There’s no harm in that, it’s human nature after all. We love sales and discounts on our favourite products. Most of all we like stuff that comes free. Let me tell you when it comes to a discount on my favourite products I am the first in the queue!

If you run a small business, then you’ve no doubt come across various individuals who think that they have a right to something for nothing (or at least next to nothing). When you’re trying to make a living, it’s difficult to explain the real world situation to those people who really don’t like to pay what you’re worth.

Something for Free? There should be no such thing!

Something for Free? There should be no such thing!

Watch this highly amusing video from Zulu Alpha Kilo who went round asking professionals to give away their services ‘on spec’. before reading the rest of this blog:

Something for Free? There should be no such thing!

Businesses very rarely give things away for free. That would be stupid, right? How can you make a profit if you are giving everything away for just a few pence or nothing at all? Most business owners understand this, of course. Discounts are given for a reason – to boost new customers, to get people in store where more expensive products are on sale, to get us spending with our hard earned cash.

Take the work of the humble freelance writer, designer, programmer or artist. Freelancers often get asked to provide a free sample or test article or job to see how they perform. You wouldn’t ask the same thing of a supermarket would you? You wouldn’t expect to try a hotel room out for a night before deciding to pay?

Have I Got News For You regular and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop was once asked why he didn’t put his paper online so everyone could access it like other newspapers – his answer was that he would prefer his talented writers and production staff, who worked very hard, to be paid what they were deserved. This couldn’t be done by giving the magazine away for free. Newspapers, of course, do provide online copy for free but they also have large numbers of visitors who help by clicking on paid ads that pay the bills.

The Hidden Costs of Running a Business

Most people who don’t run a businesses don’t actually understand that there are plenty of hidden costs. Yes, there are staff to pay and there is stock to buy, we all know that. There’s also the premises rental, business rates to pay, more insurance premiums than you can shake a stick at, bank charges, VAT, Wages including sick and holiday pay. There’s the cost of equipment, cost of lighting, heating, water, and waste removal and that’s before we look at the cost of being members of associations, marketing costs, office consumables and subscriptions – by the way have you seen the price of printer toners… I think the last lot I bought were equal to my first week’s wage! The list of overheads is pretty big, even for a small business.

To be fair, most businesses that operate in a competitive environment try to keep the cost of their product or services as low as possible. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to earn a profit.

A case in point

Here is a great example of why you should be prepared to pay for a service or product and not expect it for free. This story is about a woman who complained that she was charged £2.00 for a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon in it. Her fury was such that she was ‘forced’ to vent her frustration on Trip Advisor. £2.00 for a cup of hot water and a slice of lemon, surely not we all cry!

You can read the cafe owner’s reply here. My favourite excerpt is: “Perhaps, the rudeness that you perceived in me was triggered by the disrespect that I perceived in you by your presumption that you could use our facilities and be waited on for free.”

To be honest, part of the problem is that we get so much for free we now expect it. People may love what you do, want your product, but, boy, they don’t want to pay for it, or they want a discount or they want something on spec before they actually ‘engage’ properly (despite the fact that they are already engaging). It seems we’re happy to put others at an inconvenience to get a good deal – next time try asking these customers if they’d be prepared to take a cut in wages to offer their company’s customers a better deal.

I think you can probably guess the answer.

To all our readers who are small business owners, please, please, please, stop giving your services away for free… that is unless your mortgage provider is also giving you their services free of charge!

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