If you run a small business, you and your business need to guard against the damage caused by Internet freebie hunters. These people see the Internet as a 100% free resource; a place where the normal rules of business simply don’t apply; a place where your time and your knowledge is theirs by right!
The best way to think of their mindset, is that they would eat free cheese samples at a deli counter – even if they hated the taste of cheese – JUST because it was free.
If you have been online for any length of time, you will have encountered these freebie hunters yourself. They are the ones, who email you asking for free advice on complex problems they are having. They are the ones, who see the comment section of a blog as a place to get free advertising for their business. They are the ones, who go to forums to tout for business, rather than contribute to the conversation. They are the ones, who send you DM spam on Twitter (it’s free advertising in their mind.)
Most importantly, they are the ones, who will send you out of business, if you let too many of them suck your resources dry!
What makes these serial freebie hunters so dangerous, is that they sometimes disguise themselves as prospective clients / customers. However, they are a totally different breed of person. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. They will devour your time, energy and resources, knowing from the very start that they have no intention whatsoever of repaying you for your help. They leech advice from experts, then try and deploy what they have been told themselves. Of course, it seldom works, but it’s free and that’s their primary focus – FREE!
It’s often hard to spot these people upfront, but there is a common characteristic I see in the ones that target me: Their business is almost always in really bad shape!
This is true even if they have been in business for years. Their business reaches a plateau and stays there until they go broke or change their attitude. Somehow, they don’t seem to realise it’s impossible to develop a successful business, based on leeching free advice from people.
The only effective way to protect yourself from the damage they can cause, is to set some limits on the level of free help and advice you give to people. You need to set your limits based around your unique situation, but here’s how I do it.
General advice is free BUT specific advice isn’t.
I give a lot of valuable, free marketing advice away to people every day here on the blog. Now, this has to be general marketing information, which is designed to provide as much value as possible to as many small business owners as possible.
However, if someone wants me to work with them on specific, targeted answers to the problems ruining their marketing and hurting their sales, they pay me.
Yes, there are people I connect with online, who I have never met, who I call and help for free. But these are people, who have connected with me and whom I have offered my help to. They didn’t ask – I offered. They are often not in a position to pay for professional help and I’m in a financial position where I can afford to help them for free.
You know what? I LOVE helping them too!
You know what else? They value my time and that is worth a lot to me.
Your time is not money
Your time is not money – it’s far, far more valuable than that. Money can be replaced, time can not. Unless you put some kind of structure in place, even a simple one like I mentioned above, your business is at risk of being bled dry by the Internet freebie hunters.
Now, this is where you come in: I want you to either share your experiences of Internet freebie hunters (don’t name them please), or share your tips for dealing with them. Your feedback here will be of great value to my readers and myself, so please share your experiences.