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Warning: 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Fix a Computer for Free


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We’ve all done it. A friend, a neighbor, a relative, a good client, a bad client, a pretty girl… Whoever it was, and for whatever reason, we all threw them a technological bone and fixed something for free. In rare instances, it can be a rewarding experience. Perhaps your buddy gave you a beer. Maybe someone said thank you. Maybe there was a smile on their face, and that was rewarding enough.

More likely, however, that five minute task you thought you were signing up for turned into 40 minutes, then an hour, then a weekend long commitment. Wow. You didn’t see that coming. There are five reasons you should always hand out a bill.

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Warning: 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Fix a Computer for Free

  1. 1. Warning: 5ReasonsWhyYouShould NeverFixaComputerforFree Written by Michael Munger
  2. 2. We love to be seen as the digital white knight who fixed the server, the computer, and anything else that life depends on. However, what you thought would be a five minute task turned into 40 minutes, then an hour, then a commitment. Didn’t see that coming... Introduction There are 5 reasons why you should ALWAYS hand out a bill.
  3. 3. You Break It, You Buy It1 When you sit down to fix a problem that was presented as a simple one you are creating a contract. Not a legal contract, but a social one. The computer owner is trusting you with their computer. In the process, something else breaks. You break it, you buy it. The user/owner will expect you to warranty your service even though they received all the value of your time, and you received nothing in exchange. “I thought you were going to fix it.”
  4. 4. People associate the value of service with the amount of money that is exchanged for it. People make the assumption that if it costs an arm and a leg, then it must be worth it. People Don’t Respect Free Things2 Do you want the heart surgeon who charges $500,000 per surgery or the one who works for beer to operate on your mother?
  5. 5. Users will figure if you fixed it once for free, you’ll do it forever for free. Set the expectation that they are going to pay (or barter) from the start. They Will Expect It Forever3 Demand the respect that you deserve.
  6. 6. Give them an inch, and they will take you through three operating system upgrades, two virus infections, and a crashed hard drive. Once you’ve set the precedent and created the expectation that you are their knight in shining armor, they will begin to call you for everything. They will suck up your time and resources. They will not be grateful. They will involve you in 30 minute hypothetical conversations and then disagree with your expertise. The Demands Will Grow With Time4 EXPECTATION TIME RESOURCES
  7. 7. Working for free is not only unprofitable, it also weakens your constitution as a professional consultant. For many, asking for money is difficult. They email out a silent invoice after the fact and hope they get paid. This practice can lead to unbalanced books, debt, and a going out of business sign. Setting up the expectation, is vital in establishing boundaries that ensure you are paid. Working for free, throwing out freebies, and “comp”-ing your time hurts your ability to ask for the sale. It Weakens Your Backbone5
  8. 8. It may give you butterflies, but ask for money. Do it openly and notoriously. Your clients will take it as a sign of confidence. “The simple fact is: if you don’t ask for money, you’re not going to get paid. No one just hands out checks.” Grow your freelancing career with Gigs by Experts Exchange
  9. 9. Michael Munger (DrDamnit) has been a member of the Experts Exchange community since 2003. He coaches IT business operations in the United States, Canada, and the UK. He also serves the Experts Exchange community as a Topic Advisor and Page Editor. About the Author
  10. 10. Experts Exchange is an essential resource for technology professionals to solve technical problems, learn new technology skills, and build their network to develop the technology career they want. About Experts Exchange Learn more technology tips on Experts Exchange