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
Written by Michael Munger
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...
There are 5 reasons why you should ALWAYS hand out a bill.
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.”
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
Do you want the heart surgeon who charges
$500,000 per surgery or the one who works
for beer to operate on your mother?
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
Demand the respect that you deserve.
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
Working for free is not only unprofitable, it also
weakens your constitution as a professional
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
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.”
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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
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