Are you exhausted from ‘giving on empty’? Had enough of ‘free for exposure’?
Check out today’s Dare To Dream Bigger podcast to find out the real reason why we fall into that trap and how you could set yourself free, today:
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Going solo and setting up your own business felt like such a great idea. Escaping the rat race, having freedom, creating the lifestyle you had been dreaming of, being able to get to the kids’ sports’ days, as well as seeing clients at times to suit you. You were the envy of your colleagues, as you nervously walked away from that near-guaranteed pay cheque. But you felt excited.
Fast-forward a couple of years and reality has, most likely, hit.
You’re working so hard ‘in’ your business that you rarely have time to work ‘on’ it. You’re lucky if you make the school play by the skin of your frazzled teeth and that ‘freedom lifestyle’ has become an 80-hour week.
You used to have regular money coming in but now, if you don’t work, you end up eating your savings.
And you’re sick and tired of being asked to do stuff ‘free for exposure’.
When you’re running a business with employees, the pressure to make sure there are funds for their salaries means we take a totally different approach to marketing and freebies. You won’t do anything that could jeopardise the business. And we need to find ways to generate income – to make money – rather than just to earn it from the paid-per-hour model.
But if you’re a coach or a freelancer or a yoga teacher or an interior designer, chances are you’re stuck on the money-for-time model. And you’re likely to feel under pressure to grow your platform – to establish your brand as the go-to-expert in your niche – so you’ll be much more likely to consider ‘free for exposure’ opportunities.
What has it looked like for you, in the past? I’m curious: what kinds of ‘free for exposure’ requests have you had? (Let me know, via the comments). Some I’ve come across recently (and sometimes done!) include:
Are you feeling exhausted yet?!
I’m not trying to sound negative about these. But none of them is reasonable. Yet we say yes to ‘free for exposure’ requests, every day.
And we do it to ourselves, too, even without being asked.
Not unless you’ve been ploughing your mortgage payments into Facebook ads and you have a super-tight, crazily-high-converting funnel or you already have 10,000 hungry fish on your email list.
Because they already have 5-figure coaching clients who fund their kids’ shoes!
They can afford to give everything else away for free, in the hope that you’ll be so hungry to be like them that you’ll sign up for their $2k ‘this-fixes-everything-about-your-business’ programme. And enough of us will, to mean they can afford to fund the free stuff.
We reach a point where we have given so much – be it the newsletter, the podcast, the free 5-day challenges, the mini-video-trainings, the ‘discovery calls’, the interviews, the guest posts, the cheat sheets, the magazine articles, the conferences – that we have emptied our batteries, as well as our bank accounts.
We are out of energy. Out of cash. Out of hope. Ready to give up on our dreams. Feeling like a failure because our business isn’t reflecting the effort we’re putting in.
We fill up on resentment that everyone seems to want everything for free, self-criticism of not being the abundant success we had dreamed of, and full of all the reasons why ‘it’s not fair’.
This article was inspired by a super short post from Seth:
Don’t expect much from a drowning man. He’s not going to offer you a candy bar or ask how your day was.
He’s too busy not drowning.
Generosity takes effort.
It requires the space to take your mind off your own problems long enough to see someone else’s.
It requires the confidence to share when a big part of you wants to hoard.
And it requires the emotional labor of empathy.
Generosity begins by trusting ourselves enough to know that we’re not actually drowning.
How often do we pause to consider whether or not we’re drowning, before we give more away for free?
15 years of mentoring small business owners and passionate world-changers on the ‘inside work’ that makes the difference to our success have shown me it comes down to one little word, with massive power over our business decisions:
We feel scared that:
As our grandmothers used to say,
See page 122 of Dare To Dream Bigger for more on this.
Search for the quote above, if you have the Kindle version.
This fear has other effects, too:
Yes! It can be.
If the opportunity will…
… then by all means consider it.
They take your time, they may even cost you hard cash, they distract you from other work and they may even cause you to change your plans and priorities, to fit them in. They use your energy. You can even end up neglecting your own customers – your Tribe – in order to serve someone else’s or to hopefully reach a new audience, by delivering the promised freebie.
You can end up neglecting your health, as you cram freebies into your ‘spare’ time – and you can even end up seeing less of your loved-ones. And for those of us who have a tendency to be addicted to giving, doing ‘free work for exposure’ is something we are brilliant at justifying, because it meets our need to serve.
Yet if we don’t see the bigger picture and make these yes/no decisions from the space of wearing our ‘Big Girl Boots’, we risk ending up as the doormat for someone else to wipe their own Big Girl Boots on, instead. Like dogs can smell fear, free-for-exposure requesters can smell desperation. So it’s essential to do the ‘inside work’ to get your confidence and congruence sky-high before you hit ‘reply’.
And, at a deeper level, too many freebies – whether for others or in your own business – can make it harder to get paid for your work. The more you do for free, the more people will expect for free. And the more you get a reputation for doing stuff unpaid, the harder it might become for you to justify your usual rates.
By doing what you do best for free – ‘for exposure’ – you are teaching those who could help you connect with your dream audience that you don’t value your own time – or the transformation that your work delivers. Unless you set clear boundaries, it’s really hard to transition from ‘freebies for exposure’ to ‘paid for the value I deliver’.
Set yourself a ‘freebie marketing budget’. Then when a request comes in, you could treat it like a business transaction – which it is. Look at the genuine cost to you – of your time and any travel, plus any other indirect costs. Remember that you might not be turning away paid clients to do it (or you might), but your time still has a value.
Then, when you have done your homework (see “The Questions You Must Must Must Ask” below), you should be able to figure out what the energy exchange will be. What do you / your business get from this project. How many subscribers might it bring you? How many new clients and customers might you reach?
Then – and it’s a real ‘finger-in-the-air’ thing, I know – does it balance out? If you were going to have to pay someone else to fulfil this commitment for you, out of a hard cash marketing budget, would it make business sense?
And of course the decision doesn’t have to be made just on pennies – you can use your intuition, too. But this simple process can help you to make clearer, more positive, more constructive business decisions – and put an end to you trashing your business through a constant stream of freebies.
You need to do your homework – and I’ve got a gorgeous bonus for you in a moment to help you with that. But in the meantime, here are some quick ‘sanity-check’ questions you can ask yourself:
So often we say ‘yes’ because we’re lacking clarity over our Big Vision, our Dream Audience, or we don’t have a strategic marketing and visibility action plan. Or maybe we’re just scared of saying ‘no’. But I want to let you in on a secret:
Awareness is the first key to change, as Carl Jung said.
Want to know the real reasons why you’re doing it?
How about thinking about a recent ‘free for exposure’ commitment you made, which doesn’t feel right, and then completing the statement below, with at least 7-10 answers:
Are any of those ‘because’ answers fear-based?
If yes, you need to release those hidden fears, to set yourself free from working for nothing.
Stuck on how to do that? My online course “How To Ditch A Limiting Belief In Under 5 Minutes” is a great help.
It contains the must-ask questions that you need to get answers to, before you say ‘yes’ to working for free. I have collected these over the past 15 years of running my business and the mistakes I have made! I’d love to shortcut that learning curve for you.
The energy exchange for this (it’s not a freebie!) is joining my weekly-ish Dare To Dream Bigger newsletter. I hope you’ll love it, but you can opt out at any time, if you don’t.
Click the image to read it online or right click this link and choose ‘save as’ or ‘download’ (or similar), so you have it with you, whenever you need it.
If you’ve got my latest book – Dare To Dream Bigger: The ‘Inside Work’ Handbook For Entrepreneurs & Passionate World-Changers – then you can dive in and get started on key causes of ‘free for exposure’ in the following sections:
Join me for my up-coming mastermind:
It’s a 3-month programme with a one-day workshop in the middle, with only 10 places. You’ll get to deep-dive on the root causes of why you’ve been ‘giving on empty’, discover how to communicate the value you add in ways your dream audience will love, and set yourself free from running your business on fear.
To get on the waiting list for this programme, register here:
The more we give stuff away for free, especially if we resent it, the more we’re telling the Universe (engineer-approved woo-woo alert!) that we’re happy not to be paid – that we don’t value our work.
This causes us to block our business abundance.
If you’d like to find out whether you’re blocking your business abundance, I’ve got a quiz for you, below, with the option to join me for a 5-day mini-training, to help you spot and clear out those Business Abundance Blocks. Are you in? Click the button below to find out:
Have you been falling into the ‘freebie trap’?
What might you do differently now?
How could you set yourself free from the fear that drives us giving on empty?
Do you know anyone else who might find this article useful? Please share it with them, wherever passionate world-changers might be hanging out.
With love, Namaste,
P.S. Could you be an ‘introverted entrepreneur’? Take this quick quiz to find out whether you have the 3 hidden strengths that introverts bring to running a small business.
As an NLP Trainer, Meditation & Yoga Teacher and an Engineer, Clare Josa demystifies ancient wisdom, blending it with the 'user manual' for your brain, to make it surprisingly easy for you to ditch your hidden blocks, and even enjoy the process. Author of five life-changing books, her sixth book and debut novel is now available with incredible pre-order bonuses: You Take Yourself With You is about the twists and turns life takes us on, to make peace with the past. What happens when we get in the way of happiness? Exploring self-doubt, trauma, depression, harassment (#metoo) and bullying, Clare's novel is a journey of hope, courage, love and realising we're not alone. Order your copy today.
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