Give Away the Store, but not the Entire Mall
Do you naturally offer free information because you’re a client-centered accounting firm? As a result, you generously offer suggestions, make small corrections without charging and let people pick your brain. You know you’re giving away too much, but might not be sure how to fix that.
Consider this perspective: it’s okay to give away the store – just don’t give away the entire mall.
Boundaries are a beautiful thing. They let you decide what you offer for free and what dictates a fee. Basically, you decide what to share and under what circumstances. You’re not obligated to give away your valuable information for free.
Give Away Free Information
First of all, you share information because you care about people. Does this hurt or help your business? The answer is both. Freely sharing information can attract more clients, but it could also limit your income. This truly depends on your approach.
I’m perfectly okay with giving away information. However, I don’t offer “pick my brain” sessions. I’ve decided when and how to share what I know. My blog posts, e-books, webinars, Intuit posts, videos, speaking opportunities, interviews and strategy sessions are full of rich content. I happily direct people to these free resources.
Typically, these resources are leveraged or passive. It’s either me speaking to a group of people or content I create once that you can then access anytime you want.
Along the way I realized that three types of people want your free information:
- Do it yourself (DIY). They prefer to fix their own problems.
- Wannabe DIY. They’ll start to apply your information. Eventually, boredom sets in, or they lack the skills to finish the job, causing them to reach out to you to clean up their mess and finish the job.
- Want it done for them. These people want your solution. They don’t have the time or desire, however, to do it on their own. They happily pay you to do the work.
Don’t dismiss any of these people from eventually becoming clients. Sometimes the DIYs hire you down the road. Either they became too busy and can’t spare the time, or they now have the finances available to hire you.
The Kindness Problem
A difference exists between freely educating people and doing work without being paid. When you work for free:
- You’re leaving money on the table. As a result, your income suffers. Your business expenses still need to be paid. And, you deserve to pay yourself.
- Frustration, and even resentment, has the potential to build when you help someone – especially when you learn they hired someone else. Or, you bought into their sob story only to discover they took a trip to Hawaii.
- You’reself-critical because you solved their problems without getting paid. They don’t fully appreciate you.It’ll continue to happen until you decide to stop it.
- You can start to become overwhelmed and burnt out. You’re naturally a giver, so you wonder how to resolve the problem while remaining true to yourself.
A solution exists. Giving away information, when done strategically, benefits your business. You gain:
- Visibility. Potential clients learn about you.
- Credibility. Educating people by freely sharing information offers a sample of what you do.
- Profitability. When people gain awareness of what you do and how you help, they’re likely to hire you or refer you to others.
Continue to be a giver and become comfortable with educating people on how you can help them.
Reset Your Value
It’s unreasonable to expect others to value you when you don’t value yourself. Your confidence affects your accounting business. You can’t snap your fingers and magically develop confidence. It’s a process. As you begin to recognize your value, you’ll start to attract new, ideal clients who appreciate you.
- Raise your awareness. What you know matters. Your knowledge, known as your intellectual property, is your single most valuable asset. Consider how your clients benefit from your work. Take a moment to list the five most valuable benefits they get from your accounting service.
- Evaluate your giveaways. You get to decide when to freely share your information. Do you offer nuggets of knowledge when meeting for coffee? Maybe you review a potential clients’ books without charging. Sometimes sharing too much information at once can be overwhelming. At that point a potential client may delay the decision to start working with you.
- Develop a system. Here’s an advanced move. One simple shift solves this issue. Express curiosity during conversations. Instead of relaying “how” this works, focus on “why” this should matter to them now. Consider directly asking whether they’re interested in your help. This can lead to new clients asking to work with you.
- Restrain yourself. I applaud those of you being generous instead of stingy. Now, connect with your value and then ask great questions. Beware that information overload can backfire. Start to talk less and listen more; then you’ll discover their real concerns. Feel free to share stories about how you solved a similar issue. This approach reveals your value without giving away the entire store, so to speak.
As you try this out, you’ll notice a subtle shift during your conversations with potential clients. Instead of sharing the details of what you do, ask questions to further your understanding of them.
Not everyone is ready to solve their problems immediately. I have found that three different stages of readiness exist:
- Awareness. These people don’t even realize a problem exists. Great questions start to educate them.
- Research. Information is gathered during this stage.
- Action. They have awareness and already done the research – now it’s time to get to work. They’re ready to invest.
With practice, you’re sure to figure out which stage someone is in.
Remember, don’t allow potential clients to pick your brain during strategy sessions. It’s not the time or place. Use these meetings to ask questions about them.
Focus on Future Value, Not Free Information
Knowing and doing are two different things. Yes, your free information teaches people how to solve problems. On the flip side, however, most will not follow your advice.
Freely share your information to build credibility. Ask great questions to gain authority. When applied strategically, both lead to profitability – aka signing on a new client.
Keep in mind that people really do need what you offer. Your service solves their specific problems.
Success happens from the inside out. Shift your mindset regarding giving away your advice. Connect with your value and then set clear boundaries. Follow this approach and you’re sure to not only build your confidence, but also increase your income.