Generosity is something we’re all thinking about as we close out 2017. I’m not talking about community service as a business—although I’ve written about that before. Today I’m looking for the answer to the question: “When is the right time to give work product away for free?” Because sometimes giving away free stuff just makes good business sense.

No matter how much we enjoy being on the receiving end of free resources, when you’re in the driver’s seat, giving away your hard-earned expertise may seem counterintuitive. And, yes, obviously, I’m always going to encourage you to charge what you’re worth. There are certain times, though, when sharing your services for free makes good business sense. So in keeping with the season of giving, here are some reasons to start giving away free stuff.

When You’re Networking

I’m not going to lie. Networking is exhausting. But as entrepreneurs, we need business contacts. And in-person networking is still one of better ways to get face-to-face contact with potential clients and peers. Our associations with other professionals bring us ideas, referrals and generally help us take the pulse of our industry. So why not increase the value of your networking by giving something away?

Your giveaway can be as simple as a free download from your website or a discount code. Either way, though, choose something that has substantive value. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who needs yet another t-shirt or button that simply advertises your business. Those items have their place, but they’re not what we’re referring to today. Give someone something they need, and they’ll remember you forever.

When You’re Prospecting

In business, you sink or swim depending on your client base. A lot of smart, talented people fail to get their enterprise established, because they’re not able to overcome objections or attract customers. Providing a free professional service to a prospect serves two purposes. You’ll win them over—and possibly put them in a position where they feel obligated to buy more—and you’ll demonstrate that you can do what you say you can do. Sometimes, particularly for prospective clients with a high lifetime value, giving to get is very much worth the work behind the freebie.

The psychological reality is that giving away something for free can increase the amount a prospect talks about you by 20%. In a world where the power of your Raving Fans can be the difference between product success and failure, that 20% can be make-or-break!

When You’re Serving Your Community

Compensation—monetary or otherwise—is important and necessary. And even though we’d like to monetize every permutation of our business, there’s still room for the simple good deed. After all, lawyers do pro bono work, and doctors volunteer at free clinics. Even the design world has opportunities to provide pro bono services to nonprofits. So if the services you and your business provide could similarly benefit your community—and you have the time to spare and the inclination to help—then why not?

Here’s to a wonderful 2018!


image credit: Bigstock/onephoto

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