Giving away services in the recession? You’re not thinking long-term

I was chatting with a colleague of mine recently who, like many who have found themselves downsized, is doing a freelance gig at a large...

I was chatting with a colleague of mine recently who, like many who have found themselves downsized, is doing a freelance gig at a large agency. She’s worried about how long the job will last because the agency is servicing the client at no cost in hopes of closing a permanent contract in 2010. Say what?!

Big mistake. In fact, we had a similar experience recently. One of our long-term clients was struggling with business and asked us to put an extra “push” on our efforts. We got dynamite results, but when we looked back at the hours, we realized we’d doubled them over the past two months. Basically, we gave away our service.

When we went back to the client to say we had to reign in our efforts, her comment to us was, “Well, why can’t you just give me that level of service all the time?” We said we could, but she had to pay for it. Her response was, “Why, when you were willing to do it for the last two months?”

“Because we were idiots” did not appear to be the best response, so we explained that while we were willing to pitch in with additional hours in the short term, we could not run a business by giving our service away in the long-term.

The sad truth: when you give away your expertise (other than pro-bono work), you devalue it in your customer’s eyes. If you work in-house and never ask for a raise that is commensurate with your level of responsibility, you do the same thing with your employer.

Despite the economic uncertainty many of us are facing, you cannot lose sight of the value you offer a client or an organization. Once you do, it’s an uphill climb to prove your worth when times rebound.

Ann Subervi, president and CEO, Utopia Communications

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