The “Free Service” Philosophy – Misconceptions about the “Right” to Misappropriate Service Provider “Product”

There are times when meeting with service providers at “no cost” is appropriate.  For example, when the service provider (accountant, lawyer…) is meeting you for the first time or is determining whether or not he/she is the right specialist for your particular project, free time is appropriate.  When isn’t it appropriate to expect or feel entitled to have a service provider meet with you without charge for time and services?  When time and services are being provided!

“Get to Know You” Meetings versus “How Much Can I Get for Free” Mentality

Service providers expect to have a limited number of meetings to get to know potential clients.  The process of providing services lends itself to meetings which allow individuals to get to know each other at no cost.  It is not appropriate, however to set up meetings with service providers with the expectation that you will get services, time, and advice at no cost – over and over again – simply because you cannot afford to pay, neither now nor in the future.

It happens all too frequently.  A request for a meeting from someone with whom the “meet and greet,” “get to know you free,” and “an hour at no charge” has already occurred.  They come back for another hour or two with another issue, another problem, another idea.  They are seemingly bewildered that they are to pay for services and time now when they still can’t afford it.  They are a small business or an entrepreneur or someone with an idea they are just thinking about or…

My question to you and to them is this:  “Do you expect to get paid for your time, your idea, your invention?”  Or are you going to give it away to others so they can make money?  Why, then, are you “entitled” to someone else’s “product” – his/her expertise for free?

Do you shoplift off the shelves of the supermarket?  Do you drive the car off the auto dealer’s lot without paying?  Do you pick up an extra shirt at the dry cleaners?  Do you get an extra gallon of gas at the gas pump?

What do you give, not sell to your customers?  Do you ship them 1000 gadgets and ask payment for 900?  Do you develop a product drawing at no charge?  Do you build them a machine and say “it’s on me”?

Services Rendered Cannot Be Reclaimed

One difference between service providers and other vendors is that service cannot be taken back after it has been provided.  On the other hand, there is no difference in that they both deserve the respect of those who seek their product when it comes to getting paid for what they provide.

If you are looking for services for your business, then ask for those services, be clear and know what you need.  If you are meeting a service provider for the first time or wish to discuss a new project, then be clear that you are seeking to define the relationship and have the expectation that you won’t be charged for the meeting or be charged  for only the part of the meeting where actual “work” is done.

If you are wish to have a service provider participate in a program, become a strategic partner, or act in something other than a traditional role in your business, then be clear about that also.  It may or may not be something he/she is interested in.

Being an advocate for your business is important.  Looking for opportunities where you can build alliances and leverage relationships is critical.  Having misconceptions and expectations that service providers should line up at your door to give away their services is doing both you and them a disservice.  Looking at this from a slightly different but related angle, not paying your service providers on time or in full is another form of the “free service philosophy”.

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