Hey, I got a good idea! How about you call up Dan Rather and say, listen Dannnnnayyyyyyyy, I need an hour of your time, buddy—I really need to know about journalism, and so I thought I could pick your brain for a while—you know, for free—and then decide if it's a good fit. If so, I miiiight give you some money to coach me later—money that I will surely balk about giving before I lowball you with a heavily discounted offer I think is more appropriate in exchange for your time—but for now, how about you just gimmie your time for free? That cool with you, Danny boy? GREAT, THANKS.
Alright so I don't know how Dan Rather got involved but honestly is there anyone you'd rather be talking about right now? DIDN'T THINK SO! Dan Rather's a classic, and you waltzing up to him assuming you'll be able to “get on a call for free” with him is about as ridiculous as I view anyone assuming they're going to get on a free call with anybody.
WHY DID THIS BECOME A THING? WHO POPULARIZED THIS? WHOEVER THEY WERE, THEY WERE BAD AT BUSINESS.
Worse, they perpetuated a problematic business practice for all anxious and nervous people experiencing imposter syndrome worldwide who think this is what they need to do in order to get clients.
Lemme tell you something straight: good clients pay for people's time.
Now known as “Middle Finger Law #462.”
Good clients pay for people's time because good clients value their own time. Let that sink into the ol' nog for a second. Because what I want to make clear here is that if someone comes creepin' around expecting to pick your brain for free, it is not because your time isn't worth it.
It's because their time isn't.
Not to them, anyway.
And people with a weak sense of self-worth will always project it onto you. They will become the persistent complainers, time vampires, cryers-of-money-wolf. They will be the ones guilt-tripping for a discount. They will be the ones that eat up the most of your time, while paying for the least of it that they can.
And they will be the clients you dread.
So that's one big, fat reason why you should avoid the free call of doom as a general rule: it's attracting the type of people who like free calls. And yes, those are a type.
A second reason, however, has everything to do with you valuing your own time.
I know you're hopeful that by giving them a free call now, you'll get the business later (and therefore the cost will be recouped), but that's only because you haven't seen how many free calls become just that: free calls. Because you know what happens (often) next?
^That's my artsy little illustration for le radio, le silence. Free call ends, you say something (adorably) clumsy like, “great, let me know if you want to move forward—you know where to find me!” and they say “sure thing, let me think about it and I'll get back to you!” And then you know what happens? NOTHING. Nuuuuuuttthhinnggggg. Zip! Bye bye! Person ghosts, never to be heard from again. Raise your hand if this has happened to you, like 800 times.
This is not your fault.
I repeat, this is not your fault.
This is simply a function of a poorly designed system, marketed as a clever system. Because we know what these people giving this antiquated advice are saying, right?
GET ‘EM ON THE PHONE, SHARON! THAT'S WHAT YOU GOTTA DO! GET ‘EM ON THE PHONE! Once you get 'em on the phone, you can sell 'em, Sharon! Overcome their objections! Make them commit! Nowwwww! Make them spend money they don't have! Nowwwwww! Who cares if they're hesitating? OVERCOME! Get the sale! Do what you must! Close the deal!
God, can I just say: fuck…this?
This is what I learned to do in the early 2000s in an old-school sales environment that pre-dates online marketing, and it's just so reprehensible and outdated in so many ways—not because selling is bad (I LOVE SELLING), but because when you do it right?
Your client will be calling you, begging to give you their money—and they'll be so excited to do so.
That's the difference between a shoddy sales game, and a beautiful one. Selling can be beautiful, you know, but that beauty doesn't happen during a bullshit free call designed to be a pressure tactic in disguise.
- Selling is beautiful when it happens as a byproduct of the change you are making with your work.
- Selling is beautiful when it happens because the conversations you're having online matter.
- Selling is beautiful when it happens because other people admire you and your ideas.
- Selling is beautiful when it happens because you showed up and kept showing up—every damn day.
- Selling is beautiful when it happens because you stood up to lead and contribute.
- Selling is beautiful when it happens because you were passionate and convicted, and people saw it.
The most beautiful selling never looks like selling. The most beautiful selling looks like helping.
And so that is what I'd like to say to you today: if you're worried about getting clients, I want you to take that free fucking hour you would have given to some random stranger on the internet who was not going to be a good, paying client anyway—
—and I want you to create with it.
Take that stupid free hour—at least one a day, since you would have given that away, anyway—and create something so generously useful, your clients will be begging you for it.
Take that free hour and create, create, create.
Write a free guide. Start a podcast. Make a workshop. Create a calculator. Do something, anything, to be helpful to the world with your craft. This is a much better use of your time, not only because creation is a form of modern leadership (and modern leadership is what you need to get noticed) but because when you create you essentially scale your own workload by replicating yourself. Before, you had to get on a free call with someone so they could “check you out” and “see if it's a good fit,” but when you take your voice and put it on paper, in a podcast, in a container that live and breathes independently from you….those clients can hear you and read you and get you and make those decisions far before they waste your time on a call.
You don't need a free call to get clients (they're obsolete).
But you do need to show up for your clients (in a new, modern way).
A more creative way. A more helpful way. A more expansive way.
Because poor business practices aside? If Dan Fucking Rather were giving away his time for free, let's face it: you'd also think something was wrong with him. You'd think him desperate. You'd assume he needed to give away free calls—and that's a bad look for anyone.
Turns out, you don't have to be a celebrity for people to respect your time.
You simply have to respect it yourself—and let the rest of the world follow.