Owners of service or arts based business are typically naturally empathetic and have a natural desire to help people and organisations achieve particular outcomes. That’s often why the people who own
or run these businesses choose the service industry. When what you do on a professional level meets the needs of an organisation needing what you have, requests to get involved are common.
And because service providers have an empathetic nature about them, they generally do what they can to help. As a result, service providers can sometimes find themselves spending more time on their altruistic and philanthropic pursuits than revenue generating business.

So how do you, as a services business, say no to the many requests for your expertise that are unlikely to generate revenue, and in fact, draw you away from revenue generating activity? You don’t.

There are at least 3 commodities available in a negotiation situation.

Time, money and knowledge.

If you don’t have the money to pay someone, then you best have the time to learn how to do it yourself. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, then you best find the money to pay someone to do it for you. And if you don’t have the money or the time, you best have the knowledge to
impart on a willing intern!

The point is, cash isn’t necessary king, but a value proposition is. Next time you’re approached remember, this is a value proposition negotiation. Ask the requester
what they can offer in return. You might be surprised by what they come up with. Next, know what value exchange you might consider. Think about your needs and whether there is some alignment with this project. Some examples include learning new skills, adding to your portfolio or working with someone or on something you have always wanted to do. And maybe
even the goal of making new friends. You could of course add things like generate new business, build stronger connections in a particular industry, use the exercise for a case study or chapter in your latest book! The opportunities are endless when you spend a few moments thinking about
where the alignment with your business or personal goals might be.

But sometimes, you’re asked to work on projects where you really can’t find a mutual benefit and in these scenarios not all is lost, just push the work back to the requester. You may need to assist them to understand the value of what it is they are asking. For example, 24 hours of your time, that you normally bill out at $150 per hour, and a lifetime of your learning and experience! This may be where finding something of value to provide in return can be a challenge for some. In these cases, where it is high value, consider negotiating a formal sponsorship agreement.

Next time you hear “but we don’t have any budget”, simply say that you would be happy to consider their request but to ensure an equal value exchange, suggest they present a value proposition that
will remunerate you by way of something other than money. Feel free to give them some ideas about what you consider valuable, but where possible, avoid the oft touted phrase “for the publicity”, unless there is a tangible outcome that you or your business needs.

And if you’re the one considering asking someone to do something for free be a trailblazer and consider the value proposition before making the request. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be money, but it does have to have value. And the value should be aligned to the person to whom you are asking, not your own perception of value. If you’re not sure what they value, ask. And if you can’t find something of value to exchange, it may be time to reconsider you project and consider its overall value.

A value proposition forces one to realise what they are asking for and what they are willing to part with in exchange. It also outlines for you, the real value of what you were about to give away for free.

I’m always happy to have a chat with artists and practitioners on how to establish your value. Drop me a line if you need help.