One of the challenges that service providers of any type (CPAs, attorneys, medical professionals, consultants, etc) face is keeping boundaries around their time. It’s easy if you sell a product. Let’s say you own a car dealership. What would you say if someone came up to you at a party and said, “Hey, I’ve got my eye on that red Corvette on your lot. I’ll come pick it up Saturday.” Either you assume you’ve got a sale or you figure the guy is nuts.
But, if you’re a service provider, you know what it’s like to get cornered at a party and be told a long legal story and asked for a free legal opinion (if you’re a lawyer) or showed some weird growth or told about an ailment and asked for a free medical opinion. You sell your time and your expertise. It’s every bit as valuable to your business as the Corvette is to the car dealership.
In my case, I do webinars a couple of times a month and take questions during the webinars. I almost always have more questions than I can answer, so I do pick and choose. Why? I’m looking for the questions that are more general (and not specific to a person’s unique situation) and to which others on the call can relate. If someone wants specialized, outside-the-norm information, I recommend they pay for a consultation.
So, I don’t answer every question I get on a webinar, specifically it’s a question that is not going to be of general interest. The same is true if I get a question that is way off-topic. For example, if I’m talking about the use of business structures and someone wants to talk about how to make use of the Production Deduction. It’s just not relevant to the conversation and I’d lose all but one of the audience.
I also don’t answer questions that will need more information. If you’ve ever been on a webinar or at a seminar where the speaker starts talking to just one person, you know how quickly you get bored. If they are back and forth on a specific set of circumstances that have nothing to do with you, you’ll probably tune out. As a presenter, I have to be aware of all of my audience.
And the final reason is the most important and the reason I wrote this blog. I’m in business to get paid. I do the free webinars to provide information, and to be brutally honest, to find clients.
I had to work hard to break the habit of working for free just because someone insisted on continually asking me questions that were better suited to a paid client situation. But that changed when we adopted our son. He’s grown now, and I have dogs and charity work. In other words, I have plenty of things to do that don’t pay me. My business is not one of them.
I hope that if you’re a service provider, you will be able to draw the line as well so that your paying clients get the very best of you. It’s a hard habit for many of us to break. But, the fact is, business means making money. And that’s what we do here.