have you drawn your money-making line?

i have been asked a few questions lately about blogging & emailing which got me thinking about free vs paid content, and finding that balance for your biz.

and if you have been following build a little biz for any length of time you know that i am a huge believer in generosity, in being of genuine service to others, and of building a real community of fans/customers/clients/supporters. i believe that blogs, and emails, and social media work best when we keep in mind how we can offer value to our community, much of it for free. 

but if you give everything away how do you earn money? how do you draw the line between paid vs free? how do you get people to buy when they seem to find stuff for free all over the place? how do you convince friends and family to value what you do and pay for your products/services? how do you turn the free stuff into earning a living from your biz?

this is what i have learnt over the past 2.5 years of running the build a little biz blog...

you need to draw your money making lines. write it down so that it feels official and like you have to stick to it, because it is now part of your plan. and prepare a script for how to answer people when the questions come up.

for instance:


  • if i get asked a quick question on facebook i am happy to answer it for free


  • if i get asked multiple, complex questions on facebook i suggest that the person join the building site so they can get ongoing support & help


  • if i get asked a quick question via email i am happy to answer it for free (and i answer every single email i receive)


  • if i get asked a very biz specific, complex question via email i suggest that the person sign up for a one-on-one email session so that i can give them the time and attention they need


  • if i get asked a question about design, branding, marketing or business that i can answer in a couple of sentences i certainly will


  • if i get asked questions that takes my time away from paying clients i will suggest that person hire me for design work or sign up for one of my workshops or purchase one of my workbooks


  • if i get asked to skype about something that is mutually beneficial, or just plain fun catch up, i am totally in


  • if i get asked to skype to offer brainstorming or unstucking on someone's specific biz circumstances, i suggest the person purchase a one-on-one skype session


  • when i am trialing a new product or service i will have a limited 'portfolio building period' in which i offer a reduced rate in exchange for feedback and testimonial, and i stick to that limit (time or number of people)


  • when i had my photography business i set a clear "friends and family rate" and quoted it every time i was asked: in order to be fair to everyone, and also not lose time i could be getting paid by my other clients.


  • whenever i can, i hire or buy from little biz builders because i believe in biz karma: if i wish to be valued by others i must also value others in return. if i wish to earn money i must also spend money. do unto others, and all that jazz.


  • my goal is to stick to my 80/20 rule - 80% awesome free content, 20% selly-salesy info about a product. i only ‘sell’ items that i am genuinely passionate about, that i truly believe will help my most awesome people, and that fit with my brand & my purpose. this helps me know what to offer and helps me to have a natural correlation between the paid and free offerings.

those are a few of my examples, what are yours?

do you offer free shipping and when? do you do discounts for friends and family? how much?and how much time/attention does that end up taking away from full paying customers? how much is it really costing you?

do you do discounts? do you have a reason for it? or does it feel random and arbitrary to your customers? do you offer up freebies to giveaways & charities? do you set a limit?

do you allow other people to use your platform for selling their thing (example: guest posts, banner trades, mutual shout outs etc.) do you charge a sponsored post fee, advertising fee, or expect a commission/referral fee?

do you allow bartering or exchange of goods of service? do you consider your return on investment or how win-win any request or opportunity is? or will you deal with anyone, any size biz, any niche, any time, any way?

do you make a distinction about the type of content you will offer for free on your blog or in your newsletter or on facebook, and that which you expect to get paid for?

do you have a limit or a bottom line for any of these things?

i encourage you to draw your money-making line.

and don't just think of the logistics or the numbers. consider how these different aspects of doing business with people will make you feel.

if it makes you feel like crap to offer a discount to your family, stop doing it. draw your line. if it fills you with immense joy and gratitude to offer occasional discounts to your customers, even if you have concerns about doing it, then find a way to keep offering them in a way that makes you feel awesome & that won't hurt your bottom line.

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need some help with your mindset when it comes to making money? try these posts:

this post first appeared in the toolbox