Giving Too Much Away?

A doctor and a lawyer were talking at a party. Their conversation was constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the doctor for free medical advice. After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asked the lawyer, “What do you do to stop people from asking you for legal advice when you’re out of the office?”

“I give it to them,” replied the lawyer, “and then I send them a bill.”

The doctor was shocked, but agreed to give it a try. The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepared the bills. When he went to place them in his mailbox, he found a bill from the lawyer.

It’s an old joke (thanks to Jokes Place for this version) but, as with most good jokes, at it’s core is some truth.

As service professionals, whether it’s IT, accounting, management, or other,  we provide advice to clients and they pay us for it. Sometimes, we feel compelled to give away free samples to prove our level of expertise. How many free samples do you need to give away to make a sale?


  • I’m going to postulate…..I think you surface a real latent sentiment that many of those that don’t talk on the web feel towards those that do. “Why should I bother publishing my valuable knowledge or waste my invoiceable time on da internetz”

    Infact, even among those that do there is a certain fatigue creeping in as expressed in blog posts like:

    Of course the true extent of this sentiment is hardly going to appear online from the very same refuseniks.

    • Paul,
      There is a fine line between sales/marketing and free consulting. Everyone has to draw it for himself. The Internet gives us a medium to reach a large audience with the lure of “free” expertise. However, you are right in that your expertise needs to be spread judiciously. There are those who would exploit it. You have to choose whether, in the end, there is value for you even there.

      Thanks for the feedback,

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  • JesseOguns

    .@Berkson0 You nailed it in this brief post. Real thought for those of us in the service industry. going to think more about this. There is need for us to be firm and know our worth. +1

  • RobinMelina

    My thought on this: your business acumen rides on being able to distinguish the givers and the takers.

    I want to be known as a giver: so I give away some stuff. Why? Because its not enough to say “I can.” This is like honking among the flock of geese. Entirely different is to give myself in service and come up with the goods – the proof is in the pudding. Are those that received my giving changed? Now I can sell my stuff, cause I know where the magic works. My first workshops were freebies so I could tweak the process; but I only gave away 1 workshop.

    Application: Be a wise GIVER. Show your art. Be the only one. If someone else already said it, don´t say it until its in your own experience.

    However, there are so many TAKERS in the world. They are the ones that can never come up with their own voice, but rather looking for making $$ on your dime. They eat into your time with no thought for how it affects you. And when try to flip the tables and glean some professional courtesy in return, they come up with nothing.

    Application: Don´t give a thing to the TAKERS. Charge hard and up front.

    When you give wisely, you will begin to draw others who know the value of your offer and will pay. There is some loss of intellectual property, but its clear to everyone if you are a GIVER that you do more than honk the talk. You can set yourself apart.

  • berkson0

    @RobinMelina Well said, Robin. The Achilles heal of many professionals is business acumen. Often they are adept at providing the service but don’t understand the nuances of the sales process.

  • berkson0

    @JesseOguns Thanks, Jesse. Know your worth. Simple as that.

  • Cracking joke and illustration to prove your worth, had me rolling around and laughing!