Training Business – Should You Give Your Services Away?

If you’re interested in being – or already in business as – a professional trainer, the question of fees is one of the most intimidating issues you may have to deal with. You have to address how you charge and what to charge. How do you make sure you don’t over-price and, vice versa, that you don’t under-value your services? And then there’s also the question of whether or not you should ever “give it away.”

There is no right answer for how or what to charge – it’s a combination of your experience, what you’re offering, and what the client is willing to pay. But “freebies” are good to consider if you’re making a living as a trainer.

The most compelling reason you’ll hear for why you shouldn’t offer gratis training services is that it will devalue your work. You might be perceived as “less professional” or “less credible” if you give free workshops. And the second most compelling reason you’ll hear about why it’s not good is that it’s unlikely to be of any benefit to you – some organizations just want you to give to them, but you’re unlikely to get any return.

Let’s debunk those reasons. Because, if you’re going to be in the business of offering your training services, you have to recognize that free, or gratis, or pro bono work is a part of doing business. Heck, doctors do it, lawyers do it. Why wouldn’t you?

Here are some compelling reasons why you should definitely consider giving away business from time to time:

EXPOSURE. One of the keys to success in your training business will be how many people know your offerings and can speak highly of it. Giving a free workshop gets you that exposure. Be sure to take as much advantage as possible and ask the participants and the client to complete evaluations and/or write glowing testimonials that you can use as references.

MARKETING. One way to look at your gratis offerings is as a source of future business. Sometimes a free program can be leveraged for more business. The hope is that participants may actually want to hire you or at the least, will sing your praises to people they know, resulting in business down the road.

CHARITABLE DONATION. Probably most of the pro bono opportunities you’ll have will be for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits generally do not have the training budgets that corporations have and therefore cannot afford to hire a training contractor. While it’s important to note that, for tax purposes, Uncle Sam doesn’t allow you to count donating your services as a charitable contribution, it can still be something that you choose to do from the heart. It may be a way you can support a group important to you, whether a social services agency, or a health-related association, or an arts organization. And you never know who those attendees might know!

SKILL BUILDING. Especially if you’re just getting started, or if you’re “road-testing” a new program, free offerings can help you hone your skills, iron out the rough spots and build your competence and confidence. And if there are any glitches, then it’s more palatable to your client who didn’t have to pay for it.

In addition, don’t forget FREE SPEAKING. Unless or until you decide to become a professional platform speaker, you should take every opportunity to speak and not worry about charging. Some organizations may have a budget for an honorarium, and that would certainly be nice. But don’t speak looking for money – you should speak looking for exposure. Any time you can speak about your area of specialty, no matter what kind of group – business or civic or philanthropic or educational – you are spotlighting your name and your expertise, increasing the odds that someone will see you and just have to hire you.

Speaking and doing training for free is an investment in your business – you will reap returns in the future.