The problems people come to you to solve provides a good indicator at what you are good at. And sometimes friends or customers or neighbors will ask you to do work for free.
There is nothing wrong with free. If someone needs free, there are places and resources to seek. And if someone needs cheap, you can show them the number of competitors in the area or have them contact someone on Fiver.
But if you have built a large body of work and you are a professional, you are not those things.
Professionals do work for money. That is usually what stands out from an amateur. Not because they necessarily need it. It doesn’t fill the why. They do it because their time is valuable.
There is a reason I can’t pick up the phone and call Danny Elfman to come score my next super 8. He’s Danny Elfman! And has built a reputation.
So, there’s this large gap between what we can do by ourselves and what professionals can only do. We are talking about scarcity. As you move towards what only professionals can do, the more difficult it is to solve a problem. And less affordable solutions there are available.
Here are the steps to say, “Sorry, I’m not doing that for free.”
First step is to say, “Thank you.” “Thank you so much for thinking me.” “That is flattering that you would consider someone like me.”
Next, state that you don’t do this work for free. “Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow to take unpaid projects right now.” “Are you able to confirm this is a paid opportunity?” “I charge a flat fee for this kind of advice.”
Finally, tell them where they can find your product or service. “Here is a price sheet of what I offer. Let me know if you have any questions.”
Not for free is an important step to becoming a professional. You don’t ask your plumber to do work for free. And you wouldn’t ask your doctor to do it either. Just because you have a skill and you are creative doesn’t mean it is given for free.