How to Transition from Free to PAID!

by | Dec 6, 2013 | Guest Post | 1 comment

anna long

Guest Post from Anna Long

Today we have an awesome post from Anna Long about shifting from a free, to paid offering.I hope you’re as inspired as I was, by reading about her process!

I’m a big fan of free when it comes to building a business. You see, I believe that if you give away a lot of goodness, you will be rewarded greatly. I believe that new businesses (and existing ones) will grow more quickly and become more PROFITABLE if they can give stuff away for free. If you want to learn more about the benefits of giving it away for free, check out my other post on that topic HERE.


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But this post isn’t going to teach you how to give stuff away for free. This post is very specifically for service-based business owners looking to make that scary leap from giving away for free to getting paid.


When I started out as a business consultant, I had no clients and, frankly, very little idea what I was doing. I had started, run, and sold one successful business. I was a free community advisor to many other women with biz questions, and I had a TON of passion about helping others succeed in business. But … I had no “real” consulting experience. So I did what all smart new business owners should do (in my opinion): I gave away consulting for free. This helped me get clear on my unique angle, build confidence, and gain a track record of client success stories to prove I was worth every penny I was charging.


While this worked awesomely for me, I see many others who don’t have such luck. In this post I will outline a few of the common drawbacks to giving away your time for free, as well as give you a few tips to make that big transition from free to PAID!


Drawbacks to giving it away for free: 

  • You give it away to the wrong people. Yes, that’s right – not everyone is your target client, and you may be giving it away for free to someone who doesn’t appreciate what you do. They may not end up getting results, you may end up frustrated, and this whole experience might taint your entire outlook on this new business … NOT GOOD!

Avoid this by: Having a really thorough selection process in place to screen your ideal clients. If you have an “iffy” feeling when first getting in touch with them, listen to that, and refer them on to someone else.

  • You don’t get the one thing you wanted most. When you give it away for free, you need to be very clear (even just in your own head) about what you hope to get out of giving that something away for free.  Did you want referrals?  Do you hope they will sign up to work with you longer?  Get to the bottom of your underlying motives.

Avoid this by: Going into your giveaway with clear expectations about what you personally want from the experience, and also what you hope to gain from your client.  Ideally this should be a win/win situation.

  • You get bitter. Yep, this is a big one. You felt all lovely and rosy offering to give a 6-month, one-on-one coaching program away for free, and now it’s 2 months in and you feel drained and exasperated. You gave away TOO much, and you sort-of hate your client (though it’s totally your own fault).

Avoid this by:  Similarly to the step above, you can avoid feeling bitter by setting very clear boundaries in the beginning, and by expressing these boundaries to the client. I always say error on the side of caution and give away a little less than you’re initially comfortable with.  If you TRULY feel like it, you can always choose to extend the generosity at some future point.

If you have been giving it all away for free and you are ready to make that transition, read on! At this point, you have been giving it away for free and you should (ideally) have built up your confidence, gained more clarity on why you rock, and have gathered at least a handful of testimonials from these lucky clients who have been basking in your free attention.


Now it’s time to take all of the above and make money … because a business should profit (and you finally deserve some financial rewards for your hard work!). You may agree, but you feel that you are getting stuck in the “how” part. No problem – I have outlined a few key steps below that will improve your position and get you ready to yell loud and proud that you are now accepting actual MONEY for your skills and talents!


Step 1: Position Yourself

Up until now you have been putting yourself out there as a “free X” … it’s time to reposition yourself as a professional so that you can begin making money.  Because you did everything above, this part is actually very easy.

  • Place all testimonials on your website (if you don’t have a site yet, get one – like NOW!). You have been busting your buns and now it’s time to “show off” the awesome value you have provided to your clients thus far!
  • Get MORE specific on WHO you want to attract and work with.  Sometimes, to get started, you have to work with whoever you can get your hands on … but now it’s time to review your clients and figure out who you like working with, who you don’t, and how you can attract more of the “gems”. Once you figure this out, make sure the copy on your website speaks to this.
  • Re-vamp your packages. Now that you have worked with a handful of successful clients, it’s time to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Did you learn that you need a minimum of 5 sessions to make great progress? Did you figure out that you really are best at “x” and want to focus on that more? Whatever you discovered in your testing phase, it’s time to put that into play and create packages that speak to your talents, the value you provide, and the structure that will most benefit both you and your clients. These packages will need to be priced at a point at which you are comfortable selling them.  Make sure you aren’t low-balling yourself, but also make sure you aren’t so freakin’ high that no one will buy. The famous people in your industry didn’t pop into existence charging their high prices … they got there eventually, and so will YOU!


Step 2: Be Confident

I know that in the beginning, asking people for money for something that you have been doing for free is scary. But I also know that if you are passionate about what you do and you have social proof that you rock (i.e. testimonials), your time to shine has come. Own it!


I remember visiting an intuitive years ago when I was first starting my skincare biz, and she said something very insightful to me when I told her I was scared to charge more. She said, “Dear, have a little confidence in yourself. If all you do is show up and be there for your clients, then it is worth something. Place a little more value on your time and any added skills above and beyond that are just a bonus”.  For me, this was a totally new way to look at this concept. I needed to first value my time, and anything above and beyond that was just more awesomeness.


So value your time, recognize the value you provide to others, and own that you are worth charging for your beautiful creation!


p.s. If you aren’t confident in the value you provide, no one else will be either. So get this in check fast! Hire a confidence coach or whatever you have to do! This part is very, VERY important!


Stage 3: Market and Sell It

Once the two above stages are in place, it’s time to market and sell it!  Here are a few tips.

  • Start with your “freebie” clients. Let them know that the time has come for you to start charging for your services, and that you would love to “invite” them to keep working with you. Refer them to your services page (with your new killer packages), and then wait to hear back. If they truly value and need what you offer, then they will gladly pay. If they claim that they “can’t” pay, then let them know that you have soooo enjoyed working with them, but that you only have “X” amount of space in your schedule, and that you need to make time and space for paying clients. You might be pleasantly surprised by who shows up even though they thought they “couldn’t” afford it. If they choose to pass on your packages, that’s totally fine too. It means that your time together has come to a end, and that you get to help more people in the very near future!
  • Market like you mean it!  Now that you have some confidence about what you do, market the heck out of it! Confidently talk to people you may not know well, network for the fun of it, and hit up your social media peeps to see who might need what you are offering. I could write a whole book on marketing, but I want to make this short and sweet. Be excited, be open, and truly “own” your awesomeness. When you do this, you will be contagious, and you might be surprised by who shows up ready to buy what you are selling!
  • Set your initial sales goals. When I decided to start charging for my consulting, I set a sales goal of 5 women who would sign up to work with me for 3 months. Then I spent a good 3 weeks marketing the hell out of it! I marketed to my freebie people, as well as people I didn’t know at all. Having this goal was sooooo crucial to me hitting my goal! (Duh…right?). So I decide on a goal and a timeframe, and I get moving!  I HIGHLY recommend that you set “X” number of slots, and that you let people know that they need to decide by “X” date. This ensures that you meet your goal and that people who “want” what you are selling actually have the fire under their buns to close the deal with you. If there isn’t an end-date, they will wait “until they are ready” …  which, unfortunately, can be FOREVER!  This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell packages beyond your “X” number of slots, but I do recommend you launch with a strategy like this when first starting.


As you can see, giving away your time for free is a complex topic.  In all honesty, most business owners do it wrong at least once … and that’s ok. If you have a “bad” free experience, take a deep breath, know that you aren’t alone, and take note of my “avoid” list above. If you are ready to make the big transition from free to paid, then high-five to you! We ALL deserve to profit from the skills and talents we were put on this earth to provide.


If you read this post and still feel “stuck” about what steps to take next to grow your biz from free to paid, check out my free “Biz Stages Guide” that will help you figure out what stage of biz you are in NOW, so that you can get paid sooner using the right strategies. Click here to download:


We all love learning from each other’s experiences, so if you have any insights or advice about how to transition from free to paid, please share below in the comments section!


Anna Long

Anna Long

Anna is an Intuitive Business Strategist who helps small businesses Build, Electrify and Rule their Empires. To read more of her musings check out her blog at

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