How do you balance contributor (free99) and charging for your services when networking? How do you avoid giving away too many of your skills or secrets for free? Especially when the opportunity came from an event, group or community you contribute to regularly. 

To help you balance between contributing and charging for your services when networking, we asked CEOs and business leaders this question for their best advice.  From setting expectations upfront to expecting skills improvement as part of your reward, there are several ideas that may help you balance your freelancing and contributor roles prudently when networking in various situations.

Here are six pieces of advice for balancing freelancing and networking:

  • Set Expectations Upfront
  • Be Outspoken and Raise People’s Curiosity Through Hints
  • Live By Generosity
  • Create a Standard Set of Topics and Expertise To Share
  • Set Limits To Number of Follow-up Questions
  • Expect Skills Improvement As Part of Your Reward

Set Expectations Upfront

Sharing tips and advice can be a great way to build your credibility. But ultimately, if that’s how you earn a living, people need to know there’s a limit to your generosity. Set the expectations up front by stating exactly what you will do (e.g., speaking at an event, sharing one tip, etc.), then follow up by saying something like “If you’d like to explore this further, I’d be happy to set up a consultation, etc.” This can lead into a pricing conversation and see who is really interested in what you offer. If you want others to see your value, you’ve got to recognize it first.

Alli Hill, FreelanceSpeak

Be Outspoken and Raise People’s Curiosity Through Hints

Being outspoken works great. Speaking out is the key when you want to balance contributors and charging for services within the inner network. But, that doesn’t mean that you will let your network member avail your services for free or at a less price. Make sure that you have announced the average service cost within the network. It’s obvious to offer certain rebates or discounts to members of inner networking circles. But, make sure that you never do below the average.  

Give only hints not the entire treasure The best way to avoid excessive sharing of skills and success secrets is to give only hints. You should talk about the tips and tricks that you followed to become a success or earn the prestige you have today, but only in bits and pieces. The entire roadmap to success should be offered.    Elon Musk is the ideal example of it. He surely answers. But, has he told you in which stocks he invested? Has he told you what big investments he made? So,  just give hints.

Caroline Lee, CocoSign

Live By Generosity

It’s easy to want to “keep score” while you’re networking, to think I did something for him or her, so they’ll owe me later. Instead, be generous with your skills and ideas and in one form or another it will come back to benefit you. You’ll know when someone is taking advantage of you, and cut those people out quickly, but otherwise generosity is a great value to live by.

Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Create a Standard Set of Topics and Expertise To Share

This was a trickier balance to strike when I became a solopreneur because I was so focused on building brand awareness and wanted to show how I can add value to generate new client leads. In certain situations I was giving away too much of my skills and expertise for free. Now I have a standard set of topics that I speak about regularly and a set of advice or tips that align with those topics. When people see the value in my expertise and ask for more, that is an appropriate time to share what my paid services are and what they will gain from them. Additionally, this practice creates more focus for my company and brand.

Leang Chung, Pelora Stack

Set Limits on Number of Follow-up Questions

One way to avoid giving away too much information/company expertise is to limit the number of follow-up questions you’ll answer. For example, if someone asks “how to set up an affiliate program for their business?”, you can provide them with steps to do this based on your expertise. But, when that individual asks follow-up questions like “What software should I use?” or “How much should I pay affiliates?” you can then politely follow up with you’d be happy to support them with their program for a consulting fee. I believe in providing advice and sharing your knowledge with others, but you need to set a point where too many questions/time out of your day is enough.

Nick Cotter, Growann

Expect Skills Improvement As Part of Your Reward

Don’t worry too much about giving away skills or secrets for free when networking; the added benefit of appearing generous will help you far more in the end than any secret to success. While much is made about secrets to success in the business world, the reality is that many skills are simply the result of hard work. Those who are adept at meeting contacts and building relationships are good because they put the work in, while those who find success in their job do so because of tenacity and insatiable curiosity. As long as you’re improving your own skillset, you’ll always be in demand.

Alex Wang, Ember Fund

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