A Must Read: Technicians
Reasons why you should never fix a computer/smartphones for free
Technicians, we love puzzles, we love the challenge. We thrive on finding the answer. We hate disarray. It bothers us deep in our soul. We love to be seen as the digital knight who fixed the server, the computer, the email, smartphone and anything else that life depends on.
We love it so much, we sometimes make horrible decisions. Sometimes, we work “FOR FREE“. We’ve all done it. A friend, a neighbor, a relative, a good client, a bad client, a pretty girl… Whoever it was, and for whatever reason, and fixed something for free. In rare instances, it can be a rewarding experience. Perhaps your buddy gave you a drink. Maybe someone said thank you. Maybe there was a smile on their face, and that was rewarding enough.
Reasons you should ALWAYS hand out a bill.
You’ll Be Expected to Do It Forever
If you fix a friend’s computer for free one time, you can bet that friend will come to you every time their computer breaks for the rest of your lives. They’ll come back to you, and they won’t expect to pay anything because they didn’t have to before. If you do it once, you’re expected to do it again. If you do try to charge in the future, your friend will whine about it. Even if they pay, they’ll feel like you cheated them somehow, as unfair as that is.
You Break it You Bought it.
When you sit down to fix a problem that presented as a simple one you are creating a contract. Not a legal contract, but a social one. The computer owner is trusting their computer with you. It’s their baby, and you’re the doctor. So you sit down, and begin to fix a problem.
In the process, something else breaks. You fixed one thing, but something else goes awry. What’s the best part? Neither you nor the user notice it is broken until a day later when they call you to blame you for breaking something else.
“I thought you were going to fix it.” They complain.
This is the primary reason you charge money to fix something. You break it, you bought it. The user/owner will expect you to warranty your service even though THEY received all the value of your time, and you received nothing in exchange.
People don’t respect things that are free.
Free advice. Free upgrade. Free entry. None are valued. Free advice is seldom wanted. Free upgrade was something you were going to get anyway. Free entry? The band playing tonight must not be any good. When people get things for free, they tend not to respect those things as much because they didn’t cost them anything. They’ll take anything free for granted. It cost nothing, so they’ll treat it that way. If you fix a computer for free, you risk losing the respect of the people you did it for. It’s ironic, but it’s true. They’ll think that because you’re not charging them anything, it’s not worth that much anyway.
People associate the value of service with the amount of money that is exchanged for it. How else do you think that lawyer can get away with charging $400 an hour? People naturally make the assumption that if it costs an arm and a leg, then it must be worth it.
The demands will only grow with time.
Give them an inch, and they will take you through three operating system upgrades, two virus infections, and a crashed hard drive. Once you’ve set the precedent and created the expectation that you are their knight in shining armor, they will begin to call you for everything. They will suck up your time and resources. They will not be grateful. They will involve you in 30 minute hypothetical conversations then disagree with your expertise.
It Weakens Your Backbone
Working for free is not only unprofitable, it weakens your constitution as a professional consultant. For many consultants, asking for money is difficult. They email out a silent invoice after the fact and hope they get paid. This practice can lead to unbalanced books, debt, and a going out of business sign. The simple fact is: if you don’t ask for your money, you’re not going to get paid. No one just hands out checks.
Setting up the expectation, especially when you fix a computer for the first time for a client, is vitally important in establishing boundaries that ensure you are paid in a timely fashion. It hurts your credibility because the client will assume that if you’re not charging them for a given task, you didn’t know what you were doing or you made mistakes.
It may give you butterflies, but ask for the money. Do it openly and notoriously. Your clients will take it as a sign of confidence.
Computers are important. People rely on them for just about everything, yet most people don’t know what to do if they break. The work you do to fix a friend’s computer is extremely important. What will they do if they don’t have their computer? Your service is extremely valuable. Don’t cheapen yourself or your skills by giving things away for free. In most cases, your friend will gladly pay whatever it takes just to be able to use their computer again. While that’s not an excuse to rip them off, it’s certainly means you shouldn’t let them rip you off, either.