Top Performers: Stop Giving Your Time Away For Free.

by | Mar 14, 2020

I remember the first time I had to tell someone my hourly rate as a freelancer. I was 23 years old, scared to death, sitting with this strange woman I met on Craigslist, who wanted marketing help for her small health and wellness center.

At the time I was a full-time employee as a marketing manager and had never freelanced in my life. I was starting to really hit my stride as a marketer and thought it was time for me to venture out and start picking up some side work. Of course, leave it to me to find my very first lead off the “free section” on Craigslist.

I was clueless on what to charge for an hourly rate. I had ZERO clue as to what I was doing so I decided to ask one of my close friends that owned his own business what I should charge. He recommended I start at $75 an hour. He thought it was a typical designer/marketing hourly rate.

So there I sat, sitting in this strange back room at this health and wellness center asking myself if I even wanted this gig. The meeting was coming to a close and I could tell this woman wanted to hire me for her marketing. Here it came – the moment of truth – “So tell me James, how much do you charge per hour?” I’m sure I trembled with my reply as I slowly muttered “$75 an hour,” with my head looking at the floor.

Here came the awkward pause…. She finally looked at me and said “Great, when can you start?”

HOLY HELL. She said yes and didn’t even blink an eye! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that I just doubled my hourly rate in one meeting. At that moment, I was officially making money on my own terms.

Lets address a few things I’ve seen lately. I think we are living in a day and age that truly doesn’t value time by any measure, and I want to make sure everyone’s validated for their time. We live in a world of constant distractions, with no regard for anyone’s time even our own. All too often, we are expected to give away not only our time, but our expertise as well, and this has to stop.

If you’re a top performer that contains what I call the “X Factor” you need to stop giving away your time for free. More often than not, people get taken advantage of and don’t even know it.

I’m guilty as hell of this. Time and time again I meet with companies for prospecting reasons and bend over backward for them through the sale process; all the while these companies are taking advantage of my free advice and expertise. By no means is this their fault either, I fully allow this to happen. This needs to stop. So let’s talk about the value of your time and how we’re going to stop giving it away for free.


Before we start charging for our time and expertise, we must respect ourselves first. If we don’t respect our time and understand our value, no one else will.

It’s critical to understand that this post isn’t for you to learn how to sell a service. This post is to help you understand how to charge for your time and to stop stretching yourself thin while bending over backwards for people who aren’t willing to pay for your time or knowledge.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given away killer strategy meetings to prospects that never hired me. You know why they didn’t hire me? Because they got the cake before the main course. They didn’t need to pay for my time because I gave them a quick solution in what I thought was the sales process.

This is not only a horrible qualification with my sales prospecting, it is also me not respecting my value and time. I personally know consultants that charge $125/hour for these types of meetings that I was giving away for free because I wanted to prove my value, just to create a sale.

Here’s the bottom line: Respect yourself before you have a reputation of giving your time away for free. People will always take advantage of you if you’re willing. This is something I have had to learn through many years in sales. I’m all about relationship building, and of course, giving value with everything I do, but at a certain point people will have to invest in my value for it to continue. I no longer give my knowledge away for free, and frankly, neither should you.


If you truly want to get paid for your time and the value you deliver, then it’s all about positioning yourself for success. Positioning is a crucial skill to understand in this business. How you position yourself, right from the start, truly impacts the outcome of a potential business deal.

For instance, I’ve been known as the guy who you can engage and get major value out of for free. Now that I no longer give away my knowledge for free, I’ve had to recreate a new reputation. If they want to engage with me, or my company for deep market research, strategy, sales processes, then they have to pay. It’s that simple.

So now when I sit down with a potential prospect, of course we have a “free” introduction/get to know you type meeting, which almost always have major follow up, deliverable and action items. This is where typically I’ve fallen victim to giving my time away for free. Now, I position myself and lead with something like “If you’d like deeper analysis and strategy, we can certainly provide that for (x) amount.” When I position a follow up with a price attached to it the mindset and expectation changes from “free” to “valuable”.

Next time you’re about to sit down with a prospect, ask yourself how you’re positioning yourself before the talks even start and make sure to charge for your time.


Now, on the other hand, once you position yourself to be paid for your time, you have to back up the price with valuable action. This is where the rubber meets the road – or as I like to say – “put your money where your mouth is!”

As you know by now, I like to speak from experience. I’ve made a ton of mistakes in this arena. So I made a simple checklist with a few things to consider before you charge for your time.

Always set expectations for what you’re going to deliver (I’ve made this mistake way too many times!)

Once you get paid for your time – The prospect becomes a client, treat them as such

Understand your clients expectations and goals. Again, this isn’t about your agenda, it’s about them

Crush it: Go in there and give them something to remember and walk away with. You can’t please everyone but always be sure to charge a fee for: strategy, market research, sales advice or financial consulting.


You will hear me talk about this a lot, the power of telling people “no” (respectfully) is something all great business owners, top performers and entrepreneurs possess.

If you’re not going to be compensated for your time, especially if you KNOW you deliver value, then you also have to know it’s okay to walk away. You can still give value to someone without giving away your talent for free. You can point them in the right direction, give them resources, and keep in contact with them. Those are simple and free things you should always give away.

When the time comes to setup strategy, dive deep for market research, or help a company with internal processes, you have to charge for your expertise and time. If not, it’s time to walk away.

My father always said “What good is a man’s YES if he can’t say NO.” This couldn’t be more true. Our “No’s” give our “Yes’s” value. Now, especially during the prospecting process, I have to know my worth and understand that if I’m going to help a prospect get setup, they have to pay for the time at hand. This not only is fair to me, it’s also fair to my company. It allows us to verify and qualify the prospect even more. If they’re not willing to pay for time and value up front, we’re prepared to walk away, and yes, you should be too!

Long gone are the days where I charge for freelance work. I now charge for strategy, market research, sales consulting, etc… I sell my expertise more than I sell a service in meetings. If you’re a freelancer with bigger ambition, you too will get here someday. Many of my readers already understand this. You’re aware of what it’s like to charge for your expertise meeting time. You’re much better at this than I am! For the top performers who don’t yet charge for your time, start doing it today. Realize your value and charge for your delivery.

If you know someone who could benefit from this read, I humbly ask you to SHARE this post. Pass this critical information on. Help someone else realize it’s time to make money for what they already do for free.