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VALUES: The Cost of Free

healthy living magazine the cost of free
Written by Healthy Living

The downside of getting something for nothing

We’re wired to believe that “free” means cheap. While that is often the case, it isn’t always true when applied to counseling, coaching and education. Countless people have expanded their knowledge from used books purchased for 25 cents, clarified goals at a free seminar or gained valuable advice from a friend — free of charge.

When it comes to counseling, many people spend big bucks for little results because they didn’t find the right person to help them develop. How much you grow depends on how much of yourself you invest. Life coach Scott Perkins offers the following observations on “free” help:

What tends to happen to a person’s mindset when something is offered free?

A prominent, although not universal, rule of thumb in the world of counseling and coaching is to require some, even nominal, form of payment for services that are being requested.

Providing something free eliminates a source of motivation.

There may be an initial excitement to get the product or service, but once received, having no skin in the game reduces motivation. For the client, if the appointment is free, it is that much easier to cancel or not show up.

This reminds me of the story a mentor told me long ago. Within his church, there was fondness for an annual “singing Christmas tree” event. For a couple years they put great preparation into promoting and producing the event, and then performed for a 2,000-capacity house that was half full. Someone had the counterintuitive idea to have a nominal charge for tickets, with no other changes to procedure or production. The result: They had to add a second show, and both sold out.

Providing something free enables irresponsibility. 

Similar to the previous point, when the going gets tough (as it eventually will in counseling or education) without the fear of loss of investment, many ultimately will drop out not to be heard from again. Life is busy, there will always be competition for our time, and if we have not placed value on something, then it is easy to let obligations fall by the wayside.

Providing something free reduces perceived value.

The thinking goes something like, “if this was really worth anything, I’d have paid for it.” In the realm of coaching, counseling, health, or education, a lack of value influences whether or not the actions, steps or work will be taken seriously.

Think of the email advice and information waiting for you in your inbox every morning. It may be a subscription to a daily workout routine, recipes, leadership advice, or devotional. How much harder would it be to delete without reading if you knew you were paying?

Finally, providing something free decreases accountability. 

When first receiving training as a coach, I offered to see my first five clients for free. This arrangement allowed me to obtain hours I needed for certification and necessary experience. All but one client continually did not follow through on the actions that were developed. The other person was haphazard. Paying motivates clients to the work between sessions because they want to see progress. Obviously there are times when accepting a free offering is good. In my practice, I still often offer a free session as a way to demonstrate value. And I know many consultants, coaches, and personal trainers who do likewise.

But, when the expectation is that what you are receiving comes without strings, it often becomes coupled with a taken-for-granted attitude. We will place our resources consistent with what we value.

How does where your resources are placed align with what you claim your values are? How does that explain the results you are getting?

About the author

Healthy Living

Healthy Living is unique in a sea of health magazines that only present information on nutrition and exercise. Published by Akers Media Group, Healthy Living goes much farther by focusing on the four pillars of a true wellness — physical, mental, spiritual and financial health.

Healthy Living promotes a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle with easy-to-read features, try-it-at-home exercise programs, and expert advice from financial planners, mental health professionals, and a variety of other leaders in their respective fields.

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