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Giving Away Time For Free

3 Ways To deal with constant requests to help with a ‘quick question’

You’re a tradie who has spent years learning your trade. You want to get paid for your time and expertise. Yet do you find that your mates plus their mates expect you to have a ‘quick chat’ to pick your brains for free?


A common issue that comes up a LOT is being sucked into being the ‘nice guy (or gal!)’. You spend hours of your time helping someone out for free.

You feel awkward or you worry about sounding like a money grabber if you link your chat to a price tag.

A ‘quick chat’ can quickly become free work in disguise.

It’s common for people to think they have a ‘quick question’. They might be your mates or their mate so you feel obliged to help.

If you’re like a lot of tradies, you want to be helpful. So you are. Too helpful. For free.


expect to answer a few questions during a free consult. You can control that by setting a time limit (say an hour’s consult for free). This helps a new client to trust you enough to work with you. That’s great and is a valuable use of your time as it might lead to paid work.

What is not valuable is offering yourself up at night, on the weekend or for a ‘quick five minutes’ that turns into five hours. This is giving up time for you and your family or your sport or whatever your hobby is to sort someone else’s needs. For free. For no return to your business. That’s bad business.

Your tradie expertise is valuable. If you don’t place a value on your time, no one else will.

It can feel awkward to say no, so here’s THREE TOP TIPS on how to say thanks but no thanks:

TOP TIP 1 PLAY THE CLIENT CARE CARD Explain that you only sit down and discuss details with your clients. This way you’re confident you’re only giving out info on jobs that you know well.

TOP TIP 2 PLAY THE CONSULT CARD Thank them for their interest in working with you. Offer to book in a consult to discuss. Yep, that the friend or distant friend-of-a-friend might not have intended to ‘work with you’. By playing the ‘book a consult’ card, you’re sending a clear message. That you consider your tradie know-how to be a business transaction. This will separate the freebie freeloader from the potential client.

TOP TIP 3 PLAY THE COURTESY CARD If the person has already got another tradie doing work but they want to ‘check’ something with you, you can push them back to their chosen tradie. You don’t know enough about the job and you wouldn’t want to disrespect their own tradie’s advice. You know they might ‘work in a different way’ to you. All ways you can keep it polite.

Keep it professional, it’s not personal. Protecting your time when you’re off the clock protects your profit. You spent years perfecting your trade so you deserve to get paid.

Tradie Terms

Guest Contributor

Sian Wingate from Tradie Terms is our new guest blogger! She runs an online contract training programme designed for tradies over at As a legal expert in tradie contracts, we’ve brought her on board to share her contracting and legal top tips with you every month from the inside track on the nuts and bolts of your terms of trade and building contracts to contracting systems tips.

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