Your cousin’s neighbor, Ethel, showed an interest in your soap three years ago. In your excitement, you sent her a few bars. Since then, she periodically asks for more soap and you comply, but you are no longer excited. It is costly and you feel manipulated. It is time to correct the situation.
You can’t change the past but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck, either. With a little creativity, diplomacy and a lot of courage and honesty, you can find a way to inform freebie lovers that the party is over.
First, think about what to say and when. You might wait until Ethel asks for soap or you might be proactive and tell her now that you will charge in the future. Either way, think about how to tell her and then act on your decision. The longer you delay, the more difficult it will become.
Use any number of reasons—a change in financial situation, inflation, you’re now in business, or no reason at all. Here are some possible answers to requests to inspire you:
“I would love to continue giving it away, but I can no longer afford it.” This is the empathy plea.
“Please order from my website. I will throw in something extra.” This softens the blow.
“I know I’ve spoiled you with free products, but now I have to charge.” This acknowledges the past but firmly sets expectations for the future.
“Inflation hit me hard, also, so I will charge from now on.” This option offers an explanation but be careful. What will happen when the economic situation changes?
“As of today, I will charge for soap.” It is a non-reason explanation but perfectly valid.
You may be surprised to hear Ethel respond, “Of course. I am happy to pay you.” That would be nice. Unfortunately, the announcement could also elicit a negative reaction so be prepared. Don’t apologize or change your mind, though. Stick to your guns in a sweet, but firm way.
If you haven’t fallen into the free product trap, lucky you! Take heed and plan now to proceed to avoid a situation you will regret.
If you are new to making but hope to sell at some point, set policies now to avoid uncomfortable precedents. Inform recipients that you intend to sell when you are ready and you will let them know when that happens.
If you recently began selling and want to give soap away to whet Susie’s appetite for soap, inform her that the first bar is free. She won’t expect free soap again.
Even as a hobbyist, you get to set the boundaries, so don’t feel badly about doing so. You can give soap away and decide how much.
Your business is your business, and it is your prerogative to decide if and when to give products away but take charge and clearly define the rules. Remember, no policy must last in perpetuity. Do what works for you.