“If you give me a free house wash, I will be sure to tell all my friends about you, and you will get loads of experience!” I am not a pressure washer, but I heard this offer frequently when I was a budding photographer. I did a few jobs for free in the beginning. The clients were usually a pain in the rear, but I desperately hoped that all that experience would eventually lead to a paying gig. Before long, I realized that my bills were piling up while I was working for free. I think we all have that friend that means well, but they do not seem to understand that you cannot pay your electric bill with “experience.” How do you turn leads into paying customers? I learned some great strategies over the years that work for many types of services.
It is very easy to get bitter when no one wants to pay you for your services, but you should not let your feelings wreck your relationships. If your phone is ringing off the hook with offers for paying jobs, you should just politely say no thank you. But, if you are reading this article, I am going to assume that this is not the case. Maybe your phone is ringing but you cannot seem to turn leads into paying customers. If you cannot afford to say no, you could say, “Thank you for thinking of me. I would love to come out and give you a free estimate.” This allows you to maintain your relationship, and will usually deter the people who expect something for nothing.
Schedule a time for your free estimate, and be sure to show up on-time. Dress professionally. A company polo will help them see you as a business owner and not just a friend. Give them your estimate, and stand firm. They will probably ask for a discount. Counter their offer by dividing the larger bid into smaller nuggets. If you are bidding a residential cleaning job, you could divide it into roof cleaning, siding cleaning, driveway cleaning, deck/patio etc. Be sure to adjust your price so that it is cheaper to clean the entire job than to clean it in nuggets. Remember, you will need to pay for travel and set-up when you come back. Explain these costs to your customer. They will understand and believe that you have their best interests at heart. If they are still hesitant, say, “I understand that you may not be ready to have the entire property cleaned today. I can clean the driveway for x dollars, and come back another time when you are ready to get the gutters done.” Show up with your gear, and be ready to work. This will put further pressure on them. Guilt can be a powerful motivator, especially among friends. “I’ve got all my gear. I could take care of that driveway in about half an hour.”
Make a clean work order before you unload your gear. Spell out exactly what you are planning to clean, and how much compensation you expect to receive. Also, make sure they know when you expect payment. Make sure they sign it before work begins. This will help you avoid the extra favors. You can say, “I’d be happy to do that for you, but we will need a new work order that includes that price.”
If they opt for the smaller price, try to suggest something that is visible to the neighbors. When the job is complete, walk around to the surrounding houses and knock on doors. Offer free estimates, and direct their attention to the area you just cleaned. Leave door hangers if they are not home.
You CAN give away a free house wash, but this does not make sense if your business is in debt. Invest your time and money in things that will turn leads paying customers. Learning exactly what works for you will take time and research. Some examples are advertisements, website SEO updates, and social media posts. Be prepared to walk away from any deal that is not profitable.