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Why Free Workshops Don’t Work for the DIY Small Business Owner

There are so many free workshops on the Internet and YouTube, but for the DIY small business owner, these free workshops don’t seem to work (I’ll say “usually” here because while there is often some good content in them from which we benefit, the majority of spend their time on the upsell and are unable to deliver what it is we truly need).  As a result, I see business owners continue to search for and watch free workshops online only to repeat getting the same result over and over again.  Nothing.  So why don’t they work? 

The Core of the Small Business is the DIY Mindset

DIY small business owners have a lot of heart and they often have a business purposed by their passion; to make a difference – provide a better product or service than what is already out there.  But nearly all solo-entrepreneurs and those looking for help in starting a small business are fighting the same battle: a shoe-string budget.  This leads to the need to DIY (Do It Yourself) every aspect of the business’ operations from marketing and sales to financials and customer service.  And because these businesses are driven by passion, I see business owners ready and willing to wear as many hats as they need to get the job done.  This spirit of passion and DIY mindset are qualities I see in ever successful entrepreneur. 

Free workshops don’t work for most DIY small business owners and those looking for information on how to start a small business.  Here’s why.

Trying to DIY a small business without a lot of startup capital leads many business owners to seek out as much free help as they can get.  Okay, I get it!  Fortunately, there are many great free, legitimate resources out there, e.g. SBA and SCORE.  But there are many more free resources that truly have an ulterior motive.  We have been told for years to offer something of value in order to attract our audience and the free workshop model is an ordinary route but it can be an abyss that many business owners fall into. 

Why Free Workshops Don’t Work (Usually)

There are several reasons why free workshops don’t work for the DIY small business owner and those looking for help on how to start a small business.  Like I mentioned earlier, there are undoubtedly some good free ones being offered, but most free workshops will land you in one of these pitfalls.

one money

It’s Only a Sales Tactic

Presenters who give free workshops are often using them as a sales tactic to put you in the top of their sales funnel and plan to work you through to the purchase phase as quickly as possible.  Fair enough actually.  They give you something you give something in return.  But I’ll bet you have experienced that “Free” online webinar that was designed to work you through the entire sales funnel during the presentation.  These (often pre-recorded) sessions only tell you how amazing they are and how amazing the results you might get from working with them will be.  They get you excited about knowing what you are lacking that keeps you from success.  When this is their sole function, for most of us, this equates to costing us more than we realized.  If you make $100/hour and you spent at least an hour watching it, the cost to you was an hour of your time plus the $100 you could have made by making a sale for your business. 

two money

There is No Content

Often a lack of content goes with the sales tactic.  The free workshop or webinar will tell you all about the whywhy use them, why you need these results, why you are not seeing results on your own… but never give you the how.  Their secret sauce is not revealed in the free workshop.  After all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?

three money

Learning Outcomes Are Expected Only From Listening

Some people are perfectly happy to learn by watching, but this is not true for the majority of the population.  Free workshops, including even live and in-person free workshops, only give you a “sage on the stage” learning environment.  Listening to only a lecture does not encompass a total learning experience.  Think back to when you were in school – did you learn best from a teacher telling you how to do math or from actually working on the numbers yourself?

Why Free Workshops Don’t Work for the DIY Small Business Owner 1

There is No Practice or Repetition

Continue thinking about your school-days… did you do drills and repeat the same exercise over and over?  You probably did.  Learning as a one-and-done is hard and only a few people in the world are that gifted to capture everything in a single instance.  Free workshops that don’t repeat the lesson and don’t let you practice the lesson are not going to be effective.  I’m not asking for you to acquire mastery here.  Mastery takes 10,000 hours of doing.  For the DIY individual, we are simply looking for some competency.

So, if you are a DIY small business owner or you’re out there trying to learn how to start a business, be wary of free workshops unless you know what you’re going to take home with you.  I know that it takes knowledge to get results and new entrepreneurs need to acquire new skills as they start and grow their business, but take a moment and think about the value you’re actually getting from a free workshop before you spend your valuable time on it.  And I add, stop asking for free!  Start budgeting a few paid workshops for yourself each year.  No one offers continuing education for free.  You’ll be a stronger business owner for it and paid workshops are more likely going to offer you the content you need in an environment that allows immersive learning and practice.  It is your business and your life.  Invest in yourself. 

Lorna Whiteaker

Lorna Whiteaker is a San Luis Obispo business consultant and coach dedicated to helping business owners get the results they want. Lorna has over 30 years of experience working with small businesses, working as an administrator in the legal industry and as an independent business consultant helping hundreds of entrepreneurs. With clear and realistic expectations of just what a business owner must deal with in running their business, big or small, she has worked with firms making 7 figures and start-ups with little more than elbow grease and a dream.

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