Do you work for free?
I think we all do ‘favors’ for a friend every so often, without too much frustration, but what happens when your ‘friends’ ask for friendly favors that is actually work you get paid to do by others, and it becomes habitual? You know, the work you do every day hoping to build your business.
Can you print this for me? Can you fax this for me? Can you find out this information for me? Can you type this for me? Can you edit this for me? Can you help me with this? Can you give me your opinion on this or that? Can you do this for me for a discount? Do you have a Friend Rate? Can you wait to be paid?
Like I said, occasionally, it is nice to help others out, whether they are friends or just someone we know in need, but beware that relationship doesn’t turn into a Can You debacle, especially when you find you are helping so many and finding nothing in return but a Thank You and more Can You projects that don’t really pay the bills OR help your company grow?
Now that you have allowed the Can You mentality to build steam, how do you now explain to your ‘friends’ that “Hey. I don’t have spare time outside of my job, to handle that for you.”
Well, that’s hard for many of us, because we will find the first time we are no longer available to ‘help out’ a Can You, we usually also lose that relationship at the same time.
So here are my tips, and you don’t have to take too much stock in it – I am not so good at following my own advice:
- Allow yourself the level of Can You moments that you can handle, but let them know in subtle, or not so subtle ways, that this is what you do for a living. It isn’t a hobby, and although their Thank You is nice, if they can find a way to Pay it Forward, since they are not paying you, that is even better, and if they can share their experience with your professional work, that would be AMAZING! As most of us in this situation realize, Can Yous have a hard time with this part, so offer some suggestions as to how they can actually help you as well – but beware they don’t send other Can Yous your way.
- Remind your Can You that you do work, even if it is from a home office or other unconventional space, and the Can You project takes away from that, so they will have to wait until you actually have time to help them out. We all know the Can You project is usually a last-minute, need in a hurry thing for them, and you cannot put off paying work for a Can You Thank You, when you have bills to pay.
- Offer them assistance on where they can find that Can You information on their own or how to handle that Can You project themselves. Encourage them to figure it out, rather than rely on you to be Free to provide it – but careful here, too. You could find yourself spending more time ‘showing’ them and ending up doing it anyway.
- Here is the big one: If you have a Can You that is actually paying, but wants a discount or needs more time to pay, remind them that your bills are the same as theirs. If they pay the electric bill late, what happens? If they pay less on a credit card, what happens? Do they give discounts for the work they do? Don’t put your personal or professional finances at risk over a Can You project or favor.
If all else fails and you have finally had enough, just say NO. For most of us, that is the hardest part. We don’t want to offend, no matter how often we are offended that we are asked to help a Can You for free. After a while it feels like they don’t think our work is worth paying for. We take pride in our professional experience. We just absolutely love what we do. Any chance we get to help we tend to take.
We all get it, BUT again, remember, bills don’t pay themselves. In the end, saying NO could end up saving your business and your relationship.