By Lindy Earl
So, SO many people have approached me over the years with great ideas. I mean really stupendous, fantastic, “you are going to LOVE this!” ideas. Invariably, they all end up asking me to help them, always for free.
For instance, when people learn I’m a speaker, they will share that they, too, are speakers . . . or at least could be. Their wonderful idea is, in order to make MY seminars and keynotes and presentations really wonderful, I should invite them to speak WITH me. That would really help me, because they have a FABULOUS message that people are dying to hear!
Well, who says people are dying to hear your message? “Oh, I just know they are. This is a message people NEED to hear.” Based on what? “On what I know to be true. I’m a really great speaker. I’ve done hours of research.” Well, if you were a really great speaker, people would be finding you and paying you to speak, and you wouldn’t be asking me to find and gather an audience then highlight you. What they want is an agent, and not only an agent, but a FREE agent – all under the guise of doing me a favor.
Another good one is when people learn that I am a business coach/consultant, for every level – I don’t limit my service to the C suite. Invariably people approach me for a one-on-one, to “network and share ideas.” Sadly, their goal, or hidden agenda, is to receive advice from me, pro bono.
That was fine a decade or so ago when I was making my mark and needed to prove myself. At this point, my successful clients speak for me, so I don’t see any reason why I should take hours out of my day to make you more successful, when you won’t even invest in yourself. You don’t think YOU’RE worth my paid services, so can you imagine what I think of what you offer? Be willing to invest in yourself if you want me to invest in you.
I find the same challenges on Social Media, with people I’ve never even met face to face. I get a Linked In or Friend request, and the next thing I know I’m being told how I can help them. For a while it was the very bad, “I’m almost at my quota – won’t you help?” No. Reaching your quota is your JOB, not my responsibility.
Sadly, people even take advantage of me in my personal life. I am a frugal girl. In order to be frugal I spend a lot of time, energy, and effort finding great deals. Extreme couponing, whether with clothes or food, doesn’t come without a lot of work. Yet, people will ask me to “pick up something” since I’m there anyway. But it’s okay, since I’m already there and “they’ll pay me for it.” Excuse me? Not only are you asking me for my research of where to buy something, but I’m literally doing the leg work for you, then, THEN, you are asking me to FINANCE it?! Do these people have any idea how bold and invasive this is? Next they’ll ask me to deliver it.
I’m not unwilling to help a new speaker, or give business advice, or share my great finds with friends, but, seriously, I need to make a living too. And when I give away my services, I end up with no billable hours. So not only did I use my time to work for free, but I lost the opportunity to work for someone else.
Please don’t think that I’m unfeeling, and the point of this story is this: don’t allow people to do this to you. You have value – you have experiences, knowledge, and abilities that others don’t have. You have a unique set of skills when you put everything you know together. Some people are working jobs when they could be making a living with their knowledge and abilities. But, you can’t make a living if you are working for free. Stop and consider what you have to offer, and find people who will pay for your advice.
A benefit of finding people who acknowledge your worth by paying you is that they truly appreciate what you do and tell them. If you’ve ever shared information only to have it disregarded, then you know how frustrating it is when you see the person crash and burn. That could have been avoided if only they had listened. Well, people are more willing to heed the advice when they pay for it. Things taken for free are just not appreciated in the same way.
People, please consider what you’re asking when you ask someone for “just a teensy weensy favor.” Your favor may be their lifeblood. This happens in ALL industries – the mechanic is asked to diagnose a car engine’s noise, the physician is asked to look at a rash, the plumber is queried for specific directions on how to fix a leaky faucet, the Math Teacher is asked for easy ways to explain algebra to children, and yes, Speakers and Consultants are forever asked for business advice. I’m sure everyone named is more than happy to supply advice, especially with an intimate circle of friends, but don’t be surprised that we are not in a hurry to meet with you when, despite your protestations that you’re helping us, in truth we are just doing you a favor.
Lindy is a Speaker, Columnist, Author, and Consultant and currently accepting new clients and speaking engagements.
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