I am a firm believer in giving before you take. You can’t build a solid network or sales career until you learn the fundamental principle of providing value before you request a favor. If you have the giver mindset you can accomplish great things and build a deep and useful network. You can also give away so much of yourself that, before you know it, you’ve given yourself away in pieces, with little left to focus on your own work and goals.
The Danger Areas
Social media has increased the size of our networks, and I’m a big believer in its ability to enrich our lives through ideas and relationships. Having grown up in a remote location I am very aware of how connected anyone anywhere can now be. Social media provides a tremendous opportunity for learning, and for mentoring. As an established professional who enjoys connecting with others, I often field requests for mentoring. I have learned to say no often.
You can’t mentor everyone, and some individuals will consume more and more of your time with no understanding or concern for how much you are giving them. I still mentor, and find it fulfilling, but I have developed the ability to say no and to keep my schedule tight. I have X number of hours per week to mentor, and if my week is full I must push the request out on my calendar, if I fill it at all.
Free Advice Isn’t Free
As I said in my opening, I am a big believer in giving. My experience in sales and in writing means that my knowledge is applicable across a wide area of business. Because I talk about both subjects passionately on social media, I leave myself open to requests for advice. And I gladly give it, within reason. Within reason means something that can be answered in a short email or social media exchange; it does not mean a one hour needs analysis call and a resulting strategy. No, that’s what clients pay me to do, and I can’t do it for free for anyone unless it is a very specific cause I have knowingly signed on to volunteer for.
I do give prospects a 30-minute consultation for free, with the hope, of course, that they find me brilliant and hire me. But that is very different than giving away advice to someone who never intends on hiring you. The key is to be judicious with your free consults, and understand exactly how much of yourself you’re giving away, and to whom.
Scope Creep with Clients
Again, giving is part of building trust and understanding in both the prospecting phase and the early part of your relationship with your new clients. But the early days are also when you need to be vigilant because you are setting up the parameters of how your relationship will function going forward. If you allow scope creep to become a standard part of your client relationship, you will end up doing a lot of work for free.
That doesn’t mean you must charge your client for every breath you take on their account, but it does mean that you must clarify when you are doing an extra at no charge so that they understand you are depositing into the trust account. When you do draw the line they will understand that you have already gone above and beyond the scope of your job, and they need to pay you to do so again.
In the end, this is all about protecting your time and your own work. Time is our most precious resource, and none of us can afford to give ourselves away too much. If you don’t develop a consistent habit of saying no to free work and free advice, you’ll end up giving yourself away in pieces with nothing left for your own dreams and passions.
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