Friends fall into two categories: the ones who respect you, your time, and your expertise, and the ones who need a gentle reminder.
Last week as I was juggling three projects due in two days and getting ready to leave town, I received this screaming text:
“I NEED YOU TO HELP ME PICK OUT HOME OFFICE FURNITURE TOMORROW!!!”
This annoying message was from a friend I hadn’t heard from in months, but in the past two weeks had texted me four times to ask for design advice and business contacts. Even my neighbor doesn’t text me that often to ask for help, or at least I’m confident she wouldn’t if she knew how to text.
Couldn’t my friend have asked in a nicer, lowercase way? Did she have to yell, especially when I was having an amazing day? And doesn’t someone have to be bleeding, locked out of her car, or stuck in a well to use that many exclamation points?
Why didn’t she respect my time and expertise? Why didn’t she consider that the long hours I would have to spend helping her with a project for no pay, would take time away from my clients who would pay? More importantly, why were we still friends?
A few minutes later I texted back, “I’m busy this week,” while I watched Dr. Oz walk through a gigantic model of a stomach while trying not to get his pants legs wet from the splashing fake bile.
It’s difficult to turn someone down when you’ve always considered that person a friend. Yet, if that friend thinks nothing of asking you repeatedly to do something that they could pay someone else to do, or, better yet, hire you to do, it’s easy to consider that person the biggest user and the next person to unfriend on Facebook.
A few days later, this soon-to-be former friend texted me again (this time, no caps), and asked me to help her find lighting for her new home in exchange for lunch. She wasn’t offering money, something I’ve found makes paying my mortgage easier. Instead, she was asking me to work for food.
Doing personal favors is part of any friendship. The same is true for business favors, although most entrepreneurs will agree that it’s hard to give away your services after spending years and money improving your skills. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others, but at some point if a mutually beneficial, give-and-take relationship turns into one that’s only give-and-give, that may be more than anyone can take.
Clients pay for your services and continue to hire you because they respect your time and expertise. It’s not too much to expect your friends to do the same.