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Don’t Give it Away for Free But Showing a Little Brain Can’t Hurt

These days everyone wants something for nothing. It’s a vicious cycle that we find ourselves in, needing services such as business, legal and financial planning, but being afraid to spend our hard earned (and fewer and farther between) dollars on it.

In the last 3 months I have gotten more requests from friends and family members to look over papers, help re-work legal documents they have drafted themselves, or just give advice. It’s a real challenge. On the one hand we all know the financial struggles being faced by a majority of the population these days, but we also have the need to make a living ourselves. So where is the happy medium?

Regardless of what field you are in, whether you are an artist or a lawyer, the first step is to ask what the other person really needs. This means that you must differentiate between a 10 minute conversation over a design or a document, and a 3 hour long intensive research-based re-write or re-design. The former is ok, and I would argue is even a good idea. By doing a favor for your friend, family member or even a friend of a friend you are creating goodwill. If you show a little brain, you can gain the confidence of the other party. This means that when they do need serious work done they are more likely to come to you because you did them a solid the first time around. Now you have gained their trust. They understand not only that you know what you are doing, but that you are a good person to work with.

This concept of goodwill is an essential part of building your business and making sure that you are in a place to monetize yourself once the purse strings loosen. Nothing is more important now then building and maintaining genuine relationships with people who may need your services in the future. But be wary, there are also many people out there who are taking advantage of this economic power play by abusing the generosity and goodwill of those trying merely to survive. Because of those unfortunate and karmaically challenged individuals, you must know when to say no. Trust your instincts. If you begin to feel like you are being taken advantage of, it’s probably because you are. The most difficult thing in finding this balance is giving enough to be helpful, while at the same time acknowledging your worth and not letting the state of the economy challenge the value of training, knowledge and experience in your area of expertise.

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