No need to answer just because they ask.

Until I refine my own LinkedIn strategy, something I do well for clients but have to make time to do for myself again, I run searches to see what professionals and professional entrepreneurs are looking for. I don't always reply to those outside of my network, but I thought I'd address this post by Gabriella Hoffman. I haven't written on this in a while, but it's a point of aggravation I'm seeing often, again. Thanks for the inspiration, Gabriella. 

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The Issue

I've linked to Gabriella's post above, so you can see the problem and feel her frustration. If you've been in business for a while, you've gotten these as well: "I cant afford you, but I'd like your help."

Our response to this seems to be a journey for, often female or empathetic, entrepreneurs - even those of us who skip some parts below:

  1. First, we feel sorry for folks and help them (a good read, if you're still giving in, here). These are often friends and family who should know better than anyone else, that we need and deserve to be paid.
  2. Then, we feel trapped or get annoyed because we've built the "discounter" reputation (hard to shake), and now strangers are asking.
  3. After a while, we angrily put our feet down and say no more. Sometimes we're angry because we know we're slipping back into violating our own pricing boundaries from time to time.
  4. Eventually, we realize some people will always ask, but just as they're free to ask, we're free to say "No"... or nothing at all. I still find it disconcerting that our world offers blanket praise to those who don't stop at "No", but it gives some insight into why so many keep asking. It's what I call the disruption of authenticity - you lovingly leave their feelings with them and own your own needs, feelings and responsibilities.
  5. Finally, you get to a place of overflow, where you can give freely from a place of authentic generousity, and your experience with the 4 steps above have so refined your boundaries that you actually know when to stop.

It's easy to see where you are on this chart. If you're in business solo, I'd like to caution that this is not just around pricing. It's your time and energy as well, through scope creep, "free" add-ons and so many other seemingly "small", "value-added" offers. You can be strategic and genuinely add value without burning out. Food for thought. 

Not a Millennial Issue

Be careful not to assume you'll only find this behaviour among particular groups. In this case, Gabriella highlighted Millennials. It's not just Millennials. I've gotten it from boomers, gen-X-ers, across industries, ethnicities, genders and organizational hierarchies.

I'm a Millennial. My business and talks remind people not to give it away for free, so imagine my surprise reading those messages as well. It was a baby boomer in a financial field who was surprised that I wouldn't manage her social media channels for $25/month (no, thats not a typo). Lol.

As a Millennial, it used to really annoy me that people would label everything younger people did, that they didn't like, "a Millennial trait". It was especially annoying because it was so clear to me that a lot of these traits are more closely linked to industry norms or personality types, and found across generations.

I've come to realize that throughout time, generations have berated the next, also deeming them "the worst", and no amount of energy I spend getting upset would change that. Each generation had to adapt to the economic (and other) realities of their time, in ways the previous generation can't appreciate. They can't have the same lens on the world, and that is as it should be. Rob Carrick does a great job sharing the millennial lens; I don't think he's a Millennial.

Today, and for the same reasons I have grace for those Gabriella is frustrated by, I can see the root of these accusations. The media has done an amazing job, in each generation, of fanning these flames and pushing stereotypes, so it's easy to see them everywhere.

A Freemium/Volunteer Culture Issue

I hope this makes you feel better, or at least smile. 😊 Lately, I've learned to have some grace for them, when I pay attention to what they're bombarded by these days. Freebies, freemium, it can't hurt to ask. Plus, this pressure on leaders to "give back".

Nothing is wrong with volunteering, as long as you haven't been sold on it as a valid career path - free internships, long-term volunteers. Speak to a few (honest) volunteers first. Many volunteers realized that even after doing it for a decade, the second you take it to an interview, they often pay entry level. Volunteer if you'd like, for sure, but do it with eyes wide open.

When you've been in business for a while, you're wise enough to set boundaries, but the reason people feel empowered to ask is because leaders and business owners keep caving to this pressure. Imagine being so busy that the media can make you feel like you're not generous when you don't give your paid offering for free??

I made my peace with, "they're learning and if they're still in business in a few years, they'll get to where you and I are". My advice to clients... always... is only give back out of the overflow you have (and only when you genuinely want to), step 5.

Feel Better?

I hope this makes you feel a bit better about it all. They're within their rights to ask, and we're within ours to say "No" or ignore them. You also don't need to put any energy into explaining, if it's just going to upset you.  Live and let live is a good one for this situation, for your peace of mind.

If you want to build this into your business model, let's chat. Be it a review of your pricing, client process, a feasible schedule or client expectations on social media, I'm happy to help. Learn more here.

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About the Author

Crystal-Marie Sealy, MBA, is a keynote speaker and entrepreneurial strategy consultant focused on sustainable business models for established entrepreneurs and professionals transitioning to entrepreneurship. President and founder of Successiory and her signature "Your E.A.S.Y. Affluence Business Model™ by Successiory", Crystal-Marie works with professionals who want to build sustainable (livable) business models around their lifestyles and create sustainable client community on social media. She also speaks and delivers workshops at business and motivational conferences on entrepreneurial strategy for pricing, process, feasible schedules and client social media community. Connect with her and subscribe at  www.successiory.ca