As business owners, we have the bad habit of agreeing to do too much.
People come to you constantly and asking for your expertise.
- When do you say “enough is enough”?
- When do you start valuing your time enough to stop giving free advice?
- Where do you draw that line?
- When do you start saying no?
Once you realize that your advice isn’t free and learn to value your time and set healthy boundaries, people will value you more because you are standing up for what you’re worth.
When you’re first starting your business, you want to get to know people and network and explore opportunities. That’s normal and you can meet amazing people that you will have in your life for years to come. At a certain point, it’s time to step away from these events because that can morph into “fear of missing out”. Once your business is established, there is no reason to spend too much of your valuable time networking.
At a certain point, networking is no longer valuable because it diverts your attention from your priorities.
One thing you can do is to agree to meet with someone but limit your time to 10 or 15 minutes. During that time, listen to them, let them feel heard but at the same time, honor yourself. At the end of your allotted time, let them know that you would be happy to help and then explain your offer.
To filter out the people who aren’t serious about getting results, you can have your assistant email questions before the call or meeting to establish what the goal is for your time together. At that point, if you see that it’s not a good fit, you can refer them to someone else.
When you learn to value your time, it gets easier to let people know that they aren’t a good fit.
Of course, you want to be respectful and honor the time they spent to book their call with you and fill out your application, but you are also valuing their time if you know that you aren’t a good fit. It’s a win/win for both of you. Referring people to different resources is a good way to handle the people who are not a good fit in a graceful way.
The kind of person who gets offended that you value your time, they are probably not likely to value the free advice you give anyway. Plus they are never going to sign up for your services.
When you give your time away to the wrong people, that’s time away from your business, your team, your family. If you’ve lost time, you’ve lost money.
If they are a good fit and at the end of your 10 or 15 minutes that you’ve set aside for that person, it’s perfectly fine to sell them on your services. You can say something like:
“If you’re ready for a deeper dive, my assistant can book your call at your convenience. It will be $xxx for (time). During that call, you’ll get (benefit) and (benefit). What email do you want me to send that to?”
If they are really serious about something you can help them with, they should be excited to sign on with you so you can help them resolve their issues. Remember, you’re not in business to give free advice and people will value you how you value yourself.
When you say no, you’re saying YES to what you’re passionate about.
Warren Buffet says that successful people say no to almost everything. We are all blessed with the same 24 hours in a day, it’s how you choose to spend and invest that time that makes a difference in your success or failure.
Of course, you want to spend time with the right people. This is about prioritizing your time. A 30-minute coffee meeting can easily turn into hours of your time. You’ve got to travel to and from the coffee shop, rearrange things on your schedule and plan for the meeting. Plus a 30-minute coffee never lasts only 30 minutes.
Guard your most precious resources – your attention and energy.
Where do you want your attention to go? What are you here to do? What is the work that I want to do? What do I want to put out there?
If your time is stretched in a million directions, you won’t have the attention and energy to focus on your goals.
No matter what you do, regardless of what kind of industry you’re in… You have dollars attached to your time. If you figure out what your dollar figure is, then you guard it and honor it.
Then, it feels better because your time is an investment on your part… and you only have so much time budgeted for these conversations. They are coming to you for a valuable resource; your knowledge and experience and the solutions to their problems.
Ask yourself, what would you pay someone for what you do? Be honest with yourself.
It’s ok to do some market research and see what other people in your space are charging for their time. That helps you figure out what the market will bear. It also gives you a leg up when someone says “ didn’t expect it to be that much” you can let them know what other people charge – but then say you came to me for a reason.
You can also use this framework to determine how much of your time you spend volunteering or attending networking events. Evaluating where you spend your time is very important.
Transitioning from a free call to your paid services
How do you have a conversation about service fees? How do you talk about charging for your time that feels good on your part?
It’s about treating people with respect and being clear about what they can expect. You can say something like, “I’ll send you an email (or get my assistant) to my scheduling page. In that email, there will be a link to schedule your appointment as well as a link to pay the fee of $xxx for the time we spend together.”
Sometimes, they say they can’t do it or they don’t respond. That’s ok. It puts the ball in their court and empowers them. Sometimes, months later, they come back around and schedule that call with you. You don’t want to be pushy or disrespectful or back them into a corner. You’re giving them a choice.
How to say no respectfully
The word “no” can feel harsh and uncomfortable but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s all in how you say it and your intention behind it. When you say no and it is in the best interest for both of you, then you know it’s coming from the right place.
To say no respectfully, you may want to say things like:
“This isn’t a good time”
“I don’t have any availability”
You always want to thank them for thinking of you and taking the time to book a call with you. Come from a place of gratitude. After all, there are thousands of other people they could have booked a call with. Although being respectful is important, being firm is equally as important. You can be both polite and respectful while honoring your boundaries.
Finally, don’t worry about what they are thinking of you. That’s your ego taking over. When you let your ego lead, it can lead you astray. Busy entrepreneurs don’t have time to worry about other people’s opinions about the decisions they make in their business.
If someone complains about you not having the time or availability to work with them, don’t let it phase you. They are likely the kind of people who look for reasons to be offended at everything. Their friends and network know that nothing makes them happy and whatever negative thing they have to say will go in one ear and out the other.
If you relent and agree to give away more of your time than you know you should, you’re giving away a piece of yourself and giving up your power. Is it worth the opinions of some person who will likely never value your time enough to pay you for it to give away your power? If you invest all of your time and energy to giving your time away for free you don’t have any energy left for paid work.