Ladies, I’m sure, after discussing the birds and the bees with your mother, the conversation turned to livestock. “Why should he buy the cow, when he can get the milk for free?” She asked. Basically mom was saying that a man wouldn’t value you if you just gave it away. However, a lot of us are giving it away. Every day. I’m not suggesting we are all a bunch of strumpets, harlots and hoes. In fact, I’m not even talking about sex. Allow me to explain.
I pride myself on being a generous person and a good friend. My friends know they can count on me for help anytime. I have another good friend, Lindsey, who has the same philosophy. She called me the other day and she was extremely frustrated! The problem is that she’d taken this generosity of spirit into the business world and it was costing her. In fact, often the line between friend and colleague is often blurred and when it gets that way, she (and I) tend to operate in friend mode.
Recently a colleague needed help on a project. Lindsey jumped into action. She wrote a press release for her, helped her develop a press list, lined up several vendors, scouted locations and even made calls on her behalf. She never got a dime.
My friend and her friend/colleague were coming from different places. Lindsey was coming from small and peaceful place called Friendship Island where inhabitants naturally do for a friend with no expectation of payment. The colleague was coming from bustling Business City where you get what you negotiate. She had asked Lindsay for help with one thing and she helped. Then came the next request and the next. Lindsay did them all with a smile and a “No problem.”
But, I asked, “Why would she buy your cow when you’d given so much away for free?”
Lindsey, and I, and probably you need to start valuing our services. Stand up for yourself. Even if money is not involved, stand up for your work, your time, your space. Set your boundaries. I know I’d been reluctant to do that in the past, but then I realized, most people who are asking you expect you to negotiate and even think that you might say no. When you don’t, they are more than happy to take that cow.
Next time, I suggested Lindsay do two things:
1) Set a price for the cow, be it cash, barter or some other arrangement.
2) Get the full scope of the project and then state clearly exactly what you can do.
3) Stick to your guns. If they ask you to do more than you stated, you have the right to say no. If you agree, set a new price and new boundaries for the additional work.
Remember, the people drinking the milk love a free cow, but that milk isn’t free from the cow’s perspective!