WORK & BUSINESS >
Explaining To Friends, Family And Former Colleagues That Your Services And Time Is ‘For Hire’ Not Free To Run Their Errands
Friends, family or former colleagues calling in favors and asking you to run their errands, and such impacting your available working hours, bottom line and the valuable time you lost that could instead be used on running your FDN business.
Many a freelancer and/or digital nomad report the wariness with which their work from home or work-travel lifestyle is regarded.
“Oh, you are a digital nomad. So, you’re on a paid vacation type of thing?”
Or, “the freelance and digital nomad industry is fleeting – just a new trend that will pass soon. Get a real job instead with career security and medical aid.”
THE MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE FDN WORK-LIFESTYLE
To top it all, friends, ex-colleagues and family members don’t quite get that we have ‘normal’ working hours, and have to maintain those working hours if we are to make it financially. Otherwise, how are we supposed to support ourselves and run our stay-at-home freelance businesses and/or location independent entrepreneurship in the long term?
Especially family members and friends seem to call in favors more often than they did when we held a 9-5 job. Something that many FDN’s says gets them super annoyed.
“You work from home and is not tied up at work,” or “you have more free time than me considering you’re working online,” are common justifications.
THE REALITY OF RUNNING AN FDN BUSINESS
Nothing can be further from the truth as most well established FDN’s know.
I remember how swamped and overwhelmed I felt when I was settling into full-time freelancing back in August 2015. To get everything done and hand in all my client’s projects on time, I had to start most of my days at 5/6am, with closing shop being between 11 pm to 1 am. If I then had to run an errand for anyone, even if said chore would ‘only’ take 1 – 3 hours out of my day, most of my commitments to clients or income expectations would be out the door for the whole week.
WHEN BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF BECOMES A PROBLEM FOR YOUR FDN BUSINESS
Of course, helping others is what is also important in life, and I do believe we should help if we can. But if doing favors for others becomes a regular request among your ex-colleagues, friends and family, you and your FDN business is in trouble.
Something I found out the hard way by not having earned enough to pay the rent that month and limited to minimum food purchases. It did wonders for my figure but wasn’t all that great for morale as it dawned on me my business was going to fail if I kept missing valuable work hours.
For some reason, people thought that since I was a ‘free’-lancer, I’m at their disposal 24/7 and can thus run their errands. “You don’t have a real job anyways.” I heard often.
From picking up grandma and taking her to shop for her groceries every Tuesday morning, or going to the bank because a friend forgot to pay their rent, was customary and happened more regularly than not. “I’m caught up at work and don’t have time. Can you quickly do X for me.”
It became such a dependence that I often spend 2 to 3 working mornings – or equivalent to 7 to 15 working hours a week – on doing stuff for other people. I found these new dependencies on me rather strange; especially considering they seemed to be perfectly capable of running their own errands when I lived overseas.
On top, I rarely heard from a large portion of them during my time abroad, nor received a phone call or message to inquire how I was. Far from sight, far from mind – seems to be more of a reality for some.
“Growing an online business takes time, dedication and a lot of tender loving care.”
FREELANCING IS LIKE RUNNING ANY OTHER BUSINESS
When you’re running a one-woman (-man) show, especially when just setting up, it’s up to you to handle everything and make a success of your business. From being the business owner, administrator, the client support ‘team’, accountant, project seeker, project applier, project manager, cold caller, marketer, salesman, and social media manager, (because hey, you heard being on social media is the way to go to promote your new online business), we have to know and do it all.
Heck! I didn’t even have time to take a tea break as is the privilege of ‘normal’ employees, let alone cook lunch or find time to go to the gym. In those early days, my freelance business became my life and my life became my freelance business. There were no in between, no slacking or lazy days, no me-time, no time to visit friends, family, and definitely, rarely time running errands for others too lazy to do it themselves.
I realized pretty quickly that if I was going to make it as a freelancer and earn enough to cover more than just my living expenses, (I wanted to thrive not just survive), that I had to work harder than I had ever worked in my life to get my freelance business off the ground. There were no in between or middle grounds to making my business successful.
Even after reading and applying the ‘work smarter not harder’ philosophies, I found to my greatest distress that ‘smarter not harder’ is but an illusion, and there was no such thing as smarter ways or shortcuts when you are a solo entrepreneur. You either get the work done or it stays behind and your bottom line shows the consequences at the end of the month.
1 – SET THE GROUND RULES
After my freelance business nearly went under, I realized I had to lay down the rules to whoever called on me next to ‘just quickly do something for them.’ Not because this was the sole reason my business was failing, but because it was one of the reasons and I needed to fix the problem before it crippled me.
The next time someone called during my ‘work hours,’ I explained very politely what exactly a freelancer is, and that my business required the same – if not more – working hours than their current job. And no, I’m not available right now. Its 11 am, and just like them, I’m at work.
To ensure your FDN business doesn’t’ suffer, especially in the early days, lay down the ground rules to family, friends and ex-colleagues from the get-go to ensure your time is not taken advantage of.
2 – CREATE UNDERSTANDING
Once they understand that your freelance or digital nomad business is a business such as any other and that you have to maintain ‘regular’ working hours and put in just as much working hours to make ends meet, they’ll get that you’re also earning a living just as they are. More often than not, most people don’t understand what the term freelancer, digital nomad or online business owner means. Once they do, they’re more likely to respect your time.
3 – LEARN TO SAY NO
One of the hardest things, especially in cultures where it is required to be polite and be of service, is to learn to say ‘no.’ There will come the point where you might experience burn-out, not just because you are running a freelance/online business, but because you are also juggling your family life, taking care of the kids, house, learning new business skills, multi-tasking, or perhaps, running errands for others. Learning when and how to say ‘no’ will become one of the most valuable skills you learn in FDN business management.
4 – RESPECT YOUR TIME & SELF-WORTH
The late and famous Jim Rohn – self-created multi-millionaire and later wealth coach – once said: “You can always create more money, but you can’t create more time.”
Over the years, I have learned the value of his advice. Once I understood saying no when the situation called for it, or using my time wisely was a necessity, it was easier to stand my ground.
Not because I was selfish (a tag you might quickly be branded with the first time you say ‘no’), but because I realized my future and those of my future dependents (my children and father), will suffer the consequences if I failed because I didn’t invest enough time in my business.
If we don’t respect our time, we will mismanage it, or others will use it to their benefit. Consequently, your business, financial welfare, and FDN dreams will suffer.
Guard and respect your time with vigilance; it’s one of the most valuable assets you have as an FDN.