Are you too nice for business?
It’s a serious question.
When you are setting up as freelance you can plan away to your heart’s content, get everything sorted ready for the off but you will never properly understand what it’s like until you dive in and give it a go. You may be the very best at what you do but interpersonal relations are something that have to be worked at, unless, possibly, your freelancing is an extension of your current professional life.
Let me give you an example…
Pre-freelancing I worked in a large academic library. I ran a lovely team, then later I worked with subject specialists: we worked to deadlines and we worked alongside some wonderful, and not so wonderful, academics. There was IT backup, colleagues to help when things got hectic and fabulous camaraderie. We helped students and staff to make the most of the resources and when we didn’t have something on-site we got it for them. And if a client’s demands got too much, or they became too needy, we knew how to deal with them and leave the work behind once home-time came. Yes, there was the odd late night and weekend shift, but problems could be contained and dealt with during the working day.
Switch to a freelancer’s life. There is no team backup (unless you are very, very lucky) and when a client becomes demanding or needy you have to deal with it alone and to the best of your ability. Even the ‘just smile, be non-committal and wait for them to tire themselves out’ last ditch back-up doesn’t work when you deal exclusively via email or telephone conversations. Demanding clients can (and will) contact you at all hours of the day and night and how you deal with them can make or break you. Seriously.
Being nice when you are a freelancer just doesn’t work. Being professional, timely and polite but firm does.
Here’s a quick quiz. How many can you own up to…
- Saying ‘Oh, it was nothing’.
- Saying ‘Oh, that’s ok, I can rearrange my schedule’.
- Offering to go the extra mile because you can (but you don’t ask for extra fees).
- Offering to go the extra mile because you don’t want to disappoint.
- Being the one who everyone goes to, hoping for a freebie.
- Answering the phone to a client immediately, dropping what you are doing.
- Answering emails immediately, dropping what you are doing.
- Catch yourself saying ‘contact me any time’.
- Answering emails and phone calls on the weekend.
- Working through the weekend to help a client out without charging.
I’ll hold my hand up, I have been guilty of all of these. Some of them very recently.
In a place of work you acknowledge your strengths (and weaknesses) and very rarely say ‘Oh, it was nothing’, you don’t often drop everything to answer the phone or reply to emails, you don’t allow work to creep into your leisure time and you never work through the weekend without adequate compensation. So why do you do it once you become freelance?
Dear readers, being nice is a killer.
Being nice gets you taken advantage of. It can also get you working for a lower hourly rate than is acceptable. Being nice can have you taking on more than you should and lets be honest, being nice, while it can make you the ‘go to’ person does you no favours. Being nice is great for the people you are being nice to, but can lead to stress and depression for you.
Perhaps this sounds cynical? But when you work as a freelance you want to be seen as being great at your job, not as the nice one who will help people out when they need it.
So, if you are known for being nice, or feel that you are too nice in your work, from now on try this:
- Instead of saying ‘Oh, it was nothing’, just say ‘Thank you, that’s what I trained for’, if your work is acknowledged.
- Instead of saying ‘Oh, that’s ok, I can rearrange my schedule’, stick to your schedule and let the client know that to fit them in they will have to pay for anti-social hours or rush fees.
- Don’t offer to go the extra mile because you can, if it is required tell the client and tell them how much it will cost.
- Don’t offer to go the extra mile because you don’t want to disappoint – you run a business.
- Don’t offer freebies. You run a business, treat it like one.
- Don’t answer the phone to a client immediately if you are working. Screen your calls – they will either phone back, or you can phone them back when it is more convenient for you.
- Don’t answer emails immediately and drop what you are doing. Set times throughout the day to catch up on emails, and stick to them.
- Don’t say ‘contact me any time’, let clients know your working hours and when you are available.
- Don’t answer emails and phone calls on the weekend unless it’s an email to tell the client that you will contact them when you are back at work.
- Don’t work through the weekend to help a client out without charging for anti-social hours.
It’s tough. It’s really tough! You want to be helpful and you want your clients to value your work, but being nice is like having a sign around your neck saying ‘kick me’.
Being freelance is also tough, really tough, but in the end you owe it to yourself to look after your health and your business. Stop being nice and start being the professional you know that you are.
Cynical? Perhaps, but your business will thank you for it.
So tell me… are you too nice for business?