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…
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:
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?