Radiators and Drains

“Er, you do this stuff all the time don’t you? Can you just show me how to set up Mailchimp / Hootsuit / Infusionsoft / Capsule / Dropbox /Outlook / the entire inner workings of the White House staff office”. A freebie no less. Of course, we’ve all done it. The mate that is handy with a drill that just happens to be invited round for coffee when your shower screen is hanging on with nothing but duct tape and fervent prayers. The neighbour that you casually run into on the street (well, stalk), when you need a washing machine lugging into the car and onwards to the dump. There’s friendly and neighbourly freebies and favours for those we know and love and then there is taking the mick.

I don’t have the least problem with helping people in a pinch. I know I do sound like a psychotic bitch most of the time but I really am mostly helpful. If someone has a problem I will help if I can. That’s just niceness and I think most people do the same. I do believe that people are inherently good. And I have been given lots of help along the way so I am always happy to chat to new VAs and help if they are stuck and consider that to be karmically paying back the fabulous VAs who generously gave me their time when I started. But, as my old boss used to say, some people are radiators and some are drains. There are those who cheerfully give, those who give, those who give through gritted teeth and then there is that very small minority that do nothing but take and will eventually drain the life out of the rest of us one molecule at a time.

There’s a big difference between giving someone a hand to set up an expenses spreadsheet for their new business and somehow ending up doing 3 hours data entry of receipts every month for them. The one is a nice friendly use of your experience and skills which probably took 20 minutes, the second is someone taking the piss.

We sell time. That’s what we do and what a lot of my clients do. Often, they are also selling their huge expertise in an area too. And there comes a point where it isn’t fair for that time to be used up by non-clients because there are only so many hours in the day. How are we meant to value our time and charge it out to clients when others treat it so cheaply?

It never fails to amaze me the gall of some people. Not friends and family here, just randoms, who expect something for nothing. Whether that’s from me, a friend or one of my clients and they “just want to pick your brains” and expect that to be free. Why? Were all the years of studying and working towards that expert level free to do? No. Do I know you from a bar of soap? No. Are you offering anything in return, even a touch of gratitude? No. Would you walk into a high-street law firm and expect free advice? No. If we all talked for free or did work for every random that could be several hours a week, 100 odd hours a year of “brain picking”. And meantime, the good, respectful people of the world who actually book time in the official way are being charged, because they expect to be, whilst the skinflint drains get away with it. The good thing about randoms is that you can be professional, set boundaries and eventually tell them to sod off (obviously, in a diplomatic way!) if they won’t pay. Relatives and mates it is that much harder because you don’t want to jeopardize that relationship.

Who are the radiators in your life? How do you manage the drains?