By Carole Bennett
In the early days of every business, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, especially for women entrepreneurs, is the ability to consider what we have to offer as being worthy of value, of having the right to expect compensation for those things we do well.
We’re raised to believe that being focused on our own needs and goals is “selfish”, and receive validation from family and society at large for being “good girls,” putting the needs and wants of others above our own.
Our friends, family, and social circles are not above taking advantage of that social programming, especially regarding those things that we may be especially talented in (and thus, the things that we’re most likely to leverage in creating our own business). These same people would absolutely never dream of going up to a stranger, be it a contractor, secretary, plumber or other professional, and asking for help for free – but they have unfortunate blinders on when it comes to the people they know personally.
Because we want to be “nice” to those people and receive that social validation, we often tend to get wrapped up in projects that pull us further away from our own efforts to grow and expand our businesses. How can we keep that sense of obligation from blindsiding our business progress?
Keep it Fair
If you’re giving up time and effort that could be spent furthering your business goals, it’s only fair to ask for help with something you don’t have time for in return. If a friend or family member asks you to design a logo for their latest fundraiser, don’t be shy about asking them to pick up the kids from soccer practice, or run an errand for you in return.
There are times that doing pro bono work will allow you to network into a target market that you might not otherwise have access to.
Accept Your Limitations
At the end of the day, it’s hard to know when to call it quits, and it goes against a go-getter’s grain to say “I’m sorry, I just can’t do that right now.” Just remember that it’s not a sign of weakness, or incompetence, to turn down uncompensated work – often, it’s just good common sense.
Know When It’s Not Your Place
A fellow entrepreneur of my acquaintance recently made the observation that “there are some people who should not be enabled to further projects until their own lives and houses are in order” – if you look closely at the people who are asking you to tend to their business needs, you might see that they’re substituting your passion for their own.
Remember that you’re building a business for reasons that are just as important as anyone else’s and that you’ve got just as much right to be respected, and compensated for your talents. Whether the reparation is financial, an exchange of services, or an opportunity to promote your business, make sure it’s worth the time and energy being diverted away from your business.
Carole Bennett is the founder and primary voice of IndigoTea. As a professional IT consultant, Carole has provided solutions for companies as diverse as Verizon, Frito-Lay, Capital One Auto Finance, and Zales Jewelers, parlaying a unique talent for acting as a translator between the worlds of business challenges and technology solutions. After nearly two decades of experience in providing business and technology solutions in the corporate space, Carole chose to dedicate her wealth of experience towards creating outstanding results for her small business clientele. She considers her skills gained from simultaneously managing a fire performance troupe, raising a family, and working as a full-time IT consultant excellent preparation for her current career incarnation as the driving force behind IndigoTea Small Business Solutions. “Fire-breathing redhead on a mission” is not just a metaphorical description!