(Make sure you watch the video at the end of this post.)
I had a weird dream.
Now I don’t usually share my dreams with anyone, let along my blog readers. Plus, I forget most of my dreams before I’m fully awake. But this dream was special.
It was special because it illustrated so perfectly what many freelancers and business owners do when they first start their adventure. And if they’re not careful, it instills a bad habit that is tough to shake. It will lead to lost opportunities, lost income, and maybe even a lost business.
Here’s the dream
I had a very small part of a theatrical production. I met many wonderfully talented actors. They were excited to be there and loved being a part of a production that would entertain people.
Another actress had just had a falling out with the producer, which gave me pause but I thought “well, it’s between the two of them.” I didn’t want to get involved. Then I decided that I wanted to have something to prove that I was a part of this production, something I could put on my resume or share with others online.
The closest I could find to prove this was a cheap, flimsy card that served as some ID. The card wasn’t given out to any of the actors but I knew where it was located.
So I took it, with the intention of returning it, but I wanted to make a copy. The producer and his assistants discovered me before I was able to leave with the card and he made a big deal of taking it away while his assistants held me back (I guess thinking I’d try to lunge for it. Yes, dreams are weird).
But by that point, I was mad. It was just a stupid card but it was at least proof that I had spent my time and energy on being a part of the production. And so, I ripped into the producer.
I told him that all I wanted was to prove I was in the production (later, after waking, I thought about the playbill, but I think because I had such a small part, there was this understanding that my name wouldn’t be listed in it because it was such a small part).
Now, as revealing as that part of the dream was — what happened next is the core of my message:
I yelled at the producer for being so selfish and insensitive for not wanting to allow me to have something to show for my time because… dammit, my time was worth something! I even quoted him my hourly rate. He and his assistants mocked me and then tried to justify what they did, which was mainly working everyone almost to death for a production for which few would get any credit.
Here’s the point:
Are you undervaluing your time?
When you’re first building your business, there is the temptation to do whatever you can to “get your name out there.” Sometimes this includes doing things for people that you aren’t paid to do but you think it may have a “goodwill” feature that has the lucky recipient so thrilled that he or she will refer real business to you and someday, will actually buy your product or service because you were so nice to them.
Don’t fall for it.
Seriously. If you’re a business owner (and freelancers, you are business owners), do not give away your time and expertise like this. It’s one thing to help a friend on occasion. But it’s another when either a new contact approaches you saying, “Well, I really can’t afford much” and because you’re starting out, you see it as an opportunity to build your portfolio.
Don’t do it.
As you may have guessed, I speak from experience. I have given my expertise to individuals and thought that they would introduce me to better opportunities. Not only did that NOT happen, they didn’t even say “thanks” for what I gave them.
This is simply unacceptable.
When you do such things, you end up wanting to use your head like a basketball and dribble it on a wall.
Value yourself. Value what you are bringing into the world. There is a time to be generous with your expertise such as using a blog or e-newsletter to share it with the world. But when individuals approach you, looking downcast while murmuring, “Well, I can’t afford much..” resist that temptation to help them.
Yes, I know it sounds cold-hearted. But ultimately, apart from creating a passive income-generating machine, you only have time to make money. Know how to invest your time well.
For instance, avoid some of these time-suckers:
I had someone request a meeting. I thought it was to discuss his need for copywriting and because we knew each other fairly well, I scheduled a meeting. When we met, it turned out he wanted to sell me on the idea of being a sponsor. When someone asks for a meeting, clarify the purpose.
There will be times when you do want to meet someone for networking purposes but if you think they’re asking to meet you to discuss business, get it on the table so you won’t waste your time. Ask such questions as these: “Is this to discuss a new project and you want my input? Or is this a friendly get-together?” Depending on your priorities, you’ll be able to make better choices regarding whether you’ll meet with the person or correspond instead via email.
Facebook or Some Other Social Media Tool
Yes, you should use social media to promote your business. But if you find yourself tapping out updates on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, it’s time to shut it down. Checking your friends’ updates and commenting on them is one of the biggest time sinks out there. Wait until you’ve put in some work hours before taking a break to socialize. Better yet, put your activity on a timer. Set it for 10 – 15 minutes as you take a break and when the timer goes off, you’re done for awhile.
TV and Movies
I’m an entertainment addict. I love TV shows and all sorts of movies. But I realize how easily they eat into my day, especially if I’m not careful. I may watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined) during lunch, but when I’m finished eating, I turn it off. It’s good to take breaks but again, be aware how quickly an hour can go by and you have nothing to show for it. Use entertainment as a “carrot” to reward yourself after putting in work that gets you paid.
Those are just a few tidbits to help you stay on track. Some of you who are reading this may be light-years ahead of me in productivity, but some of you may be where I was last year.
Value your time. Because believe me, there are many people willing to take advantage of it and won’t even thank you after getting what they wanted. Forewarned is forearmed.
And now, the video that you absolutely MUST watch. (NSFW language)
He is absolutely 100% right.
He couldn’t be more right. Live and learn, my fellow creatives!