You are NOT the hired help

This is a public service announcement: you are not the “hired help”. 

Advertising poster for Works Progress Administration

You are an expert, not the hired help.

I’ve a friend called Stewart; we’re in the same mastermind group. He’s an abrasive Scotsman who helps those who sell alcohol to obtain and retain their licence. And, like all sensible business owners, he has an email list and he emails it almost every day. (Because it makes him money.)

A few days ago, Stewie got an email from someone who thought that he should work for free. See, Stewart’s service starts with a lot of research into his client’s business, problems, and requirements for getting and/or keeping a licence. It’s a thorny area and if the licensee gets it wrong, it could cost them their livelihood. Important stuff, then.

This email personage wanted Stewart to do all the research and groundwork, then he’d decide if he wanted to pay him to do the licence application.

Let me ask you, what’s wrong with this picture?

Remember when I said a few days ago that people who want to pick your brains really want to pick your pockets? This is a perfect example, but it’s actually even worse, because this person wanted Stewart to do the work for free.

This became one of his daily emails and he explained why he wouldn’t be doing that.

And that resulted in this charming little missive from a chap called Steve:

“Your arrogance is beyond belief. You are for want of a better description the hired help. Maybe the reason you don’t get inundated with work is because of your attitude. I for one would expect you to do the research on my behalf if you wanted me to hire you.”

Yes, how very dare we expect to be paid for the work we do!

But this highlights an even bigger, more insidious problem: people who think we’re the “hired help”.

Let me tell you right now, you are not the hired help. You are an expert in your industry and you do not work for people, you work with them. You may think I’m being pedantic; funnily enough, I don’t care, and you’re wrong if you do.

Words and the way we use them matter.

If you’re working for someone then yes; you are the hired help and you will be paid and treated accordingly. Think on that.

But if you’re working with someone; that’s an entirely different proposition. You are working with them as an equal. You are an expert, filling a skills gap in their business, and helping them to grow.

My advice to you? If any prospective client or customer ever refers to you as – or even suggests – you’re the “hired help”, stand up and leave. Don’t even bother explaining, because people like that don’t get it. They treat people shoddily and think nothing of stepping on them to get what they want.

Know your worth, then own it.

You’ll find a chapter about positioning in my book, Business For Superheroes. You can – and should – buy a copy here.



Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.

PS If you’re ready to grow your business, happy to do the uncomfortable stuff you need to do, and have the cash to implement and action what you learn, you should grab a copy of my book. But don’t take my word for it…

If you are a business owner and you are serious about taking your business to the next level this is a must read book. – Anthony, UK

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