“HELP. I need a professional expert like you! X”
^^ landed in my FB messages a couple of weeks ago from an acquaintance I’ve not seen off FB for years.
So I pinged back a quick message with an outline of how I could help, a couple of pointers, and my fee.
It was funny, because a few of my Superheroes told me they’d experienced the same thing just that week. Must have been the global chakras aligning or some such bollocks…
“One friend took me out for a coffee a couple of times, picked (or should I say…hoovered!) my brain for marketing strategies for her new business (totally my fault for allowing it!) on the loose promise of using me to DO the work – then I noticed she was using someone else.”
From another Superhero:
“A friend wanted to meet up and chat about her [issue]. I knew she couldn’t afford it, so I had a chat and then I got a message saying that she’d ordered everything I recommended from somewhere else. She seemed pleased to tell me this, which I couldn’t understand as why not keep quiet about it. She also corrected me a lot with stuff she’d read on the internet. Everyone’s an expert…”
In the past I gave a friend access to one of my courses free of charge (which she didn’t use). Then, when she needed to learn about something else I could have helped her with she told me, with no trace of shame, that she’d bought a course elsewhere on the internet. From someone else.
Thing is, we may say “my fault for allowing it” — and that’s true — but when a friend asks a favour, it’s hard to say no. At first. I don’t know any business owner who hasn’t fallen into this Friend Zone Trap at one time or another.
You learn from it and move on…
But it never seems to get any easier saying “no”.
Or does it?
There’s a couple of lessons to take away from this:
- People don’t value free — for the most part, they will not use the information you give them and then will complain about it. Or go elsewhere and pay for something.
- If you give away stuff for free to friends (or anyone else) you’ll set a precedent that means they’ll keep coming back for more. Like vampire junkies.
- It’s perfectly okay to do a skill swap if you both get value from it (I did this all the time when I was starting out and couldn’t afford expensive design work and web development).
You can’t stop the Friend Zone Trap from happening altogether, but you can set boundaries.
Saying “no” does get easier — when you know how to phrase it tactfully.
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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.