The Power of “No” for Entrepreneurs: Tips for Reclaiming Your Time

Requests come in almost daily:  Can we meet one-on-one for coffee?  Can you give me your thoughts on our new product line?  Or, my personal favorite, “hey, can I ‘pick your brain’?”

People ask so casually for my time, but, social media consulting is my profession, and I only make money if I spend time on paying clients.  So, the answer to any of the above questions is yes, if you’re hiring me as a coach or consultant.  Unfortunately, that means I won’t have time to learn all about your product if you’d love to work with me, but can’t hire me.  The same goes for reading your book, and promoting it as a “favor” to you.

Even friends who aren’t into social media see how active I am across platforms and ask for my “secret sauce.”  It’s equal parts hard work, passion, and drive.  This isn’t to say that I’m unwilling to share helpful information about social media.  If you explore my site, you’ll see that I write about social media, blogging, travel and much more.  I even have videos that you can watch if you don’t feel like reading.

One of my most popular posts to date is “How To Be The Life Of The Social Media Party,” and it emphasizes the importance of establishing a relationship before making a request.

If you’re sick, do you call your doctor friend, or do you book an appointment?  If your water pipes burst, do you text your buddy, or do you hire a plumber?  I work in the social media industry, so please don’t call and “pick my brain” for ideas to pitch to your client.  If we work as a team and share in the profit, that’s different: partnering can be great for business, but it is, by definition, a two-way street.

The takeaway:  build genuine, lasting relationships.  Then, respect people’s time, even if you have a connection.

For those of you who have difficulty saying no to these kinds of requests, I urge you not to work for free.  If you don’t value your time, how can you expect others to do so?  Center yourself and focus your energy on your own personal and professional growth, rather than furthering someone else’s business without being compensated.

If you can afford to do some pro bono work, that type of volunteering can pay dividends spiritually and professionally.  I have a friend who is giving away her time for free while she builds up her consulting business.  She gains exposure for her new venture, and the clients she helps get professional insights they couldn’t have afforded otherwise.  In that instance, working for free is a smart move.

Remember, too, that you need some downtime to recharge.   Any free time that I have is my “Zen Me Time.”  Cherish the in-between times, and replenish your creative energy.

Recently I wrote a post on The ROI of Social Media: Relationships.  This post really seemed to resonate with my readers.  I find that when I write from an emotional vantage point about what impassions or frustrates me, the piece tends to get shared more via social media.  So, if you’re looking for blog topics for your site, write about what you feel, and cover the things that speak to you.


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