How to Handle Friends Who Want Free Advice When You’re a Small Business Owner
When you work for yourself, the lines between your personal life and business life can blur easily. Normal work hours can no longer apply. And you might find that your friends want to pick your brain more than once about your area of expertise.
While its good and well to give a friend a piece of free advice on the fly over a few drinks, it can also become a problem if it happens again and again.
The Problem: Friends Don’t Understand How Your Work Situation is Different
What your friends don’t understand is that your area of expertise is how you make money. There’s no boss that sends you a check each week, and you don’t get paid for the time you spend on Twitter or Facebook. These things are probably true for your friends, and they will have a hard time really conceptualizing that that’s not your scenario if they’ve never freelanced.
This doesn’t make your friends bad people. Their experience is just different from yours. They don’t understand that the free advice they’re asking for is the exact advice you use to make money. It’s not just a hobby for you.
The Solution: Draw Boundaries and Set Limits
Just like you can set limits with your clients, you can set limits with your friend and family.
Say you’re a freelance personal finance blogger. You know a lot about money, and your friends know you’re pretty good with money yourself. More than one friend asks you at dinner parties, at weekends away, or on the phone if you can answer a question for them. They don’t think they’re looking for free advice, but that is what ends up happening.
“Hey, what’s a good rate for charging a freelance client for this kind of project.”
“What are some negotiation tips I can use in my next job interview?”
“Can you take a look at my loans and see if I should re-finance?”
All of these feel inconsequential to the person who’s asking them. But they all fall into areas that you as the freelancer could charge for; business coaching, negotiation coaching, or budgeting reviews.
You can answer these in a variety of ways. Try some of these responses.
“That’s something I cover in my coaching program actually! Are you interested in getting some coaching for yourself?”
“It’s great you have an interview! There are a lot of good articles on negotiation out there; I’d just Google it.”
“I’d love to take a look, but just so you know, that level of advice is something I reserve for clients.”
All of these responses gently remind your friends that you do this for PAY, and hopefully, they’ll either sign you as their money coach or they’ll drop the subject.
If Someone Doesn’t Get It
If you have a repeat offender, you can ask to speak to them privately. Say something along these lines:
“Hey James- I know you’re working on your money lately and that’s great. I feel like you’ve asked me a lot of questions, and I hope you can understand that when I’m not at work, I don’t always want to talk about work. If you want to work together on your money, I’d be happy to offer you a family and friends discount, but otherwise, I’d rather leave the money talk at the office. Thanks man.”
Again, this is very friendly, but it draws clear lines around what James can expect from you. You’re reminding him that you’re his friend and not just here for free advice.