Professional courtesy at its best: Value each other’s time and expertise

A couple weeks ago, a colleague who needs to get up to speed on social media emailed to ask if I would be willing to spend a couple hours on the phone coaching her about Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. She added that she wanted to pay me for my time. How nice, I thought, and quickly wrote back that I would be happy to be her coach and that I would charge her my special “Friends & Family” rate.

This is an excellent example of someone respecting another professional’s time and recognizing the value of their expertise. But such examples can be few and far between, I’ve found. More often people expect to tap into the business expertise – and the workday – of friends or close colleagues without remunerating them in any way.

I urge you not to be that person – the one who imposes without offering anything in return. It’s important to recognize that for solopreneurs in particular time is literally money. If you impose on that time with the expectation that you  can tap into someone’s expertise for free, you are costing them money.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do favors for each other. But make sure it’s a two-way street. Money does not have to always be involved, but something besides a quick verbal thank you should be offered in recognition of the value of what you’ve received. Perhaps it’s an invitation to a home-cooked meal or to a nice restaurant. Perhaps it’s a bouquet of flowers or something else you know will brighten the day of the person who helped you.

I’ve never been sure why people who would never go to a doctor or lawyer and expect to get free service or advice think it’s okay to ask for free professional help from a friend or colleague. I’m not talking about asking a quick question now and then. I’m talking about expecting a professional to spend several hours helping you out and then offering nothing in return. Let’s respect each other better than that.

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