No more business booty calls

When you’re a lawyer, you get booty called A LOT.

And when you’re a trademark lawyer who specializes in digital entrepreneurship and who just happens to have hundreds of digital entrepreneurs as your friends, you get booty called CONSTANTLY.

Nope, not the late night “you up, girl?” kind of booty call. Nothing hot and sweaty about these booty calls.

More like the, “Hey girl! Can I pick your brain about something?” kind of booty call. The, “would you mind taking a peek at this cease and desist letter?” kind of booty call. And occasionally the “Do you have two seconds for a phone call?” sort of booty call.

No joke, when I was first starting out, I probably spent the equivalent of 8 hours (one full work day) per WEEK helping friends out for free. That’s $800 a week, or $41K a year that I was just giving away.

Here’s how I would rationalize it:

  • If I help Allison with something small, she might hire me in the future for a larger project
  • If I say no to Mark, he won’t recommend me to his business contacts and might even say bad things about me
  • I have to help Erika because she’s my sister-in-law / neighbor / dog walker / college friend, etc.
  • If I help Sam with this legal problem, maybe he’ll do a favor for me.

Sound familiar?

The problem with these rationalizations is that they’re bullshit.

The truth:

  • If I help Allison with something small, she might hire me in the future for a larger project. When I help Allison for free, she stops valuing my work and therefore is LESS likely to hire me in the future, but MORE likely to keep asking me for free favors. When I insist on being paid fairly, I’m actually increasing my chance of getting good clients.
  • If I say no to Mark, he won’t recommend me to his business contacts and might even say bad things about me. When I tell Mark I can’t help him since I’m completely booked with client work, it shows him that I’m a successful, in-demand lawyer which means he’s more likely to recommend me to his contacts.  
  • I have to help Erika because she’s my sister-in-law / neighbor / dog walker / college friend, etc. I can help Erika best by recommending a lawyer that specializes in her issue. I can also preserve our relationship best by setting clear boundaries.   
  • If I help Sam with this legal problem, maybe he’ll do a favor for me. Hmm, sounds more like a trade than a favor. So maybe I should make it explicit by telling Sam I’m willing to trade 4 hours of legal work for 4 hours of graphic design work. If he is reluctant to make it explicit…it’s highly unlikely that he plans on trading.  

So how do you stop getting booty called? Here’s a few ideas:  

  1. I said NO to everyone and everything for 90 days. It was like a clear-the-plate cleanse on business booty-calls. I just back a short note saying, “I wish I could help but I’m slammed right now. Sorry!” This forced me to face my fear of saying no by seeing first-hand what happens when I say it to everyone (not that much…one person was upset about it which made me thankful I didn’t do her a free favor).
  2. Keep it to fifteen minutes. Right now, I differentiate between a small favor and free work by the amount of time it takes. If it’s a small favor that will take less than fifteen minutes, like writing a testimonial or sending a link that answers the question, I do it. If it will take more than fifteen minutes, I know that it’s actually just work that I’m not being paid for, and I say no.
  3. Frame it as a mission statement. I often tell people that as much as I would love to help them, I don’t do free work because I believe that everyone (especially women) should get paid for their time, and should value their own time. This invites them to join me on my mission, see that my no isn’t personal and maybe stop giving away their time for free, too!

Are you up for a 90-day “business booty-call” cleanse?

 

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The next email goes out on: August 26, 2018