How to Set Boundaries with People That Ask for Free Help

I often find that the more I become “known” in the entrepreneurship world, and online marketing community that people want more and more of my time.

This is a combination of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, random strangers and others.

As a person that likes to help people and do good deeds, I would like to help as many of these people as possible. In fact, I love to help people without expecting anything in return. It’s funny though, I find that when I don’t expect it I often find that I get back 10 fold to what I give. The universe has a great way of paying you back, even when you don’t ask for or expect it.

However, I have my own businesses to run and I only have the same amount of time in a day that everyone else has. It takes me double digit hours a day to run my own businesses and manage my paying clients (I rarely take new clients and have a long waiting list), which doesn’t leave much left over time to help people for free.

That means that no matter how much I would like to, I simply can’t help everyone. Especially not for free, because that would be a poor allocation of my time. It would be like a lawyer doing 100% free probono work when they are in extreme demand. It’s just not a smart business move.

A lot of conscious people that happen to be successful and in high demand struggle with this. They struggle with setting boundaries because they are kind hearted and would like to help everyone. It’s hard to turn people away that you could and would like to help.

I can’t help anyone if I help everyone

The big problem is that if you don’t set boundaries when you are sought after like that, people will just use up all available time that you give them. Therefore you have to learn how to set boundaries and be more strategic about how you allocate your time to those kinds of people, and pretty much everyone for that matter.

My Step by Step System-

Step 1 – Allocate 1 day per week at a set time

I have started to adopt a “meeting time” that consists of a few hours, one time per week. That is my window where I can do “free” consulting with friends, acquaintances, potential new clients, etc. I might have 2 one hour slots of 4 four hour slots.

This is the true free help where I don’t ask for or expect anything in return. I’m giving back and helping people for 100% free. This is an extremely limited window once a week, max. And it’s going to be on the same day every week so I can begin to block off that time for this purpose. Then I know when it’s coming and I don’t have any difficulties telling people no or trying to find other times. Those are my available time slots for that. Period.

Without this set time, I find myself offering or being asked to meet at all kinds of times even if it’s inconvenient for me or messes up my days. As a conscious person that likes to help people, I used to say yes a lot even when it was not a good time for me.

Step 2 – Make sure everyone else I meet with has skin in the game

Anyone that I meet with outside of that time slot needs to have skin in the game. This could mean a paying client, a trade of some kind, business partners, customers, etc.

These types of meetings are necessary either for my business or some sort of exchange of services.

I personally don’t exchange services very often as I mostly pay for services. Very rarely will I exchange services because it’s simply more cost effective for me to pay rather than to trade my time for something I could easily pay for.

For example, let’s say hypothetically if an hour of my time is worth $500 and I’m exchanging for something worth $50, it’s not a good trade of my time for whatever is worth that $50. I would rather pay for it, instead of trade my time, because I would “lose” $450 if I traded an hour, using those made up example numbers.

Step 3 – Set strict time constraints and stick to it

This is for everyone’s good. If you don’t set specific time constraints many people will simply use up as much time as you give them. If you say you are available for 1 hour, don’t stick around for 2.5 hours until they are done with you. You have to have enough respect for your own time, or others certainly will not. Respect yourself and others will respect you more too.

Step 4 – Redirect people to your meeting time if they text, call, email

A lot of time people will demand to ask a “quick question” that in their mind might have some short answer. Often times nothing is as simple as it sounds, and especially if they are newbie in the field the answer can be very long winded and involve multiple steps.

I have started to redirect people to the allocated time (if there’s availability) for even “quick questions.” Of course, this is different for business partners, customers, paying clients, etc.

Step 5 – Stay firm in your plan

What is a plan without execution or adherence to the plan? If you don’t respect your own time, others won’t either. You must be firm or others will start to walk all over you.

Step 6 – Write a blog to help with “quick questions” or common questions

One of the simplest solutions is to start a blog, podcast, etc, so that you can answer common questions and help as many people as possible.

That’s why I started Influencive after all. In fact, the majority of my content comes from questions I’m commonly asked or things that people want to learn more about from me. That’s why I write here.

Create your own blog, it doesn’t need to be as advanced and setup as beautifully as Influencive, it can be anything simple setup on WordPress or whatever platform.

Then go out and write about those topics that people commonly ask you about. You can then tell them how you wrote a very detailed response to that very question and send them the link to the blog. This is better than re-telling the story or giving the same steps to someone over and over again.

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