Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Shai Ford.
I’m a small town girl. I’m also a huge Journey fan, but Journey got it wrong when they added ‘living in a lonely world’ to those hit lyrics. You see, when you live in a small town, everybody tends to know everybody else and, even more, everybody tends to help everyone else, too. I grew up in the midst of tiny-town PTA’s, scout troops, churches, and friend-groups in which everyone loved and helped everyone, and that stuck with me through adulthood. When your car broke down or you needed something repaired, you didn’t pay for it – you had a friend that would help you in a heartbeat or, if not do the work for free, would barter with you. And, people knew they could get the same from you.
I still live in the same ‘small town’ but it’s not as small anymore. We also now have the awesome world of the innerwebs, which often makes the world seem smaller and little towns seem huge because, more of often than not, you spend more time socializing with strangers across the country than you do people on your own street. I know virtually no one in my neighborhood, but I know many of the sisters from the Wild Sisterhood really well.
I have always treated the innerwebs the same way I treated folks in real life – if I can help, I help. Being a social media marketing and branding person, and an Etsy seller, and being super friendly combines into one result: I get a lot of requests for help. Every day, my Facebook chat box goes off at least 6-10 times from people asking questions about Twitter, or Etsy listings, or product design. I get emails, Convos on Etsy, and even in-person visits that suddenly turn into unexpected mini-training-sessions. You know what all of this led to? Burnout. Serious, unrelenting burnout.
When you’re giving away your time and expertise for free, you begin to feel like your energy is being drained without a source for replenishment. Bartering sometimes helps with this, but you can easily rack up a bunch of stuff you didn’t want in exchange for help you didn’t have the energy to give. When it becomes obvious that you give away your time and expertise for free (or for barter), you’ll find yourself helping a lot of unappreciative people, or people who only come to you for help, and that can be draining and depressing. It completely defeats the purpose of that helpful small town feel, doesn’t it? It doesn’t feel good, or motivating and positive, to feel used.
Everything we put our time and heart into takes a bit of our energy. Make sure that the things you give yourself to are filling you back up in some way.
Making the decision to start charging for my time and expertise wasn’t an easy one. I realized that, considering how many people came to me for help, there was a need out there that wasn’t being filled. I also realized that helping people was taking time away from my family, my other responsibilities, and my own business. So, I put together my book, opened up a Facebook Group, and started offering one-on-one coaching in several different, affordable packages. My ‘help’ is now organized (much better than the random chat questions!), and I’m making money – and with that money, I can afford to cut back on my Etsy shop or pay someone else to do my household chores so my business and family don’t suffer. And, I can still help people who really want to be helped! Since I released the book and moved to coaching – essentially doing the same thing I was doing before, but better, on a schedule, and for-profit – I’ve been able to help more people in less time, focus on my family, play games with my kids, and my orders are completely caught up!
Learning to value myself and my time as much as I value my commitment to community and helping has changed my life. I feel lighter – free, even – and I know my energy is going to good places.
Shai Ford is a small business branding and marketing coach, social media manager, and full-time Etsy seller. She loves helping other artisans, handmade sellers, and even social justice organizations, brand and market themselves for success.
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