How to Stop Giving Away Your Time and Working for Free

Stop Working for FreeA friend of mine recently spent an entire day volunteering her services as a retail consultant for a small shop owner who couldn’t afford to pay her. She sorted inventory, rearranged displays and even helped with pricing strategies. As I sat listening to her talk about the job, I wondered why we agree to such things. Why do intelligent, successful women give away their time and work for free?

We like to believe it’s because we are generous. We have a heart for service and we know God calls on us to care for others. So we are ready and willing to take on whatever task is asked of us. I’m guilty of it, too – I’ve agreed to far too many lunch requests with someone who wants to “pick my brain.” And I’ve offered my writing and marketing services pro-bono for dozens of organizations – each of which has a noble cause. Why? Partly because I want to. But often because I feel I have to.

When someone is in need, we help them. That’s what we do, right? That’s just the way it works.

Not exactly. I want to remind you that it doesn’t have to work that way for you. YOU don’t have to be the one to step up Every Single Time something needs to be done. And you certainly don’t need to say yes when you’re asked to give away your time and professional expertise.

Trust me – I know you have valid reasons for saying yes:

“It may lead to something bigger.”

“They can’t pay me now, but if I do a good job, I’ll be the first one they call when there is money in the budget.”

“It will look good on my resume/portfolio.”

“It’s my duty to help others in need – I’ve been blessed and I want to give back.”

“If I don’t do it, nobody will.”

There may be an element of truth to your reasons but I’m going to challenge you to say no anyway. I want to encourage you to keep your priorities (rather than the needs of others) at the forefront of your decision-making. I know that sounds selfish but it’s really more a matter of staying focused.

Giving away your time and talent is a wonderful way to serve others – as long as it doesn’t derail us from God’s plan. If you are constantly putting your own business or ministry (or worse – your family!) on the back burner while you help others, then you’re not really living your purpose.

Sometimes our desire to help others is a distraction or procrastination technique. It prevents us from doing what God is calling us to do. Because it’s easier to be in charge of the silent auction for the third year in a row than it is to write that memoir about finding Jesus and healing from addiction.

If you really want to be a good steward of all your gifts, then be wise in the way you share your time and talent. You just might discover you have more time to do the things that matter most. And – you may even improve your bottom line!

Five Ways to Stop Giving Away Your Time and Working for Free:

1. Run the Numbers. Decide on a percentage of your product or service you will provide pro-bono and don’t go above that number. For example, if you are a portrait photographer you may decide to offer one day of your time per month to a local non-profit.  If you teach a course or workshop then you may offer a certain number of scholarships for every 10 paying students. Once you choose a reasonable number and start tracking your time, you’ll feel better about saying no to additional requests because you’ll be able to quantify the pro-bono work you are already doing. [Read more...]

Please Take My Reader/Member Survey

surveyI started this blog and created the International Christian Mompreneur Network as a way to connect with women like you. It’s a place for mom entrepreneurs to get the information, encouragement and support they need to run a business that is in alignment with their values of faith and family. I know it’s helping a lot of women! But is it helpful to you? Could I be doing something better? Something more? I’d really love to know!

Please take a few minutes to fill out my Reader/Member Survey and let me know what I could be doing to make this blog and the Network more relevant and valuable to you. The survey is 4 pages and there are 30 simple questions. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes and you can skip any answer you choose. (But the more information you provide, the better I will be able to make the changes you want.)

Please know that the survey results are completely anonymous. Your answers – especially the demographic information – will be super important in securing sponsors for our events so that we can keep the cost down as much as possible.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to help!

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7 Business Lessons from the Football Field for Mompreneurs [Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall]

WhenTheGameStandsTallI rarely have an opportunity for a date night with my oldest son, but when I offered him and a friend tickets to a preview screening of a football movie, I instantly became the greatest mom on the planet! Andrew and I saw When the Game Stands Tall with our friends Cindy and Nick and we all agree the movie speaks to moms as much as it does to boys. It chronicles the lives of the coaches and players of the De La Salle High School football team in Concord, Ca. With an unprecedented 151-game winning streak, the Spartans are doing something right. But it is more than just winning football games.

Whether you’re a football mom, a swim team mom or a dance mom, I think you will agree that sports are the classroom of life. Especially when there is a great coach in the picture. In fact, coaches (like teachers) have the power to help shape a child’s character and set a player on the path to a winning life on so many levels.

Based on a true story, When the Game Stands Tall is overflowing with lessons of character for today’s youth…messages of dedication, brotherhood, leadership, faith, forgiveness, humility, love and honor. As I sobbed and cheered my way through the film, I couldn’t help but glean a few encouraging messages for the mompreneur. (You know I’m always thinking of you!)

7 Business Lessons for the Mompreneur from When the Game Stands Tall:

(I’ll try to do this without spoiling the movie, since it doesn’t come out in theaters until August 22!)

1. Give a perfect effort. The De La Salle coaches demand a lot from their players but they don’t expect perfection. Rather – they require a perfect effort. Every day. Every play.

Many of us mompreneurs have a perfectionism problem. We expect perfection – which makes us less successful and more critical of ourselves. I’d like to suggest we take a page out of the Spartan’s playbook and expect a perfect effort. What if we went to work each day ready and willing to give a perfect effort? What if we let go of the need to achieve and embraced the desire to serve? What if we applied that thinking to the job of motherhood as well? I think I’d like to play that game.

2. It’s not WHAT you do that matters…it’s HOW you change lives in the process.

Coach Bob Ladouceur could have moved on to lucrative coaching positions in college or professional football, but he was more interested in transforming character than winning games or earning a paycheck. “Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard,” says Ladouceur.

No matter WHAT you do in your business, you have the opportunity to teach, preach and reach people through your work. [Click to Tweet!]

Maybe God’s plan for your business or ministry has nothing to do with your bottom line and everything to do with the effect you have on the people you serve. I’m not suggesting we ignore traditional measures of success – that would be irresponsible. But I do believe we are called to look at the impact of our work through the eyes of Christ.  [Read more...]