When your “friend” wants some free business advice and asks to meet in person.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Nicola Washington. Nicola is a writer and social media manager, she says:

“What do you do about the “friend” who wants some free advice and expects you to take a two hour round trip to meet somewhere “mutually convenient”? My preferred “Mate, people pay me for this shit” might not cut it.”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:41] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:50] – Steve
Hello. Yes. So, episode three? Episode three.

[00:00:54] – Frankie

[00:00:55] – Steve
Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community, try our best to answer it, but it’s okay because what we don’t get to answer, we get to feed in with your comments the following week. We’ll tell you how you can ask a question, how you can get involved later on.

But that means we have to start with the comments from last week. Thank you so much for them, by the way. Last week’s episode was about emotional soup. If you’ve not heard it, then hit pause and go back now.

So, yeah, last week it was emotional soup, wasn’t it? All being under one roof.

[00:01:25] – Frankie
Yeah. So, living, working, parenting et cetera. Both self-employed in this instance, actually working together in the same business and having the kids around at the same time.

[00:01:35] – Steve
Penny Windsor got in touch. Hi, Penny.

[00:01:37] – Frankie

[00:01:38] – Steve
Penny said:

“I would encourage them to consider a desk in a co-working space if there’s one near. And they might want to just embrace the fact that life and work melds together and maybe not see it as a bad thing. I’ve never had a job, (except for a year or so when I was 23) so I sometimes forget people are used to having separate work lives. Life and work are one. The end.”

[00:02:06] – Steve
If we’re talking about emotional soup, Penny basically seems to be saying, well, “emotional soup is there — instead of trying to change it for a different dish, enjoy the taste of emotional soup!”

[00:02:16] – Frankie
Yes, nice, I like it.

Yeah, like, we were saying last week weren’t we? How as freelancers, it’s just part of the deal — in that you’re always thinking about work or you’re always thinking about life while working.

[00:02:26] – Steve
Yeah, but you see, whilst all the ingredients are there, we can change the way we serve it slightly, can’t we?

[00:02:34] – Frankie
Can we? Pick out the potato bits…

[00:02:35] – Steve
The way you season it…

[00:02:36] – Frankie

[00:02:37] – Steve
Having a little bowl to take out the bits that you don’t like. Like the courgette.

[00:02:41] – Frankie
It’s always the courgette.

[00:02:44] – Steve
Like Penny just said you could get a co-work space. You don’t just have to put up with the taste — if you really don’t like it, you can adjust the seasoning.

[00:02:52] – Frankie
And like, it might go down easier. No, I’m not going to continue the metaphor, but, like, maybe life would be a bit easier if you don’t fight it? If you see what I mean? Yes, there are things you can do, but if you’re stuck on the idea that life and work are separate, you’re never going to achieve that and you’re just going to be a bit miserable because you’re trying to achieve something that doesn’t necessarily exist.

[00:03:11] – Steve

[00:03:12] – Frankie
Alice Hollis says:

“My husband and I both work from home doing separate jobs. To overcome the emotional soup, my husband has an office building in the garden and I have turned the spare bedroom into my office, so both spaces are off limits to the kids. He’s employed full time, whereas I work three days a week.

When we’re at work, we’re at work. We both try not to work evenings, as this is our time together as a couple. Although obviously sometimes you have to and we both understand that. Since Christmas, we’ve been trying to sneak in occasional lunch dates because getting a babysitter can be an absolute pain. The key is organisation and communication.”

[00:03:47] – Steve
Ahh! It’s like you said, in fact — physical barriers, isn’t it? So you’ve got the garden office, which I love the idea of.

[00:03:53] – Frankie
Everyone wants one of them. I’d like to have a garden first, though. That’ll be a winner. That might help.

[00:04:00] – Steve
Yes, that’s a good point.

[00:04:01] – Frankie

[00:04:02] – Steve
And the lunch dates is quite interesting as well.

[00:04:04] – Frankie
Yeah, I love that idea. I always am like, “oh, we should go out in the evenings”. But you don’t have to go out in the evenings. Totally see each other and do something nice during the day.

[00:04:11] – Steve
No, I really like that because it totally works if you’re both at home. It makes sense. Clearly doesn’t work if you’re both like coming in later. One of you is working from home.

[00:04:20] – Frankie
I was talking to Rob after the last episode because Rob’s been listening, which is a bit weird…

[00:04:25] – Steve
Has he? Hi Rob

[00:04:26] – Frankie
It’s nice, but it’s a bit weird, isn’t it?

[00:04:29] – Steve
I like Rob.

[00:04:31] – Frankie
Yeah, I like Rob too, Steve.

[00:04:33] – Steve
I can’t believe you called him weird.

[00:04:34] – Frankie
No, no, I mean the situation of your other half listening to you having these conversations is weird. Don’t you think that’s weird? It’s like they’re peeking into another world that they shouldn’t have access to.

[00:04:43] – Steve
I think he’s giving support.

[00:04:47] – Frankie
That’s true. You’re right, Steve. You’re always right.

[00:04:49] – Steve
And partly checking in on you.

[00:04:51] – Frankie
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

So I was talking to him about emotional soup. We got into a conversation about working evenings because Jamie last week worked evenings while her husband worked during the day.

And we were talking about then there’s the risk of becoming, like, ships in the night where you don’t really see each other at all because one of you is doing the night shift, essentially.

Obviously, you want to spend time with your partner, number one. But also, as your kids get older, there’s, like, actual parenting you have to do, like, beyond making them say their pleases and thank yous, and you actually need the space and time to have conversations about what’s going on, rather than just, like, sneaking off into the cave, which I do a lot, to be fair… And I know you do a lot, too.

[00:05:27] – Steve
Okay, and one final comment. Let’s squeeze this in from Polly Tree. Hey, Polly.

Polly says:

“My partner and I are both freelance (not the same business) both working from home. We tend to have a catch up over nap time, look at our to-do list, tackle an issue together and plan the rest of the day/week. When nap time ends, we’re screwed”.

[00:05:55] – Steve
Yeah, those nap times aren’t going to last forever.

[00:05:57] – Frankie
The huddle cuddle is short lived.

[00:06:00] – Steve
That is exactly what you were talking about, though. That is the huddle cuddle, right?

[00:06:04] – Frankie
Yeah, exactly. They clearly schedule that into the downtime they’ve got while the kids are asleep. Yeah, it’s a great time to do it.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:10:27] – Frankie
So our question this week comes from Nicola Washington. Hello, Nicola. She’s a writer, blogger, social media manager.

Nicola says:

“What do you do about the ‘friend’ who wants some free advice and expects you to take a two hour round trip to meet somewhere mutually convenient? My preferred ‘mate, people pay me for this shit’ might not cut it.”

[00:10:52] – Steve
Straight to the point, isn’t it? Oh, man. I mean, well, okay… There’s lots to unpick, isn’t there? For example, the friend is in quotation marks.

Yes, I think my first temptation would be to send them an email.

[00:11:09] – Frankie
Saying,”’mate, people pay me for this shit”? No, maybe not that.

[00:11:14] – Steve
I’d send them an email saying, “Hey, I’ve got all of this client work on at the moment, client commitments”… blah, blah, blah, whatever.

[00:11:22] – Frankie
I’m so busy. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

[00:11:24] – Steve
“Why don’t you put down what question it is that you want help with in an email to me and I’ll see if I can help you out?”

And I think then the ball is back in their court. You’re not agreeing to go and meet them, but actually you will get to see what their question is, which might make you go, “oh, that could be quite interesting to go meet them”. Or it could be that you, more likely, can reply in an email and knock that one dead.

[00:11:54] – Frankie
Yeah, they might not even know what their question is. Sometimes they’re just like, “Oh, you’re doing things that I’m interested in and whatever, let’s have a chat”. Often they don’t even know what they’re trying to find out, and you’re not there to be a sounding board for them to work out what it is they are doing, particularly when you have such little time.

But assuming it’s somebody that wants to use your services and potentially pay you — because that happens as well, doesn’t it? Like, “Oh, let’s meet up and have a chat about working together” without really telling you what that means. And again, you’re expected to trek across London in my case or whatever, to meet this person without knowing what it is they want, whether they have any budget, how much budget they’ve got. So, like, asking those questions initially, it’s just, yeah… I want to know all the information.

[00:12:42] – Steve
No, you’re right. I think what you’re getting at is the fact that you need to filter out just the same as you would do with an actual client. So we might get approached by lots of clients and we have techniques and questions and whatever to try and filter them out before they take up too much of our time and we’re actually on a call with them. Even before you end up on a call, hopefully you might have a process in place to try and filter them out. One of those could be an email reply saying…

[00:13:10] – Frankie
“What do you want?”

[00:13:11] – Steve
Yeah, “Mate, people pay me for this shit.”

[00:13:13] – Frankie
“When do you want it?” 2020. Yeah.

[00:13:16] – Steve
And do you know an interesting thing about the whole email thing as well is that you might already have an answer if they do have a specific question. You may have already created a blog post or a video or whatever. And actually, if you haven’t, then this could be a good opportunity to do that. I used to find that I kept getting asked…

[00:13:38] – Frankie
…how do you start a podcast, Steve?

[00:13:39] – Steve
Yeah. What do we need to start a podcast? How do I start a podcast? Fair enough that they come and ask me. That’s nice. But actually it’s quite a long answer, there’s quite a lot involved and so eventually I finally got my arse into gear and wrote an answer to it.

Quite a long blog post, took me quite a long time, but what it meant was, everybody who asks me that question, I can point them in the direction of that. And in fact, after I wrote that, a lady asked me if I wanted to go for coffee so that she could ask me about podcasting, and I sent her in the direction of that.

However, she was local and I thought, “Wow, it doesn’t do any harm to meet a new freelancer”. So I went out and had coffee with her anyway. But we actually skipped a load of the questions and it meant that she could refer back to it on some finer points. She knew the gear I use and all of that.

[00:14:28] – Frankie
You cut out the introductory gumph at the beginning, straight to the heart of what she wants to know.

[00:14:33] – Steve
What could have been an hour and a half conversation was a nice sort of half an hour coffee.

[00:14:36] – Frankie

[00:14:37] – Steve
And there were other benefits as well. Like, writing that blog would be good for your SEO or whatever.

[00:14:42] – Frankie
Yeah, that’s true.

[00:14:43] – Steve
It’s also pretty good for concentrating your thoughts and actually helping you get them down. Sometimes writing helps you in solidifying your own thoughts. But yeah, I think if you notice a pattern of people regularly asking you questions, then you create those answers. Like, “how do you vlog?” people ask me.

But it means that you’re able to help that person without you having to take too much time out and trek over there. It relates back to that phone call conversation we had the other week, where we’re like, “My time is important, I’m not going to jump to yours. Maybe we can do this via email?” Even if it’s a friend.

And actually on the question of ‘friend’ in quotation marks, that suggests that this person probably isn’t that close a friend.

[00:15:23] – Frankie
Yeah, maybe a friend or friend or like extended social group.

[00:15:27] – Steve
In which case, definitely treat it that way. I think if it was an actual friend — like somebody you wanted to see — then you could say, “I’m tied up with client stuff at the moment”. You could even say, drop this in there — “I’ve got consultation calls”, which suggests that…

[00:15:43] – Frankie
…maybe they could pay for one of those?!

[00:15:45] – Steve
And you can say… “But maybe we could fix up a date for a few weeks’ time” — or whatever it might be — “hang out with the kids and while we’re at the park, you can ask me whatever it is”. If it’s actually somebody you want to see.

[00:15:57] – Frankie
I think it’s quite a struggle, because I know Nicola a bit. I would definitely relate to what she’s saying in that I know we’re both people pleasers and want to help people and be helpful. It’s quite a dangerous situation to be in when you want to be helpful all the time, particularly with, like, new freelancers.

I think you fall into a trap of going “Of course I’ll talk to you, I’ll talk to everybody! I’ll travel an hour to get there and tell you all I know!” and whatever, because you essentially want to be nice and meet other freelancers, like you said, and grow a network, and there are perks to doing that. But it does get to a point in your business, particularly if you have children…

I was freelancing before I had kids and I had five days a week, 10 til 6 or whatever to do stuff. And so, like, taking an hour out or inviting somebody to my co-working space to come in and chat to me for a bit was way more realistic. Whereas now, I’ve got two nursery days a week to get my job done.

So the idea of me taking time out for anything, frankly, it needs to be justifiable not just for them, but for me. Like, it has to be worthwhile, it has to be a two-way thing, otherwise it’s just not worth my time.

[00:17:04] – Steve
And money because you are paying for that child care for a reason.

[00:17:07] – Frankie

So, yeah basically being vigilant, but without being, like, a dick. I don’t want to be a nasty person and I want to help them ultimately, but it has to be mutually beneficial, I guess. But you’re right in that if I could create tools to point people to, that would be one way to deal with that. It’s more time efficient, isn’t it?

[00:17:27] – Steve
And if you send that email and you know what they actually want, and it is something you could help them with, and you want to talk about it, and you’re not going to write that blog post, well… then maybe they can come to you?

You can just say, “I’m busy with blah, blah, blah. But if you want to come over here, like, we can have lunch next Thursday and chat about this but…” and then give it a hard end.

[00:17:50] – Frankie
I’ve got a meeting at two.

[00:17:51] – Steve
Yeah. People only seem to say that on conference calls. “I’ve got a hard end at eleven”. That’s just what happens in the corporate world. And that’s amazing. But you can say that after your lunch — “I have to get back to my hard end at two”.

[00:18:15] – Frankie
Sorry, I’ve lost it…!

[00:18:19] – Frankie
I think, in summary, you just have to be a bit more ruthless when you’ve got kids, basically. Because your time is important to you as a freelancer, full stop. But when you’ve got such limited time and you’re paying for that time, you just got to be like, ‘nah’.

But you’re right, it’s all about solutions, isn’t it? That’s just the approach to life.

“No, I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do…”

[00:18:37] – Steve
This is it. It’s how you phrase that back.

[00:18:41] – Frankie

[00:18:42] – Steve
Because the fact is, that actually being nice and helping people is a good thing to do and can help your business. It’s good to do those things.

And generally, honestly, I don’t want to do a two hour round trip for someone who IS paying me. You can’t do yourself over by being too nice.

[00:18:59] – Frankie
Yes, exactly.

[00:19:01] – Steve
And look at that. We did that whole thing without even broaching the topic of working with friends.

[00:19:08] – Frankie
Yeah, that’s a whole other ball game, isn’t it?

[00:19:10] – Steve
Oh, mate, that can of worms will break the 20 minute marker.

What would your advice be?

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