When I was a new-ish business owner, I’d be approached by people (largely people I met at networking events) who’d want to work with me… and they’d want to do a trade.
Why not?, I reasoned. They seemed nice. I wanted the experience. Plus, I thought, maybe they’ll refer me.
The absolute worst experience, though, was with a woman named Wanda.
I’m not sure how it happened. Walking into our meeting, I was under the impression she wanted to learn more about my services. A precious hour and a half later, I walked away being booked to work with her, in exchange for her service. A service I didn’t want or need.
Caution: chance of trade ahead
I was gobsmacked.
I’d been hoodwinked! I’d been had!
I was LIVID. And too scared to do anything about it.
Days later I realized what happened: Wanda offered her service and she was so nice that I felt like if I didn’t accept, I’d risk being insulting and unappreciative.
So I reciprocated.
And it was painful.
All Work is Not Equal
Delivering the services were painful. She wasn’t my right person and we weren’t having the level progress that I normally see with clients.
Again, I was reminded, that committing myself to some one who obviously wasn’t a “fit” with my approach was painful.
Plus it was exhausting.
If your work involves prep time, drive time, re-caps and client communication, you’re ‘trading’ that ON TOP OF the actual interaction. And it’s a sunk cost.
Trades are a time investment in which you cannot do anything else, including generating revenue from paying clients.
As our trade progressed, I began to question my competence (and my sanity).
Halfway through this trade, it dawned on me:
Generosity is a two-way street. To be true generosity a trade needs to be received in the spirit in which it was given.
Someone who doesn’t want what you’re offering but takes it anyway isn’t receiving your generosity. And you cannot accept someone’s generosity if you don’t want to take it wholeheartedly.
I quickly learned that when it comes to trades, low-investment meant low return.
The whole shebang with Wanda felt like an exercise in white-knuckling and contorting. I didn’t feel my work was valued. And I didn’t value Wanda’s services, which made me judge myself as unappreciative.
If there isn’t an equal value of services, fundamentally, no one will be doing their best work.
And here’s the kicker: if you’re not doing your best work, you’re not going to be referred the way you want.
I white-knuckled through my time with Wanda. One result from our interaction is that I’ve learned to set strong(er) boundaries.
I’ve learned to put the brakes on my knee-jerk reaction to generosity.
Accepting and reciprocating are no longer my only options.
It’s as simple as preparing for the possibility and taking a breath after the moment someone makes the suggestion.
I’ve practice saying the following with a smile: “I find that trades can get messy, I’d like to avoid any hassle and figure out a better solution. How about…”.
What about you? How have trades served you and where do you steer clear?