I am roaring through my inbox (still haven’t taken the time to set up the email filters like my business coach has taught me to), trying to maximise my writing time while handling incoming emails, upgrading my proposal document, and carefully scheduling every moment of my Google calendar for maximum efficiency.
I have my social media automated. I have my alarm set for every 20 minutes so I can stretch my troublesome dance injury. My kids email me during work hours because they know I put my phone in another room to have uninterrupted writing time.
Then; it arrives.
The “quick chat over coffee” request.
And I’m torn.
Because it’s not as if I don’t want to have coffee with you, or anyone else. It’s not like I relish being in my own company from 8am – 4.23pm exactly when the kids get off the bus. Some days I don’t speak to one living soul during that time. Plus, I love chai lattes.
It’s just that, this week alone, I’ve been asked for seven “quick coffee chats”.
Early in my solopreneur career, I would pursue these kinds of meetings with raw enthusiasm. After all, shouldn’t I be grateful for the opportunity to pitch? And it wasn’t like I was giving up hours of my time to be able to help out someone else. They needed me.
Only, it is hours.
Let’s break it down:
If I did go on those seven coffee business dates this week, including travel and prep time, that’s about 10 hours. Even at discounted fees, that’s nearly three grand of caffeinated billable time. And with a family to feed, two teenagers in school and one kindergartener that is planning a breeding program of his toy dinosaurs (so, of course, now he needs two of each), and my concrete billable hours at around 20 a week, that’s simply not sensible.
You see, my time is precious.
As is yours.
Not just in monetary terms. Ask any grandparent what they’ve learned in life and they’ll probably wax lyrical about the time they spent pursuing their life’s passion, and the moments shared with friends and loved ones.
You won’t hear them say, “I sure wish I had said yes to more of those coffee meeting invitations.”
If you were inviting me to coffee to see if you wanted to hire me, my approach actually works in your favour, too. I flourish at home with my laptop and my words, brainstorming and exploding with ideas and poring over various concepts, approaches, branding stories and voices – all to write the kind of copy that leaps off the screen and grabs your reader by whatever part of the reader is appropriate to grab in terms of your brand.
It’s my gig.
What that kind of focus takes is intense, uninterrupted, single-minded application.
For me to be able to put this stuff together; to string words into powerful phrases and craft text that gets the right message across, but with nuance and style, that costs something. Meeting for coffee just means less time for me to be in “the zone”.
Even if I know you are sincere in your intentions and even if I did really want to hang out with you and hear about your project ideas, or sell you myself, or consider the clients you wanted to send my way, I know that in order to be productive and deliver on the current projects I have committed to, 99% of the time, I’m going to have to say no.
And really, if you want to see my stuff, I have a website.
In fact, I now have two.
It has a boat load of words on it. It showcases testimonials from clients and links to the copy I created for them. You’ll see that they say that I have an intuitive ability to write as them, ensuring their brand message is en pointe but still sounds like they do in conversation. As an editor once said when hiring me; “I’ve read your website and I want that writer.” Heck, isn’t that why we create websites?
Nixing coffee business chats also reduces my costs. How?
You, as a client, aren’t paying an excess for me swanning about eating cake with other potential clients.
When you hire me, you pay exactly what I am worth including what I need to keep my business running. And that’s it. I’m not an agency; there are no inflated overheads or enormous minimum spends required. I’m the buck stops here girl.
These days, I work a Skype call product into many of my larger packages. Because I know that people who don’t love to write won’t want to email me three pages of their ideas. And I’m more than happy to have coffee over Skype. I’ll even change into a proper top, and you won’t get to see my jim jam bottoms. (Can’t do that in a café!)
This strategy allows me to assist a tonne more folk than I could do if I had to personally meet with everyone.
Since accepting that I am naturally a teacher and working copy coaching into my repertoire, Skype sessions work really well for those people who are continuing to upskill their own writing and who just need a keen pair of eyes and a word-nerd brain to help them through the quagmire.
When I set up my business, I purposefully left myself some time to upgrade my learning but also to work on what I call “love jobs”. This year love jobbing has involved donating time to teach local women in business to communicate more effectively over social media, raffling off hours of myself to help thousands of dollars for the Harry Perkins Institute, rewrote website copy for a community group to raise funds for a public open space, consulted with a child-protection start-up, and launched two website and social media platforms to tell the stories that need to be told.
So, please don’t think I’m a greedy guts. I’m happy to give away my time for a great cause.
And even though I am naturally introverted, I still slap on some lippy and change out of my PJs to attend networking events and community functions, if nothing else to remind myself I am a real business person and not just a set of fingers connected to a story lovin’ brain.
Finally, I to and fro because I worry that this practice makes me *gasp* selfish.
How DARE I not agree to meet people who may want to pay me money, in the long term. Who do I think I AM?
Then, I come back to this realisation. The one that took me six years of single mothering, thirteen years of corporate communicating, and 600 days of fly by the seat of my pants empire building to arrive at.
Being a little bit selfish for the greater good is AOK.
And, just when you’re thinking I am an anti-social, introverted, Class A snobbikins; here’s a promise for you:
I won’t meet you for coffee, but I will have a glass of champagne (or whiskey) with you. Once the content I’ve crafted for you has been worked into your brand and you launch it with resounding success, then I’ll make time to celebrate.
How do you handle business boundaries? Do you factor in meeting times or solidly side step the whole shebang? Do you think, as women, we find it harder to say no?
Maybe there’s a better way to do it and I’m missing something. Tell me about it!
Jay Crisp Crow
Yep, really my name