People often ask me to “take a quick look” at their website and give them feedback or help them design a simple logo for their side project. I find myself saying yes a lot of times because it’s usually someone I know that’s asking, and I feel like a jerk if I say no.
The problem with this is that if you say yes to enough requests, you end up overwhelmed with projects and with no time for yourself. Particularly for entrepreneurs, you have ambitious goals set, and you need all the time you can get to reach them. It’s kind of a delicate subject because we’re taught at a young age to be generous and other-oriented. These are great qualities, but you’re not a bad person for wanting to have time for your own side projects. You have things to get done, and that’s normal.
The hard part is actually telling people no, and I’m not sure I’ve mastered it yet, but if you decline to help in a respectful way that explains why you can’t help, most people won’t be offended.
If people are offended that you won’t work for free, they aren’t the types of people you want to donate your time to anyway.
If you really want to help but don’t have time for unpaid projects, explain that and you just might get a consulting gig out of it. If you don’t even have time for more paid projects, then kudos to you for being in high demand. It’s probably time to increase your consulting prices. I know that personally I will prioritize something much higher, and work much harder if I’m getting paid because there’s a mutual respect that has been established. You understand and acknowledge that my skills and knowledge are valuable to you, and so you pay me for my time. That’s how the world functions best.
It’s not a bad thing to help people once in a while if you can handle it, but you shouldn’t feel bad saying no for unpaid work. Your time is valuable, and you should treat it that way.