Am I nice guy or a chump?
Not too long ago I wrote a post about using your professional skills to benefit others. It was a well-received piece and I do believe in helping those who need it.
In my case, I'm pretty confident in my writing abilities. What it might take others hours or days to do, I can write up fairly quickly. Given my background, I have written a variety of materials for friends, acquaintances, and small nonprofits. From press releases and bios to brochures and website content, I've pounded on the keyboard countless times for free just to help others. I have also provided way too many people with free social media training because I knew they could really use the help. Should I have charged? Well, a smart business person would have. Sometimes I think I'm not that smart.
This week, someone who operates a great nonprofit group asked me to write something for her. I obliged. Per usual, when I send someone a draft, I tell them to let me know if they have any edits. I'm happy to tweak what I write if my facts are wrong or if I'm way off base. In this case, the person responded to my draft with the following comment, "I think you can do better".
Now, keep in mind, this person asked for my help. I said yes. I provided a well-written piece. My thanks? I can do better. I can do better?
The person went on to give me additional direction that should have been provided before I even started to write. And, although it's annoying to have wasted my time and effort on the first draft, I could have lived with it. If, and I said if, the woman in question had been kinder in her request for a revision. How about "Could we concentrate more on XYZ than ABC?" Or maybe, "Would you mind playing up the blankety blank feature a little more?" Absolutely! Can do! Happy to give you what you need! But "I think you can do better"? Really? That just made me angry.
I've been burned quite a few times while doing pro bono work. My mom says I'm a sap for continuing to offer people the benefit of my professional skills. What is that saying about people not valuing things that they get for free? Well, I have to admit--reluctantly--that there may be some truth to that.
Will I continue to help people who desperately need some guidance? Yeah, sure. Will I still offer a hand to those who are trying to support a worthwhile cause? Of course. It's who I am. Am I schmuck for that? Maybe.
I offer this story as a reminder to be considerate if you are ever the beneficiary of someone's good will. It takes so little to be kind. And, for the record, "you can do better" is anything but appreciative.