Givers Need To Set Limits
…because takers never do.
“My friends are not willing to pay for the designs they make me do. As much as I try to make them see reasons why even a ‘small change’ would do quite a lot to encourage me, they’re quick to say: “Why can’t you just help somebody? Is it not just system you’re pressing?”
“And I need money, ‘Ranti. I swear I’m dead broke. Or maybe my works aren’t good enough to be paid for?!”
“I should just close shop and move on to something else. It’s like this design thing is not for me 😢”
My phone buzzed incessantly at the barrage of WhatsApp messages one of my creative design mentees, Damilola, kept pouring in.
I could relate, I felt really bad for her, the kind of friends she has and the tight rope situation she’s found herself in questioning her life choices on career.
Last weekend, a very good friend — Oyindamola (not real name) drove by and hollered. Among the many conversations we had, I gave her this ‘gist’ of how I nearly lost a contract because a friend who recommended me to another friend, felt my price was outrageous. A price quote which the owner of job had even agreed to. Las las, I had to renegotiate and yield to a quarter of the initial price quote I sent. I could deal with it for many reasons, so I played ball.
While narrating my ordeal to Oyindamola, she toed the line of “Why are you charging her? Is it not system you’re pressing?” And added, “It is not like you have to buy the elements you are going to use to design.”
“You should do it for free.”
I sat her down and calmly explained how being a better creative designer costs more than you’d ever know. As a creative, your only elixir is to be sold to self-development. You just must get better every single day. It’s a constant battle to keep up with new tricks per second, new design styles per minute, new tutorial videos per day, new software; the list goes on and on. And of course, they don’t come cheap.
I informed her that I had only just paid for a certain tutor in France to learn Video animations. Quality don’t come cheap, really, and tutorials are just one out of an endless list of financial commitments of a creative (designer). Besides the money, I operate a dawn to dusk work schedule, hence the only time you have to attend classes are early mornings or late nights.
Asides the huge time sacrifice, there is the cost of internet service to attend classes, download tutorial videos and materials, meet up with projects and assignments and the list goes on. Also in an industry where both foreign and local employers are dead serious about competence, quality, quantity, deadlines and other KPIs, it is a constant battle to keep keeping up.
After explaining all these, Oyinda claims she understands but insisted I should have helped a friend out and worked on it for free.
She probably doesn’t understand.
Whichever way you see it, most ‘friends’ (takers) want to benefit from a source without ever adding to its continued existence. It’s okay to help friends, really it is. But understand that a friend who has never supported your hustle but insists on freebies is a parasite. In fact he/she is an Osama Bin Laden to your World Trade Centre.
It is okay not to support anyone, friend or foe, you actually don’t owe anybody automatic support. But when your non-supportive ego needs something they do for hustle, you shouldn’t guilt-trip them into an ‘o s’emi’ (it is me) discount price. For as oft as you do this, your guilt-tripping self is writing cheques your parasitic relationship can’t cash.
What’s worse? Friends that never support your hustle by even a simple gesture of re-sharing your content are the ones quick to guilt-trip you into a friendly discount when they need something from you. They’re close mostly when they need something. But far, when you need just their support.
On the context familiarity, I think the closer they are, the less likely they are willing to ‘support’.
Putting this to test, I shared a design intended to advertise what I do. I decided to upload on WhatsApp just to test run my little ‘parasitic familiarity system’ theory.
Afterwards, I shared another post beseeching everyone on my contact list to share the post. At the end of the 24hrs WhatsApp story shelf-life, only a handful re-shared and they were mostly people who aren’t very much in my close circuit.
That’s not even a problem, I remind myself daily: “Santi, nobody owes you sh*t. Find your way around it!” This mentality has kept me fixing stuff for myself. I hardly seek for assistance and I don’t bat an eyelid when help doesn’t come.
The problem here is that, some ‘friends’ who have been free ‘takers’ on logo design, brand strategy document, write/edit script, write project, social media management, etc, didn’t re-share.
One went further to request for a fresh ‘favour’ as a response to the status update.
Ever heard of reaping where you have never in any way sowed?
While it’s great to help and all that, it is important to note that businesses flourish when friends pay for goods and services. No matter how generous and kindhearted you think you are, you will be labeled unprintably, immediately you don’t suit the free giver narrative they are used to.
Theoretically, takers like to get more than they give and can be selfish. They will almost never be caught doing anything to improve the giver. They believe if they don’t put themselves first, no one else will. Givers are more focused on meeting takers at the point of their needs, but boundaries are necessary to avoid burnout.
There are many ways a giver can set boundaries. The first step is identifying habitual takers in your life. Being overtly conscious of them can help minimize exposure to them and prepare you from being blindsided the next time they come asking for ‘favours’.
Damilola, (and indeed every creative whose friends would rather upload celebrities than share their hustle) this is a public appeal to you, do all you can to get better; of course I’m always going to ensure that. Understand that there would come a time when you would do free giving only when you want, not when they want. For now, kick in your heels, roll your sleeves, whip your hair, stack up the numbers and set out on your long walk to freedom.
To Oyinda, with this few points of mine, I hope I’ve been able to convince and not to confuse you that givers need to set limits, because takers never do.
More importantly, takers respect givers who set boundaries.
Most importantly, tí a kò bá rí ẹni fi ẹ̀hìn tì, bí ọ̀lẹ là ń rí. With nobody to lean on, one would seem lazy and irresponsible.
[Good support and networks matter.]
Welcome to my TedTalk, I’m Akerele Oluranti.