I’ve been a bit frustrated today. Here is something that happened quite often to me. In my circle I am known as the guy who can repair and upgrade computers or install operating systems and so on. I often did that for friends and family. It was all fine before it got out of hand. I always seen this as a favor that I make people I like. So, generally I did that for free for family and friends all the time. But the issue with favors is that it makes a round and it doesn’t take a long time until friends of friends hear about what you can do. So, at some point it started that I was asked by a friend “Hey, I have friend and he has trouble with his computer, you probably can fix that?”. This is asked on a way as if it is taken for granted that you will do it, and that for free.
But sometimes it’s not that you are asked by a friend to fix a computer of one of his workmates. Last week I walked over a bridge and that’s where I met a person I know. We don’t know each other too well, but that guy did hear somewhere that I do things with computers. So, it didn’t take a long time until that kind of question popped up again. He asked me if I could visit him because he has trouble with watching Netflix, and his internet provider told him that the issue with his internet speed must be on his end. He thought I would be more inclined if he would mention that he buys a drink if I visit him to take a look. How could he know that I barely still drink, and how could he know that I’m sick of being asked to help people for free, because it’s my time. I told him that I don’t do that, and that’s where he made a wary expression. I didn’t care, because why should I do. I don’t even know that person very well. We know each other from the district, ok, and we had small talk. But I don’t think that this is enough to make me want to work for free, or for a beer.
Today I got a phone call by the husband of my mother. His boss gave him a computer to fix, but since he just has a bit of knowledge about computers, he couldn’t get it fixed for him. So he asked me to do it. Yeah sure, depending on the issue, I spend my whole Saturday diagnosing a PC of a stranger, and additional time to fix the issue and he brings it back to reap the rewards? No, thanks. This time I was that frustrated by the question that this was exactly what I asked him. At that point he told me that I could get 20 Euro. I replied that I would get asked all the time to fix computers of people that I don’t even know, and that I don’t do that anymore. I gladly miss out on the 20 Euro, because I knew it would be just the share. But what would he do to get his share? You see the problem.
Look, fixing computers or installing software, that is to me not a painful job. But the thing is if everyone starts to ask me to do it for their friends, workmates, family members or bosses, I might as well start taking money. And I don’t think that I would want to spend time on a computer of a stranger, unless he gives me at least a fixed price of 50 Euro, and since I worked in computer repair shops and in the IT field in general, I know that this would be still a fair price. Why? Because they can be sure that it will cost them 50 Euro per hour in a shop, and not fixed 50 Euro. They might end up with costs of 150 Euro if it took the store 3 hours to fix the problem. I’d be stupid to do it for everyone and his friends for free, or for 20 Euro. I’m not that poor that I need the 20 Euro, because compared to that, free time has a lot more value.
But you know what is worse than being asked to fix computers for free or at a poverty wage? The fact that people will be mad at you if you say no. It’s taken for granted that you will do it, and once you say no, they will be very surprised and sad about your reply. Do I care about this? Not really. I had these inner conflicts when I was still sixteen, a time when you try to feature out what is appropriate in this world, and what not. But I’m fully grown and if there is anything inappropriate, then it is to ask someone doing things but not to envisage that the answer might be no. The thing is, I did it several times and did help out friends of friends, but that’s not where it ends. Because if you did it once, next time it will be taken for granted. Yes, if you do it again and again, you’re that guy, known as someone who is doing everything for free. So, if that hits home, I can tell you that you need to learn to say no, and you need to start now!
I don’t think that I have enough time left in my life to care if computers of persons that I don’t even know work or not. And I also don’t think that I have to feel guilty about this just because the phone call ends with “Damn, man, I thought you could help me with that”. No, no, no, wait… that’s wrong, if I know you well, I might help you, and that even for free if I offer it. But if it isn’t even your computer, why to hell should I care? Why would you even accept the request to fix someone’s computer if you can’t do it on your own? Because you know someone who can? That’s not how it works, at least not for the pittance that the fixed price of 20 Euro is.
The question alone makes me wonder if people forgot what a friendly turn is, and what not. I don’t think that it is a friendly turn if I start to fix computers of all persons you know, that is in my opinion rather a job. I don’t think that it is my responsibility to make sure that every computer in the neighborhood is working. Too often did I ignore the fact that I was not doing a friend a favor, but a friend of a friend. There are no benefits, you’re just losing your time. If I would just have taken 50 Euro for each computer I repaired, I would live in a house by now. So, the reply is easy. No, just no. I won’t fix the computer of your friend, I won’t fix the computer of your boss or the computer of your brother in law. And if that is shocking for you, I feel sorry for you.
For everyone who is constantly asked to do things for free, or for a pittance. You have all rights to say no, it’s your time and these are your skills. Don’t sell yourself for free. Tell people you can’t do that for strangers, because it’s your time. You don’t have time. It’s that easy. And yes, some people might be shocked about that, but that is not your problem. You know what is much worse? If you lose your free time because people continue to demand that you help everyone and the world. So, again, learn to say no. You shouldn’t feel guilty about that, if someone needs to feel guilty, then it is the person that has difficulties to accept the no.