Can We Please Stop ‘Over-Servicing’ In Work & In Life?

cup of coffee and notepad on desk

This post was originally going to be called ‘Lessons Learned From Being Fired By A Client After Having Ted’.

(I’ve got a real knack for snappy titles, I know.)

I was fired by the aforementioned client about this time last year, something I was reminded of the other day when writing an article for another website – all about trying to keep a business going as a self-employed new mum.

I then started thinking in more detail about the whole sorry episode of being dropped.

And it made me realise that at the root of it, possibly, is the issue of over-servicing.

Over-servicing in business terms means working above and beyond what we are paid to do and what ought to be expected of us.

It means giving our time away for free and getting nothing in return.

It’s pretty crap.

Yet how many of us end up doing this, not only in business but in other areas of our lives too – romantic relationships, friendships, familial responsibilities, even our hobbies?

It made me think about how we need to get away from ‘over-servicing’ in all areas of our lives, and instead start recognising our worth and being wholly upfront about what others can expect from us.

 

notepad and pens on desk

Getting ditched – the story in a nutshell

I’d worked with the company in question for a few years, providing them with PR and copywriting services. I managed to hold onto them as a client through my maternity leave, and believed they were happy with my work.

Until they fired me just a few months later.

The explanation from the client was that, as a growing company, they needed more PR and marketing support and that they were going to use a bigger, integrated marketing agency rather than my one-woman-band.

It’s fine. These things happen.

Businesses change, requirements change, clients don’t stick around forever.

I get it.

And I really don’t want this post to sound all woe-is-me, everyone-hates-me, the-client-is-a-massive-twit.

Still, I was surprised and annoyed.

Not least because I’d had a conversation with the client just a few weeks earlier, where I’d recommended that, as a growing company, they ought to have more PR and marketing support and ought to be doing x, y and z.

I explained that I could indeed provide this support for them, for an increased fee, because what they were paying me at the time wouldn’t cover this additional work.

(And not least because the news that I was surplus to requirements was delivered on email, rather than face-to-face or over the phone.

But let’s not dwell on that bit.)

 

stationery and phone on desk

Screwed over by the board? Or by the epidemic of overserving?

In the ‘You’re Fired’ email I received, there was an inference that the client felt under pressure from the company’s board of directors to recruit this bigger, integrated agency.

That bl**dy board.

Prior to having Ted, I used to attend the majority of the company’s board meetings.

Like many (most?) boards of directors, this board was made up of middle-aged men in suits. The board meetings used to go on for hours: two, minimum, but usually three.

Post-having Ted, I started questioning my attendance at these meetings as the best use of my time – not only for me but for my client too.

And when I’d discussed with the client about doing ‘more’, I’d got very clear with them about what they could expect from me for the amount they were paying me.

I pointed out that attending three-hour meetings, plus post-meeting admin and emails etc every month wasn’t the best use of my time when they paid me for just 20 hours.

The meetings are just one example though.

It took having Ted to make me really start looking at how much I over-serviced clients / how much time I gave away for free.

It’s CLICHÉ CLICHÉ CLICHÉ CENTRAL of course, but I had something new in my life that was the most precious and important thing now – why should I spend my time away from him when I wasn’t getting paid for it?

Perhaps I’m being too idealistic.

Other freelancers/business people will argue that you don’t get paid for meetings, for example, and that’s just how it is.

And that it was naïve of me to be so honest with the client about wanting to streamline my time. And that there’s always some level of over-servicing whatever industry or job you’re in.

I’d say that’s a load of crap.

Before Ted, and like so many ‘solopreneurs’ before me, I over-serviced like HELL (something I touched on in this post HERE, on how I built a business without OTT self-promotion).

I dread to think how much of my time I gave away for nowt.

I’ll say it again: it’s crap.

When are we going to stop working for free, and giving our time away only to get nothing in return?

 

Not being clear on my worth

I guess I’ll never know the exact reason why I was ditched by my client. Did they think they’d get a better service from a bigger agency? More value for money? Did they think I’d be less committed to the work, post-having Ted?

Who knows? It’s not something I dwell on. (HONESTLY!)

Yet I feel I was partly responsible for my own downfall.

Why?

Because until I had the conversation with the client about exactly what they could expect from me in an attempt to minimise my over-servicing, I was afraid of being clear about my worth.

Heck, it pains me to say it but I didn’t even have a written contract with this particular company, because the work originally came through a friend of a friend.

When I won the business, my own company was just starting out, and I didn’t have the confidence to draw up a contract and say ‘this is what you can expect from me each month’.

I was just happy and grateful that I’d won another client. I didn’t want to do anything to rock the boat.

WHAT?

Can I go back in time and give my old self a MASSIVE clip round the ear?

This all meant that, when I DID finally outline what I was going to provide for the company, I believe that the client heard only ‘she is providing me with less than we got before’, even though I tried to make it clear that I was aiming to use my restricted time in the best possible way. To work smarter to help them grow.

Yet it was too late by that point.

(I also think that there would have been conversations in those later board meetings – where I was absent – between the men in suits about my post-baby ability to fulfil the role. But I can only surmise about that, and it’s a much bigger fish to fry for another day.)

 

coffee and stationery on desk

Livin’ and learnin’

So what did I take from all of this, other than the fact that the client is a massive twit? (I JEST. Sort of.)

Two key things, mainly:

1.That I need to know and remember my worth

2.That I should always be upfront about what others can expect from me, ensuring that they recognise my worth too

Both points apply to work but also to life in general.

As I said at the start of this post, thinking about what happened made me realise how we’re probably all prone to over-servicing in all areas of our lives, not just work stuff.

Feeling like we’re constantly going ‘above and beyond’ in a relationship or a friendship, but not getting anything back in return.

Offering to do someone a favour, but being taken advantage of. ‘Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’. It’s that saying brought to life, when the expectations of us get greater each time.

CAN WE STOP ALLOWING IT, PLEASE?

I think that, in a business sense, the culture of over-servicing will only diminish if more people/businesses are fully transparent about what they’re prepared to do for the fee offered, and stop overpromising.

My advice to business owners is simply (ha!): be upfront at the start. Log all hours spent on client work accurately, so if it starts to become a problem, you can flag it with the client straight away.

And in a personal sense? We’ll only stop ‘over-servicing’ if we’re honest with others when relationships aren’t balanced, or when we ditch habits/hobbies/lifestyles that aren’t serving us.

We owe it to ourselves to claim back that time and use it wisely, in ways that we aren’t going to regret when it’s all run out.

I apologise if I sound like a selfish get. This isn’t about not giving our time away for good causes, or for people and things that need us. But about using our time wisely, about recognising our worth and not letting people take the p-ss.

Who’s with me?

Thanks for reading, and bye for now x

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Hello, I'm Laura. I write about parenting, life, style, building a business and finding success on your own terms.

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