I imagine that everyone gets requests from friends, relatives and neighbors regarding their profession. My wife is a doctor, and she is constantly receiving phone calls or questions regarding someone’s health or well-being. These calls come at any time of the day or night, and of course she always takes time to inquire into the details of the situation and determine if there is an emergency, or if it can wait until the morning to call their family doctor.
I am a writer, and I do not deal with matters of life and death, unless you ask those for whom I work. I still, however, seem to attract queries for assistance with composing letters, filling out forms, or other paper writing services.
Like my beautiful, kind and intelligent wife, I always do my best to respond to these inquiries quickly and to provide whatever assistance I can provide. Often I am asked to proofread a paper, or simply to discuss a project, which I enjoy, in all honesty. I love to write, and enjoy talking about it with others as I imagine most people enjoy “talking shop” with other interested parties.
Of course, just as a plumber is sometimes asked to unplug a toilet at three in the morning free of charge, I am sometimes asked to take on tasks that go beyond the normal call of “friendly consultation”. I have been asked to write a major portion of a master’s thesis “some afternoon when you don’t have anything to do”, or to “come over as soon as you can and write the entrance essay for junior’s college entrance application, because I have to send it in tomorrow morning”.
No one likes being taken advantage of. Sometimes I think that because I work on a freelance basis people think that I am just sitting around waiting for the next opportunity (whatever it may be), to write something, for someone, for any reason (regardless of compensation).
Does it feel a little selfish to write those words? Yes, it does. But, I also think that the same people who think nothing of asking me to write a three page letter documenting their activities on a company-paid conference would hesitate before asking me, if I were a mechanic, to tune up their car’s engine for free.
As I said, everyone gets asked for help, and it is necessary to be willing to provide it if you wish to maintain healthy relationships. Helping others is a reward unto itself. The other side of that coin, however, is that there are those that will ask someone to do something simply because they do not want to do it. Their thought process is “who do I know that can do this?” rather than “who can help me to do this myself?”.
So, please, at the risk of sounding self-centered, please think about what you can do, and how I can help you, rather than simply asking me to do it for you. I am much happier, and it is much more enjoyable, to help someone than to do the work for them as they sit back and watch.