As a woman in business, I’ll be surprised to hear if you haven’t run into this scam: a friend of a friend, a person you know slightly, or a person you know not at all approaches you with a pitch for some business. That’s right, she wants you to do some business for her; but she’s quick to tell you that she knows you support women in business – and wants the work done for free!
It took me a few go-rounds before I developed the sense to see one of these “women have to help each other” bombs heading in my direction. For awhile, they got me mad. Now I just laugh: it’s so predictable. But it’s also sad that women would perpetrate this swindle on one another.
It might be a lady from your gym who’s launching a business, and says “You do web design, right? Can you please build my website for me? You support entrepreneurial women, don’t you? I can’t pay you, but you’ll be doing a good deed for another woman.” Good deeds, of course, are great – I’m all for ’em. But you shouldn’t get roped into working for free just because it’s another woman whose business you’re supporting. I mean, we all have rent or mortgages to pay. Kinko’s doesn’t make copies for free just because you’re a woman (or Latvian or Capricorn, for that matter) and there’s no reason why you should volunteer your services via that we’re-all-sisters malarkey. It’s offensive for anyone to assume that because you and she share a gender, all of a sudden your bills don’t matter.
People who start businesses need to plan on startup expenses, and if they need to sometimes ask for favors, that’s okay. But putting a guilt trip on someone (like you, perhaps) in the form of “either you help me, or you don’t really support women” is tacky and unprofessional. Get used to saying “I’d love to help, and the way I can help best is to decline your offer and offer you a tip instead: no one wants to be co-opted. I do discount, barter and even occasionally donate services, but I do it based on a stronger bond than the one you’ve suggested we share. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn, and I know it will benefit you too.”