Dear Charrise

Question: I’m a freelancer doing Search Engine Optimization for clients. One of my retainer clients continues to make demands on me that make me uncomfortable. For example, they have at times demanded I be available for a conference call at a certain time, assuming I would drop everything and be available. I like the income from this client, but am regularly offended by their lack of respect for my time. What can I do to change this without losing the client?

Answer: Everything begins with a conversation. You are a freelancer, which by the very nature of the terms, means you work for yourself, not them. You’ve allowed them to treat you as if they were an employee - making disrespectful demands on your time. They will continue to do that until you have a direct conversation with them, creating the appropriate boundaries.

They likely believe that since they pay you a retainer fee, they have unlimited access to you. It’s important to create an agreement up front so that they don’t begin to expect things you didn’t sign up for. If you didn’t do that, it’s time to circle back and create another agreement.

They can’t disrespect you unless you allow it. You either come from a position of fear -- taking whatever they dish out because you’re afraid they will fire you -- or from a position of love -- creating powerful collaborative agreements that work for everyone. You get to choose, every time.

Question: I work in a job that is mostly satisfying, with people who are family oriented and flexible about work schedules. I’m newly married and within a few years I am planning to start a family. I’ve been offered another position that would have me working for a different leadership team, and I want to take the job because it’s considered a promotion. My fear is that if I accept the new position, when I get pregnant I will not have the flexibility I have now. Do I have to forfeit upward career mobility just because I want to start a family?

Answer: If you’re a few years away from starting your family, you will have time to create a trusting relationship with your new leadership team. It’s all about the agreements you make when starting the new position. If you’re up front, letting them know your intentions, you have a much greater chance of negotiating the flexibility you desire.

You can have a family and a career -- it may not look the way you think it will look, but it’s possible to do justice to both. Once you have a baby, so many aspects of your life will change. You will want to re-evaluate your life’s core values then, because it will likely look different than it does right now.

It’s always a risk to leave a comfortable environment - and all you growth is embedded in those kinds of risks. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”

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