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Author Jean Haner likes to use the phrase, “I am a friend to others…and a friend to myself.”

In the November series, Soak It In, we’re talking about ways to practice deep self-care. Being a friend to yourself sounds obvious until a sticky situation comes along.

Maria nervously took a seat at the networking breakfast. She was eager to connect with other small business owners. She couldn’t be the only one having some struggles.

Maria paired off with Claire for the Deep Dive session. “Claire, your recruiting firm has been open for a while, right?” Maria asked.

“About 10 years. I worked at Texas Instruments, but tech really seemed to be booming in Dallas, so I went out on my own,” Claire responded. “So, Maria, how is your design business going? What’s your burning issue for our 15 minutes together?”

“Well, my former colleagues at Kimberly-Clark send me projects all the time. And I have enough contacts in the marketing community to get referrals. I always seem to be booked!” Maria beamed.

“Hmmm…that doesn’t sound like much of a problem. To be honest, the other people here this morning would love to be booked solid.” Claire stopped for a moment. “Are you sure there’s nothing you want to talk about?”

“OK. I do have a little trouble on the invoicing side,” Maria confessed. “I get along with people just fine. In fact, maybe that’s the problem. People love working with me; they just don’t love paying me.”

Claire put her hand on Maria’s shoulder. “Girl, I. Have. Been. There!” she laughed.

Maria’s tension eased. “Really? I thought it was just me. I didn’t want to admit it.”

“What? Didn’t anyone tell you that you’d probably have to write off some invoices? That’s why I keep a Dud List.”

Maria was taken aback. “A Dud List? Oh, I couldn’t do that. My clients are all so nice. People have emergencies. I understand they can’t always pay me.”

Claire’s expression changed. “Maria, you need to get serious about this. A couple of “nice” clients almost made me close my doors.”

She continued, “Let me give you a suggestion. Set your business rules and then be bold. It’s simple – when potential clients give you a deposit, you can start the design.”

Maria squirmed. “That seems kind of harsh.”

Claire shook her head. “It doesn’t need to be. Look, if someone really wants to work with you, they’ll be happy to give you a down payment.”

She leaned back. “Think of it another way. How many other projects could you book…how much fun could you be having with your friends, if you stopped spending time chasing old invoices?”

A healthy self-care routine includes nurturing your sense of worth. Do you respect your time, or do you rush from task to task? Are the needs of your body a priority, where you eat well and give yourself time to relax at the end of each day? It’s time to stop putting the essentials on a shelf. This week, be a friend to others, but also to yourself.