The internet makes it easier than ever before to get in touch with thousands of people in an instant. While that can mean great news for your small business, it can also spell disaster when trying to use your time wisely. Here are four reliable signs that someone is about to waste your (or your business’s) time.

They Start with What They Want

Any message that starts with a demand about what they want from you is a sure sign your time is going to be wasted. If they want you to purchase their latest product or do a shout-out for their company on your social media, even though you have no idea who they are or what they do, they’re likely going to waste your time.

When your first interaction is guided by what the initiator wants, don’t waste your time responding.

They Want Something, But Not Now

Have you ever worked with a customer who wanted to work with you after the holidays? Or maybe in 6 months? Or maybe in a year? Clients who want to work with you months in the future are notorious time-wasters. If they don’t have the money for your services now, touch base again in the future when they have the ability to invest in their business. Don’t allow a potential sale that is months (or years) in the future to take time away from your current clients.

They Want to Trade

Bartering is a very common practice with small businesses, but it’s also a very slippery slope. If your first contact with someone is a request to barter for your services, it’s a warning sign they are going to waste your time. After all, they haven’t made an effort to tell you about what they offer and why you might want it yet; they just want what you’re selling without having to pay anything.

They Want Free Advice

This is perhaps the most common time-waster in the modern digital world. Since business owners are more accessible than ever before, people want the same advice that your clients pay for every day for free. In rare cases, these inquiries can lead to a sale for you, but more often than not it’s someone looking to take advantage of the one resource you can’t get back—your time. 

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