5 Tips to Help an HVAC Professional Set Boundaries with Friends and Family

The growing need for competent technicians means that your HVAC skills are wanted by everyone—including friends and family. While your technical expertise is great for business, it can make non-work relationships awkward at times.

Maybe you have a friend who calls for help every time he needs to replace a light bulb, or a sister who wants help with a major home renovation. You want to help, but you also need a break from work.

And now your friend and your sister begin to recommend you to their own friends. “Yeah, I know someone who can fix it for you.” You don’t want to be known as the “fix-it” guy. You want your work to be properly valued and compensated.

How can you balance important relationships and friendships with your professional life and personal time? In this blog, we present five tips to prevent you from becoming the “fix-it” guy.

1. Gain Experience

If you still need experience in the HVAC industry, jobs from friends and family might work out just fine. A friend or family member will understand that you’re still learning and won’t expect instant results. Ask your friends and relatives to write down testimonials or referrals in exchange. By so doing, you both get something out of the experience, even if you aren’t paid.

2. Trade Services

If your friend needs help, but can’t pay for the service, offer an exchange of services instead. Is your friend an English major? Get help editing your personal blog, resume, or professional website. Do you have a friend with business experience? Ask for some business consulting in exchange for that fixed thermostat. Or just do some work for pizza and drinks.

Some type of trade is important because it reminds your buddies that you are a skilled professional. When you ask for help in their area of expertise, they have the chance to think about how they would like their own skills to be valued. In turn, they should value your skills highly as well.

3. Establish a Long-term Work Relationship

Occasionally a friend or relative will want to start a long-term working relationship. Maybe they own a small business and want a skilled technician on call to fix issues in the building. Or perhaps a relative wants help on a long-term renovation project. They agree to pay you because it will take significant time away from your personal life and other business opportunities.

When you have a friend or family member as a client, remember to stay professional whenever possible. Treat them like you would treat any other client—sometimes it’s easy to get loose on deadlines and processes when you know the client well. Give them respect, and expect their respect in return.

If you struggle to talk money with friends, consider sending an email instead of talking in person or over the phone. An email is a little less scary and gives you and your friend a little more distance. Of course, some people might feel more comfortable in person. Just work with what fits your own personality.

4. Set Personal Boundaries

If a family member won’t stop calling you for simple fixes, or an old friend you haven’t talked to for years suddenly wants help with some duct work, you need a way to protect yourself. It hurts to turn someone down, even if you know they are being unfair to you.

When you set personal boundaries before uncomfortable situations (like the ones above) occur, then you will already have an answer ready for the boundary breaker. Your answer won’t seem arbitrary to your friend or relative because you can say your specific policy and tell them that you stick to that boundary.

Think hard about what you can and cannot tolerate. Maybe you don’t mind providing over-the-phone advice, but you don’t want to provide free labor. Or perhaps a one-time fix for a close friend works for you, but repeated callbacks tire you out. Once you have a list of your personal boundaries, write them down and remember them.

5. Enforce Your Boundaries

Fence posts do no good if you forget the fencing in between. If you have an idea of your boundaries, but fail to enforce them, the boundaries won’t work. Communicating your limits is hard, but it only gets harder the longer you put it off.

Essentially, boundaries come down to two things: self-respect and trust. You need to respect your own time, your own capabilities, and your own happiness. But boundaries are also about other people—trust your friends and family to respond well when you bring up your limits. They should understand and respect your boundaries if they understand and respect you.

 

As the famous saying says, “Good fences make good neighbors,” and good boundaries will also make good relationships. When you escape becoming the “fix-it” guy, you set healthy limits with the people you care about. Those limits will help you, your friends, and your family to respect and value one another, and they might prevent deepening frustrations as the years go by.

As you continue to gain valuable professional skills in the HVAC industry, remember to set healthy boundaries early on to prevent future “fix-it” issues.