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Friends In Need

Setting your boundaries, home-office deduction news.

Have your friends or neighbors ever asked you to help out by accepting packages or checking on their latchkey kids since you're home all day? How do you let them know, nicely, that you're not a mail center or a babysitter?

Jose Herrera, co-owner of Comptec Inc., a West New York, New Jersey, software design and computer consulting company, discovered you have to stand firm to avoid wasting time on friendly favors. "I had offered to help a friend set up his computer. This individual proceeded to hound me for the next two days. When I finally had some free time and called him to come over, he actually sounded upset because I hadn't done it sooner," he says.

"Since this experience, I put no one ahead of my business. I charge both friends and family for time I spend doing things for them--not at my usual $75 per hour rate, but I still charge them. Now I don't get hounded nearly as much."

Here are a few additional ways to deal with the issue:

1. Acknowledge that no one can force you to take care of their problems unless you allow them to.

2. Post regular work hours, and let everyone know when you will be available for personal projects.

3. Use any free time you allow yourself during the day to recharge, not to do favors for others.

4. Screen your calls. Return nonbusiness calls after business hours.

Lynn H. Colwell is a business writer in Post Falls, Idaho.

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