Today's topic is a reader request... How to deal with the expectation of freebies. This is similar to my early post about charity requests, but this time we're dealing with people who think they shouldn't have to pay you because they're family or friends.
It's so frustrating to me because it feels very one-sided. The usual excuse is "Oh, we're such good friends, how could you charge me?" I feel like a good friend wants to support her friend's business. I am always happy to buy things from my friends and I never expect a discount, let alone freebies.
This happens when you're not in business, too. If you're good at something, as a hobby or for your day job, people expect you to do it for them for free. I have friends who crochet and knit who have been asked to make baby blankets for people they don't even know! And of course, as soon as anyone admits to having a job in the computer industry (in any facet of it), they immediately become the go-to guy for everyone's computer problems.
Much like charity, this is an issue where you need to decide where you draw the line. For me, of course I will make my Mom things for free -- she gave birth to me, she can have some earrings to match her new necklace -- and if she wants to buy something from my shop, she gets a discount. The same for my best friend who lets me crash at her place whenever I'm in Phoenix. She cooks me crepes for breakfast and I make her a custom necklace while I wait. Other family members and close friends get discounts, or extra surprises with their orders. And I usually do a bigger discount on custom work than on things that I had to go to the effort of photographing and listing on Etsy.
So decide who you are willing to work for free for, and under what circumstances. For all others, have a speech prepared. Something like this:
I'm sorry, I can't do this for free. Making jewelry (crocheting, fixing computers, practicing law) is my career and the time that I spend on this is time I can't spend on the projects that pay the bills. Because we're so close, though, I'd be happy to do this for half my normal price (the cost of materials, a 20% discount, in return for you doing my yardwork).
The trade is one of my favorite compromises. Sometimes people genuinely can't afford your work but are willing to do something in return. But only offer this if it's something you really need or want. Don't feel bad turning down trade offers for things you're not interested in -- believe me, you will get a lot of them in your life and soon you are bogged down with weird knick-knacks and IOUs for services you'll never use.
Oh, and what if it's not your career? You can use a few different lines:
I'd be happy to make that for you, but I'll need at least $50 for the supplies. Mohair yarn is just so expensive!
I'm sorry, sewing is what I do to relax after work. If I started taking custom orders it would feel too much like a second job.
I'm afraid I don't have time to fix your computer this weekend, but here's the e-mail address of my friend who does that on the side. He's really reliable and his prices are fair.
Don't get guilt-tripped. There is not a single relationship that requires you to make an Irish lace wedding dress to maintain it, and if the other party feels that way, you're probably better off without them. Only take on the projects that make you happy, thus enriching the friendship for both parties.
Are you looking for the right words for a difficult situation? E-mail me at Politelyworded@gmail.com and I'll help!
PS: Due to low letter volume, I will be temporarily switching back to a once a week schedule until at least mid-February. I will continue to update on Wednesdays.