How to Never Get Stiffed by Friends and Family
I’m sure you’ve heard someone tell you before to never go into business with friends and family. I actually disagree with this statement as a general rule, but if you do buy into it, have you ever thought about how that extends to purchasing from or providing services for those same people? It can be a wonderful, incredible experience to work closely with those you love, like creating custom artwork for their home or photographing their newborn baby. But there’s always that awkward discussion surrounding price…
First of all, you should always remember that, no matter who you are performing work for, your time is valuable. I feel like when I first started out, I understood that my friends and family loved me and would want to support me. I assumed they’d understand my pricing was my pricing for a reason. However, that’s a big assumption for some people, especially those who aren’t closely involved or familiar with your business. They may not understand the industry or the amount of work that goes into what you do, and you can’t fault them for that.
Actually, my problem first starting out wasn’t so much that people weren’t willing to pay my prices, but that I was too afraid to charge them. I recognized that they probably didn’t see the same value in what I was providing, but were coming to me as a way to support me. It took a long time to understand that the best use of my time is on paid projects, no matter who I’m working with. And now, I do have a little bit of a say in what I charge people, but by outlining my own list of who I’m willing to work with and at what price, I can stay true to myself and my business.
Today I’m going to outline how you can do exactly that, too, instead of letting things progress too far in communications with friends and family about the work you’re going to do with them, and then learning about any disagreements in fair price, heaven forbid, after the project has already been completed. You don’t want to be put in an awkward spot where you don’t get paid, and likewise, you wouldn’t want them to pay more than they’re able just to make things right and then feel awkward and struggle on their end.
Beyond just making sure that your prices are clear from the get-go, I suggest coming up with a game plan that allows you to work with certain people at certain prices — something like creating the following two lists:
A small number of people for whom you’d be willing to work for free, or just the cost of materials. For me, the only people on that list are my parents and siblings (and my husband’s immediate family, also).
A list of people for whom you’d be willing to offer a discounted rate, leaving yourself a little profit, but ultimately compromising your full potential for profit in favor of a sweet deal for someone important to you. I also include the option for trade in this list of people, meaning that I wouldn’t charge them anything if they had something to offer me in return that was equal value to me.
For me, List B includes a list of ten close friends, some cousins, and some people who have sent a lot of business my way. It’s only those people who I feel have earned my service at a discounted rate, or who I’m willing to work with outside of my business structure.
Outside of that list, I don’t offer any discounts. None. Hold true to this, even when people try to worm something out of you. That’s rude, and disrespectful, and if you’re having a hard time with a relationship where someone clearly doesn’t understand that they’re asking way more than you can feasibly give, then educate them. Your time is worth something to you and the rest of your clients, even if it’s not worth something to this person you’re closely aligned with who can’t seem to understand.
As you move forward with these lists, you can be open to trade, as mentioned above. Just as much as you want to protect yourself and your own pricing, you should be respectful and do the same to others, and be willing to pay full-price for their products or services. However, if you know that both of you would be getting a good deal, there is nothing wrong with offering a trade just to see what they think. If the timing is right, and working for each other doesn’t detract from your paying clients, then a high-value swap of services or products is a great way to network and support each other!
I’ve seriously had so much fun the past few years working with friends and family and offering my talents to fun projects, whether it was a baby announcement magazine or a website for my talented college roommate. My wish for you is that you’re able to avoid awkward situations where you end up stiffed by friends and family after lots of hard work by setting clear guidelines for yourself and your clients about what discounts you offer and when.
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