That you love your friends and family should go without saying. You lean on their love and support, especially as you embark on a new career path. They think the world of you, and sometimes they show it by asking you to share your talents with them. So how do you balance everything? How do you do freelance work for friends and family without getting overwhelmed?
Because the fact of the matter is that many people in our lives want—or maybe even expect—a hefty discount on our professional services!
Since you like these people, you might be completely comfortable giving away your services. But I encourage you to remember how important it is to value your time and build your business with paying clients.
If you have time and you really want to help them out, there’s no problem with volunteering to do freelance work for friends and family for free.
However, if you don’t have either the time or the desire to do unpaid work, you don’t have to. Here are three options to help you maintain your boundaries and your relationships.
1. Charge a Fee
Obviously, you only need to do this if you sincerely want to take on the work.
And if you’re afraid your loved one will balk at a price, remember: you are a professional. By definition, professionals get paid for their work. You have the right to send them a proposal and a quote, just as you would for your other clients.
And if they’re expecting to get your services for free? That’s on them. You’re a pro. So if you’re asked to do freelance work for friends and family, simply say something like:
“Great! Let me know a bit more about what you need, and I’ll send you a quote.”
If they don’t want to pay, you could offer Option 2 or Option 3 (below). Or they may choose not to work with you. Regardless, you’ve started the conversation by highlighting your professionalism and making them aware that your expertise is valuable.
2. Limit the Scope of Work
Even if they can’t or won’t pay, you may still want to help them out. In this case, you can always offer your skills for a smaller piece of the project.
This option works well if you can give them your professional feedback on something they create themselves.
For example, if someone wants you to design their wedding invitation, you could say:
“I’m pretty busy building my business and with client work right now. I don’t have time to do this for you from scratch. But you can send over your draft. I’m happy to look it over and give you feedback.”
This response is perfectly reasonable and also quite generous. There are a few ways you can give feedback:
- Hop on a quick call with them and go over their draft live.
- Send over written notes about what’s working and how to improve.
- Record a brief Loom video, sharing your screen and your thoughts.
If they’re still not satisfied, try Option 3.
3. Say No
You’re not under any obligation to do freelance work for friends and family. Truly. You may not have time. Or you may just not want to do it. No one can force you to do anything.
There is nothing wrong with saying no.
If someone asks for help you’re not willing to give, you can tell them so.
“Thank you for thinking of me! Unfortunately, I’m not able to take on this project. If you want, I can connect you with another freelancer who will do a great job.”
Are you uncomfortable with saying no, especially to someone you love? That’s okay. Just keep in mind that no one will love you less just because you said no. (And if they do, then that’s a whole other problem!)
If you don’t set boundaries around your time, no one else will. Building your business, finding paying clients, and working toward success takes an enormous amount of a limited resource. Depending on your situation, you may not have much “extra” time to spend on favors and freebies.
Your career is worth fighting for. Don’t get sucked into doing something you don’t want to do.
Your turn! Have you had to say no to family and friends? What happened? Let us know in the comments below!