Sometimes it’s a challenge doing business with people close to you. There are two issue to deal with:
1. You may feel obligated to give them a cheap deal, which means you lose money and time, so you put them off and procrastinate getting their project going. But this is a mistake to feel this way, because your friends may just want to support your business and may feel great being able to pay you for your services.
2. They expect free or cheap – If they are not entrepreneurs, some people might not understand how freelancers make their money, and they may feel slighted if you don’t give the goods away.
My husband and I earn our living from art sales and the art products (books, dvd’s, art prints) that we create. All of these goods cost us to produce, stock and ship. We are not paid a salary and every day we have to figure out how to keep the cash flowing.
We just came out with the book “How to Draw with Drew Brophy” and the publisher gave us 12 free copies, which we’ve given to people that contributed to the book and a few to media. Every extra copy costs us $4.50. I’ve had about 30 people ask me for a free copy, not understanding the cost to me.
The hard part is that all of the 30 people are loved by me and they are special. I wish I was a millionaire so I could give these cool books away to those people that I care about. But I’m a few years away from that.
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL DILEMMA
It’s hard to impart to people that your time is money earned or not earned. I can spend hours helping people (which I love to do) but then my 8 year old son gets less mommy time. So I have to be very careful with how I use my time. The same goes for most entrepreneurs.
I have a great friend is a computer wizard, a social media expert, and just damn intelligent.
He told me about the time that a friend dropped off a laptop and asked him to fix it (for free). He had other deadlines with paying customers and after 2 days the friend called and yelled that he needed it NOW! He finally fixed it, but it took hours. Now, he won’t allow anyone to drop off anything again if it’s run by electricity, and he had a t-shirt made that reads across the front: DON’T ASK ME TO FIX YOUR COMPUTER!
CAN YOU DRAW THIS FOR ME, IT’LL BE REAL QUICK!
In the case of art, at least once a week someone will ask my husband, Drew, to draw a ‘quick’ design. “Oh, it should only take you a few minutes to whip this out. I’ll buy you lunch for it.”
There’s no such thing as a “quick” anything. And though we love our friends and will do most anything for them, we can’t just whip out a quick piece of art (priced at $1,500) and trade it for a $20.00 lunch. We’d be in the homeless soup line quicker than you can say “free logo” if we operated that way.
This is why creative professionals tend to feel anxious when a friend asks them to do work for them. Often, we assume that the request is asked expecting it for free or very cheap.
THE PROBLEM WITH ASSUMING THAT THEY WANT IT FOR CHEAP – YOU COULD BE WRONG
Why would anyone assume that someone wants something for free or cheap? Because we’ve been through it so many times that it’s much like getting hit in the head every time you walk under that tree in your front yard with the low hanging branch. Eventually, you avoid going there because you know it’s going to hurt.
But assuming that your friends want to short change you isn’t nice. So here’s where direct communication and the written word removes all of those anxieties for you.
The next time that a friend asks you to quickly draw up a masterpiece logo for their car washing business, work up a price quote for them in writing. This will avoid the problem of a possible misunderstanding and eliminate wrong assumptions that can embarrass you.
Many years ago we were on a tropical island and were friends with the owner of a Restaurant there. He asked if Drew would design a t-shirt for him. We blew it off because we were busy surfing and seeing the sights. But after we returned home, the restaurant owner e-mailed asking, once again, for Drew to create artwork for him.
It became uncomfortable, because we assumed he wanted the art for cheap. We told him that Drew was too busy and couldn’t do it.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I understand that the restaurant owner probably would have had no problem paying for the art. He just wanted something cool and I’ll bet he wanted to help contribute to what we were doing. We made a mistake in assuming anything.
But that’s the great part about getting older. You learn to just be real.
It’s easier to be Real honest, real up-front and really real. Just speak your mind.
There’s an old saying that I’m reminded of:
“What is ASSUME? It’s when you make an ASS out of U and ME.”
The best way to handle these situations is to give a price quote, like you would with any other prospect. Put it in writing so that there are no unanswered questions or assumptions. Handle it like a professional, even with friends. They can then choose whether or not they want to pay the fee.
Being real is easier than making assumptions and making other people guess what’s on your mind.
SUPPORT YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY
We are fortunate that most of our family and friends want to support our endeavors.
The best way friends can support you is to buy stuff from you (that they love) to help keep you in business. There are many cultures that are centered around this very idea, which is why those cultures tend to do well in business.
(I just heard the other day that the Jewish religion teaches that it’s a sin to take up the time of a professional in their place of business without buying something. Now that’s a good policy!)
And in turn, you need to support those around you.
If I need a photographer, I’ll hire one of my professional photographer friends. If Drew needs an assistant painter, we’ll hire an artist friend. And I’ll pay them a fair price.
SOLUTION: THE FRIENDS AND FAMILY DISCOUNT
I have a solution for the anxiety of providing services for those close to you: Institute a policy called the FRIENDS AND FAMILY DISCOUNT.
Take your normal price quote and you tell your friends and family that you are offering them a discount from your normal prices.
How much of a discount you give is up to you. On goods that are for sale on our website, I give a 20% discount to friends and family. For commissioned works, I’ll give 20% off or more, depending on time, our passion for the project, or the scope of the work.
To be eligible for the friends & family discount, you must be a real friend (someone that we spend time with regularly) or a real family member.
If we call you “mom” or “dad”, you get most everything for free, because without you we wouldn’t be alive.
(If you’re a friend of a friend, that doesn’t count. Sorry!)
THANK YOUR FRIENDS FOR KEEPING YOU IN BUSINESS
Next time a friend asks for a design, or a computer fix or photography, let them know that you appreciate that they are helping you to stay in business. The salary-paid employees in our lives don’t always understand how much work it is to run your own business. Let them know that they are a great contributor to your career!
Then write them out a quote and show where you’re giving them a nice discount. They’ll be happy to get a discount, and they can feel good about contributing to your business. That’s what good friends do.
Maria Brophy xxoo
IMAGE CREDIT: Image by the most amazing photographer I’ve ever seen, truly. Check out Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir incredible images.