I have a small business startup. Friends often ask me to do work for them, but I have a hard time charging them. Some say they will pay me, but I turn them down. I need to maintain a profit margin, but I keep getting caught in the same cycle. What do I do?
Still giving it away? High school was quite a few years ago. It’s time for you to become a professional.
Why do we people have so much trouble asking to be paid for our work? I admit that just yesterday an acquaintance cornered me at a meeting and asked a legal question. Before my standard response — “here’s my card, please give me a call at my office”– could escape my lips, I was off and running, thinking to solve a problem quickly. But then there were more facts that meant different advice was in order.
I extricated myself and reminded myself again that as much as we’d like to help our friends and acquaintances, in order to earn a living we have to charge for our services. And, even more importantly, to do our best professional job, we need the time and energy to give to those who are paying us. When we try to do something “on the side” and quickly to help a friend, both of us get cheated. The friend may not receive all the work she needs, and you don’t get your money.
Here are some quick tips to keep your friends and get paid for your services:
- Offer a free evaluation of the problem.
- Clearly state the price for the actual work at the end of the evaluation.
- Keep the evaluation and the work separate — like the doctor who says, “Take two aspirins and call me at the office in the morning.” Insist on doing the work the way you normally do — by appointment, at the office or however you work with non-friend customers.
Remember, you wouldn’t take your friend’s widget for free, so don’t let her take your time.