Working for friends: what are the limits

As a Designer, Coder, Copy Writer, Photographer (all professions actually)  we get asked to help out friends by lending them our expertise. The question I had today was: What are the limits when it comes to charging them? I have been on the short end of the stick a few times when it has come to doing projects for friends and family, as I feel guilty charging them but 50 hours later, I am cringing at the thought of the next email.  Those “quick jobs” become costly of your time, your mental energy and usualy end up destroying relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, a quick logo or picture, banner or tweak I do not mind at all. But as Garry Stewart and Alistair Pugin pointed out – when that one quick thing becomes 50 quick things, you are looking at a time consuming issue.

So after a twitter conversation, and some thought I came up with some pretty simple rules for this.

  1. When asked to do something by a friend or family member, think on how long it is going to take you.
  2. Consider the person asking.  For example: If that person is a OCD perfectionist – double your time in your head
  3. If the time is over 5 hours, then tell them it will cost them (be up front at all times)
  4. Consider a “Friend Rate” – and stick to it! In my case I give a 50% discount for family and close friends and about a 30% discount for friends on my radar.
  5. ONLY accept projects when you have the time. When you get home from work, some times the last thing you want to do is do MORE work
  6. Give the person a time line. You say 10 hours, some times in their head they think “oh thats a day and a bit” without factoring in your other work, or even your day job.
  7. Always do a professional invoice if you are billing. I would suggest using Fresh Books, it is free and very easy to use, you can even track your time on it.

I welcome comments on this, as it is an issue which many people have different solutions for. What are your rules and guidelines?

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