This post is my response to an email that I received from a web designer:
"Help! My friend asked me to design a site for him. I have already put in ten hours, now he tells me he thought I was doing it for free. What do I do?!"
As a creative entrepreur, I felt her pain! The following is my solution:
CAN YOU DRAW THIS FOR ME? IT’LL BE REAL QUICK!
At least once a week someone will ask my artist 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 when it comes to art and design. And though we love our friends and will do most anything for them, we can’t just whip out a $2,000 piece of art and trade it for a $20.00 lunch. We’d be in the homeless food line quicker than you can say “free art!”
As creative entrepreneurs, Drew and I continually have to figure out how to keep the cash flowing. Every hour Drew puts into sketching and painting is an hour that must be paid for. Our mortgage depends on it!
It’s flattering when someone loves your artwork, but it can be a drain doing business with people close to you. For some strange reason, we feel obligated to give those close to us a cheap price. But when we do so, we basically give up a weekly paycheck for a friend. I don’t know many people these days who can afford to do that!
Here’s what can go wrong if you don’t take control of doing business with friends:
Let’s say your buddy Jai asked you to create a logo for his new yoga studio. He was a fan before anyone else knew that you could draw.
At first, you’re excited and you’re flattered that he asked. You start brainstorming, grab your sketchbook, and get to work on it.
But, you forgot one very important thing: to give him a price quote, first, to make sure he can afford you.
Later, and after the work is almost finished, you realize that you don’t want to have the uncomfortable discussion of how much he owes you. So you suck it up and give it to him for cheap or free. He has no problem with that!
You begin to feel resentful, because you put off a paying job to do this for your friend, and now you don’t have the money to pay for your kid’s after-school program. After kicking yourself a few times, you promise that this will never happen again.
Here’s an easy solution:
When a friend asks you to quickly draw up a masterpiece for their car washing business, BEFORE you whip out your sketchbook, work up a price quote for them.
Put it in writing so that there are no unanswered questions or assumptions. Handle it like a professional, even with friends.
Consider offering a “friends and family discount” of 10%. In your quote, show where you’re saving them money, and then ask for a deposit of 50% down before you begin the work.
If they decide they don’t want to pay your price, it’s their choice. You can then move onto a project that does pay you. The friendship is still intact.
And in the future, always assume that your friends want to support your business.
A good friend will want to help you. The best way they can do that is to buy from you to help keep you in business. There are many cultures that operate around this very idea, which is why those cultures tend to do well in business.
The next time a friend asks you to work for them, 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 effort it takes to make it as a creative entrepreneur. Tell them that they are helping your business!
Then write them out a quote and show where you’re giving them a discount. They’ll be happy to see they are getting a special price, and they can feel good about contributing to your career.
That’s what good friends do.
PS: Please email me your questions about the business of being a creative entrepreneur for my next article, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!
PPS: For more creative entrepreneur tips, please visit my blog!