Hands up if you have ever been overwhelmed by an avalanche of requests by family and friends to work for free. Yes! We’ve all been there at some point and for a freelancer, this is most likely your worst nightmare. Because let’s face it, how will you make any money if no one wants to pay for your service? The frustrating part is, your family and friends should really be the first nucleus of clients if you are a beginner freelancer. So when you can’t get out of under these free requests, you’re a hamster in a wheel – one that’s spinning nonstop.
There’s also the taboo of speaking about money that is ingrained in our lifestyle. According to a Wells Fargo study, 44% of Americans believe money is the hardest topic to discuss. It is no surprise then that things get awkward really quick when we would like to earn for our hard work. Ridunculous if you ask me since we are in a steady state of oversharing with social media at the helm.
So if you’re like me and every other freelancer out in the world, you need a response at the tip of your tongue to stealthily evade these free bombs!
Here are a few ideas to get you unstuck:
“What is your budget?”
Perhaps this is my favorite comeback because it usually leaves your victim a bit shocked. The other great part is you can make it sound like a joke…but a serious one. Keep them guessing.
“I will send you a proposal.”
Oh hey there professional! This statement shows that you mean business, woman and that’s because you are an entire business. Don’t dangle this stick unless you can actually pull something together. Someone might just call your bluff and put you in a big dilemma.
“I am focused on my paying gigs right now.”
See what we did there? Threw it right back at your ‘potential client’ because the onus really is on them to classify where they stand. They can either squeeze themselves into the “paying gigs” or NOT! And then make your job easy.
“What is the scope of work?”
Sounds pretty official, I know and that’s the point. Let your family and friends understand that this is business quite frankly and nothing personal. It will scare the unserious many and get serious clients in your long-term list.
“I don’t have any capacity at this time.”
‘Capacity’ is a word I learned in Investment Banking and I love it. Instead of dismissing a potential client by saying you don’t have time for their work, you're keeping the door open if they are actually serious.
“I’m sure paying me will be weird so, I will find someone else to do the work.”
A cool maneuver, if I may say so myself. Use this special trump card when you suspect this will be a difficult client to deal with or someone who won’t pay you.
“I’ll check on my deliverables and get back to you”
Deferring the inevitable may not be the best overall strategy but it is a great place to start if you’re scared to say no. But if your potential client comes back, you may have to reach for the previous responses.
So there you have it, some parachutes to take along as you jump off the freebie flights. It is extremely important to keep the lines between friendship and professionalism clearly delineated. Most importantly, understand your worth and be unapologetic about demanding to get paid. Think about how much time and effort you have spent honing your craft, your special sauce and the magic you bring to everything.