Author Topic: Best way to handle requests to work for free?  (Read 5163 times)

CestMoi

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Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« on: July 24, 2014, 11:53:16 AM »
I work in a corporation as a senior web and graphic designer. Since I've been here (three years), a good number of employees have asked me to do personal design work for them. I've helped them all out, but I'm starting to feel put-upon being asked to do time-consuming design work for nothing.

Today, someone I've done design favors for in the past approached me and asked for another favor. I answered that I do freelance design as a sideline, told him my rate, and said I'd be glad to help him out that way. He seemed a little taken aback, as if it was unseemly for me to ask for payment. Then he began to haggle the amount of time I was estimating to do his design. Interesting how concerned people get about a designer's time once they're paying for it.

Anyone else deal with this at work? What's a friendly way to either decline requests for free work or inform the asker you'll need to charge them for your time and skillset?

GuitarStv

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2014, 11:54:49 AM »
I have a particular finger assigned to this task.



EDIT - oh wait . . . friendly.  Sorry, as an engineer I don't have to be a people person.  As a general rule I don't work for free.  Doing so indicates that your time is not valuable.  At this point I think your best bet is simply to firmly say that you need to be paid for your time and leave it at that.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2014, 11:58:39 AM by GuitarStv »

neo von retorch

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2014, 11:58:30 AM »
Ha I don't know if I'd be polite. But one response might be "How big of a favor do you want from me? My rate is this, times this many hours. You want me to just give you $xxx?"

Or "well if you take care of my yard work and chores and house repairs and auto repairs for xx hours, I'll spend that much time on your design for free as well."

RavensBrew

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2014, 12:00:10 PM »
I own a small business and have been on the other end of this. When my friends weren't doing web work and design work for a living they were eager to help me for free in any way they could. Now that they are slugging away 40+ hours a week it's a whole different story which I completely understand. If I ask for help now I usually try to do some sort of barter (I sell beer). Also, I have lots of customers who are in the graphic design business. It's fun to ask them to help because they get to see their work on t shirts and pint glasses and so on. That's fun for everyone.

One thing that I have learned though is that if you want something done the way you want and when you want you need to pay for it. I guess for you ti's time to set a precedent about what your time is worth. I wouldn't feel bad if they seem offended.

Numbers Man

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2014, 12:01:30 PM »
I think you handled that favor request perfectly.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2014, 12:03:30 PM »
I work in a corporation as a senior web and graphic designer. Since I've been here (three years), a good number of employees have asked me to do personal design work for them. I've helped them all out, but I'm starting to feel put-upon being asked to do time-consuming design work for nothing.

Today, someone I've done design favors for in the past approached me and asked for another favor. I answered that I do freelance design as a sideline, told him my rate, and said I'd be glad to help him out that way. He seemed a little taken aback, as if it was unseemly for me to ask for payment. Then he began to haggle the amount of time I was estimating to do his design. Interesting how concerned people get about a designer's time once they're paying for it.

Anyone else deal with this at work? What's a friendly way to either decline requests for free work or inform the asker you'll need to charge them for your time and skillset?

It is not at all unreasonable to charge for your time.

It sounds like you already have it covered and just need some reassurance that you're in the right, which you are. Don't worry about being nice - worry about making the best use of your time.

You might want to turn the tables and jokingly ask their help for something time-consuming and related to their work.

EDIT: also, read this site: http://www.27bslash6.com/ as it's a designer that snarkily replies to people and it's hilarious
« Last Edit: July 24, 2014, 12:07:03 PM by NumberCruncher »

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2014, 12:06:51 PM »
Yep, you handled it exactly right. If someone is taken aback, it isn't because you said something wrong. It's because they are used to getting your work for free, and hence assume it has no value. They have to adjust to the new reality--that your time is as valuable as theirs, and your work has a monetary worth. But you are not being rude or unfriendly. I predict that the requests will drop off very quickly.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2014, 12:15:53 PM »
I'm a graphic designer and had this happen quite often as well. I usually have a standard line:

"I don't do freelance work. I just don't have the time."

I'll bend that rule if it is something for a good friend or seems fun and won't take up too much time (I do little stuff all the time for no compensation) and there have usually been friends that will get me a gift card or some sort of thank you, which means I'll be more inclined to help them out in the future.

But honestly, I just hate the idea of freelancing at this point since then you get the shocked look of "You expect to get paid for this?" or the haggling... oh god how I hate the haggling...

But since you do freelance, then what you said was just fine. I would just be pretty firm about expecting to get paid for your work, and that if they want to haggle, then do whatever you feel comfortable with, but don't back down if it means you get screwed over. They'll learn. Or they'll go get their nephew that is "really handy with that photo program" to do a crappy job for them. :D




Jomar

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2014, 12:19:39 PM »
Just do a god-awful job for them once and they'll never ask you again.

CestMoi

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2014, 12:30:05 PM »
Haha. I know. The situation invites sarcasm.

But it's been a touchy issue for me at this corporation. Even the CEO has approached me for personal design work, and half of the requests are for charity. In the past, it put me in an uncomfortable position of potentially seeming unhelpful or mercenary. I'm trying to remain friendly because, honestly, this kind of thing bothers me, and when I'm bothered I have a tendency to be VERY direct--the kind of direct that's not good in a corporate workplace.

Frankie's Girl, you understand this situation from a designer's perspective. I go back and forth about even getting into this on a freelance basis. I have a lot going on in my work and outside lives, so I'm partly leaning toward taking a page from your book and just telling them, "Sorry, I can't do personal design work. I don't have time."

NumberCruncher--I love that site. Especially the post where he's asked to do design work for free, and his replies complete with logo and pie charts.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2014, 04:55:32 PM by CestMoi »

Lexie

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2014, 01:45:15 PM »
This is a sticky situation. I think it almost makes it worse because you have done for work for free in the past and this has set a precedent.
I think you dealt with it appropriately, your time is money and design work can take up a lot of time and energy.

Maybe next time you can say something along the lines of "I'm flattered that you would want me to design X, but unfortunately I can't afford to take on pro bono projects right now, if that changes I'll let you know"


sloof70

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2014, 01:55:49 PM »
I do all the product photography that my company needs, but have done a little bit of extra graphic design around that in the past. Here and there, people would ask for small favors, which I'd happily oblige. Once one of my older coworkers asked me if I would design some business cards and more for her friend's business, to which I told her I would gladly do so, for a price. That was the last time anyone has asked.

Lis

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2014, 02:20:23 PM »
You could always tell them that you're too busy with other freelance work as well. Or be honest and say "I know I did a project for you in the past for free, but I feel a bit taken advantage of that you're asking me again. For the quality of my work, I know I can be compensated for x, but I'll work with you for y."

Frankies Girl

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2014, 02:36:27 PM »
You could always tell them that you're too busy with other freelance work as well. Or be honest and say "I know I did a project for you in the past for free, but I feel a bit taken advantage of that you're asking me again. For the quality of my work, I know I can be compensated for x, but I'll work with you for y."

I personally wouldn't use the "taken advantage of" line as that puts the asker (and we're talking professional colleagues or higher-ups) on the spot as seeming rude or greedy (even if that is exactly what they're doing by asking a person to work for free). You don't want them to feel put on the spot if you still want to maintain a professional atmosphere...

I do like the idea of telling someone (politely and even slightly apologetically) that you are "currently full up on freelance projects for the moment, but let me get you my rates, and if your project isn't time sensitive, let me know in a month or so and I'll see what my schedule looks like" and then you've established three things:

1. That they will be expected to pay.
2. You are doing this in your free time and that's at a premium right now.
3. They don't have to come back and ask you about their project - gives them an "out" to scuttle away and find someone else to work for free.

And bonus - if they DO come back and ask - again - if you'd do their project for free... you politely inform them that you're still tied up with your paying freelance projects. Rinse, repeat. They'll get it eventually.


tanhanivar

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Re: Best way to handle requests to work for free?
« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2014, 03:32:05 PM »
Barter, as mentioned above, also works for me. I always charge *something*, unless I've freely instigated the idea. But I've also swapped for books, editing, meals, accommodation...