Tag Archives: estimate

What if friends want free work?

A former student of mine wrote:

I am having an issue with people thinking just because they know me I should paint portraits of their kids and do graphic design work for them for nothing—or next to it. I have gotten five demands this week (worse yet, 3 of those were rather rude).

I politely sent back a note explaining that I freelance—accompanying a cost sheet for the work, hours involved in the job requested. And a link to my site, also thanking them for being interested. This has not won me upbeat feedback. Or just sheer astonishment that I would ask $300.00 down to begin a medium-sized oil portrait.

What are some suggestions you may have so that I could further appear more professional? I wish I had limitless time and a money tree in the back yard to just make work and give it away to people who love what I do. Unfortunately this is not the case. Any advice would be appreciated.

I wrote back:

Sounds like you’re doing it the right way—professional-looking estimates remind people that you’re in business and can’t afford to give away free samples. I doubt your friends would consider giving up a paycheck for whatever work they do. Moreover, it’s fatal to cultivate the perception that your work isn’t worth anything.

I’ve done the occasional freebie for friends who’ve been kind to me and I wanted to reciprocate—but that’s my decision. Because I’m established, these friends understand and appreciate what they’re being given (if you’re one of those friends reading this right now, I want to underscore that I enjoyed sharing my talent with you). It’s harder for a young artist starting out.

Stick to your guns. The friends who are astonished that you charge for your skills or are outright rude will either come around to respect your talent or they’ll drift away.