Every now and then people (friends, acquaintances) have requests—however well intended—that makes you cringe inside. This is an easier undertaking when posed via email than in-person, especially if you’re not quick on your feet.
It usually goes something like this, “Oh you’re a graphic designer?!?!” “Can you (fill in the blank) for me?” And I’m not talking about people who want to hire you. That’s different and always welcomed of course. What I’m talking about is the undertone of asking with the intention of little or no pay, as a volunteer, a favor for a friend, etc.
What to do when someone asks you to do something that feels icky.
- Think on it. I’m not quick on my feet. My brain needs time to marinate so I can bring those icky feelings into clarity and figure out how I want to respond. If this happens in person I find it best, at least for me, to provide a vague answer and let them know I’ll be in touch as to not commit to anything I’m not comfortable with in the moment because I feel put on the spot.
- Talk with trusted mentor(s). Other freelancers who have likely gone through the same thing can be of valuable support and offer helpful advice. Believe me, if you ask any freelancer in any field they’ve gone through this.
- Write a draft of what you’ll say. And then hone it until it’s exactly as you intend. It’s helpful to write it out, sit on it, rewrite.
- Keep it professional (of course) and curt if curt is deserved. Sometimes you’re so turned off by the request I think it helps to be curt as to let the recipient know it’s not a welcome request. And always, you should say what you mean.
- Explain as succinctly as possible but keep it brief. No need to go into some 4-paragraph rant about how much this request has upset you. It’s usually best to start out by saying you appreciate the person thinking of you for such a request and follow that by saying you’re happy to meet to discuss their request further and that you charge $XYZ per hour so that they know you’re not doing it for free. If you really don’t want to work with this person from the initial vibe you felt, then price yourself much higher. Hey, if they’re willing to pay $300/hr go for it!
What’s the outcome?
Sometimes it’s as you’d expect, as soon as you throw up dollar signs they forget about it. And at least you can feel proud of yourself for sticking up for YOU.
And every so often it opens people’s eyes a bit and your language shows them you’re all business, in a good way. You command a price for your professional service because it’s how you make a living. And they’re willing to pay for it.
Art fields are seen as less valuable because we live in such a “free” society now where people don’t expect to pay for much. But I’m here to say the old adage is quite true, you get what you pay for.
No one likes to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. The hard part, I think, is figuring out the right way to respond. I hope this helps you and I’d love to know any situations you’ve encountered that made you feel icky, how you responded, and what the outcome was?
Over ten+ years, Corey’s design adventure has taken her through an ad agency, daily newspaper, city magazine, and non-profit. She founded Green Vegan Media in 2011 and specializes in web/digital design, WordPress implementation & customization, print design, advertising, and brand identity. She donates 5% of proceeds to an animal sanctuary or veg-friendly charity. When she’s not designing or blogging she’s playing hide-n-seek with Archie, the kitty who adopted HER.