A common dilemma that graphic designers face is whether or not to take on projects for friends and family, and what to charge them. Arguments can be made to not take on these projects at all, to give a discount, and in some cases to work for free. It is unlikely a designer would have a single rule to follow when these situations arise. Instead, each project for a family member or friend should be looked at on a case-to-case basis based on several factors.
Is the project considered a favor?
In some cases, a friend or family member looking for a favor may approach you. In other cases, they may be perfectly willing to pay your full rates. At the start, find out what the person is expecting or hoping for from you, and then determine if you feel it is appropriate. The fact that you know someone personally does not mean you are obligated to do him or her a graphic design favor. Graphic design is a business, and should be treated as such.
What is your relationship with the person?
The decision of whether or not to take on or discount a project for a friend or family member will of course be based on who that person is. Over time, designers are inevitably asked to do work by people they know. However, if you always gave discounts to these people you would rarely be working at your desired rate. Therefore, it is important to ask yourself how well you know these people and what you are willing to offer them. You may be happy to do any type of project, at no cost, for your immediate family. On the other hand, can you offer the same thing to a distant relative or a “friend of a friend?” If you don’t feel comfortable charging full-price to family, consider a discount, but there is nothing wrong with quoting your actual rates.
What type of work is it?
If you are willing to work at a discount, the type of work may influence when you do this. If a friend run his or her own business, and is looking for a piece designed that will benefit that business, this is certainly a business deal. On the other hand, if your best friend needs a baby announcement, a discounted or free design may be in order. This again comes down to personal preference and how much free time is available.
How much free time do you have?
Budgeting time is one of the toughest challenges graphic designers face. When you are asked to do a favor, always check your schedule. Are you too busy with client work to take on something that doesn’t pay as much? Even if you do have free time, it is important to think about how you should be spending it. You may enjoy doing favors, or you may want to use that free time to land more paying jobs.
What is the benefit to you?
Much like any job, take a look at how a project for friends and family can help your business. Perhaps it brings you into a new industry with the potential for referrals. It may also be a great piece for your portfolio. This doesn’t mean you should work for free, but there are often benefits other than monetary ones. Depending on what your friend or family member does for a living, perhaps they can offer you a service in return, making the favor more of a barter where both parties come out ahead.
How will the project affect your relationship?
The last thing you want out of a job for a family member or friend is more stress. Most wouldn’t consider a trade-off between a discounted job and a damaged relationship a good one.. Think about this seriously before taking on the work. If you have to say you simply don’t work for friends to avoid conflict, you might be better off in the long run.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference when deciding how to handle jobs for friends and family. Consider all of the factors, and make a decision that is comfortable for you and your business. Be sure to explain the reasons behind your decision to your potential client… which in this case is your friend or family member.