Should You Pay a Friend Who Does a Professional Favor for You?

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When you need a haircut or a website or an electrician to take a look at your breaker box, you’ll inevitably know someone who does that for a living. Is it OK to call in a friend for a professional service, and if so, are you supposed to pay? To get the scoop, GOBankingRates called in some professional services of its own and asked the experts to weigh in. The short answer is that, like so much in life, it depends — depends on the friend, depends on the job and depends on if you’re able to pay.

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The Best Favor Might Be the One Not Asked

Before you make that call, keep in mind that whether you pay or not, having a friend do work for you can go wrong in a lot of different ways. 

“Mixing friendship and business can lead to a nasty fallout,” said Brian Meiggs, entrepreneur and the founder of personal finance site smarts. 

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Several experts, in fact, recommended avoiding altogether the hard feelings, resentment, sense of obligation, awkwardness and boundary issues that so often come with mixing the two. 

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But Asking For Help Can Also Be a Good Thing

Allowing friends to lend you their skills and talents can make strong relationships stronger, according to personal finance and investment coach Ellen Tang.  

“It will make your friend feel good about themselves as well as their connection with you,” Tang said. “As long as you are sure that they are happy to do you such a favor. Meanwhile, it also creates an opportunity for you to return the favor, and therefore, more chances for your relationship to grow.”

You could also use the situation as an opportunity to hook your friend up with a paying gig with you as the customer. 

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“If you sense that paying your friend less than their standard fee would put either of you in an awkward position, then it is best to be strictly professional about it,” Tang said. “Pay the full fee and expect good services in return.”

Either way, being on the same page is a must, so talk, talk, talk. 

“The key to a successful professional relationship with a friend is open, honest communication,”  said Elizabeth Keatinge, certified financial planner and founder of FundsSavvy.com. “Your friend may be up front with you and suggest an arrangement that works for them.”

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It Depends on the Friend, the Job and Your Finances

This particular money etiquette question has so many gray areas because no two friendships are the same.

“I don’t think there is one size fits all rule for this,” said Meru Hunter McMahon, CEO of Your Savings Pro, which focuses on a unique brand of holistic wealth health. “It all depends on the experience, friendship and trust level.” 

It also has a lot to do with the nature of the ask.

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“It depends on how onerous the thing is,” Tang said. “How much will it cost your friend in terms of time, effort and money?”

Also, it depends on whether you’re asking a pal to help a friend in need or if you’re trying to save a buck at your friend’s expense. 

“It is not appropriate to ask for a favor if you’re in a position to pay,” Meiggs said. “Just like you would pay a stranger for a service delivered is the same way you should pay your friend for a service they have delivered. It should be on time, and you should refrain from trying to get a bargain. The best way to support your friend is by paying their asking price.”

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Last updated: March 26, 2021

About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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