Can You Charge Your Friends for Professional Favors?

SeventyFour /

If you have a friend who is able to provide you with a professional favor, such as designing a logo for your personal brand or photographing new headshots, how should you repay the favor? Should you pay them, inquire about a “friends and family” discount or hope the favor can be done for free? 

GOBankingRates spoke to several creative professionals to find out the best solutions for this tricky situation.

Make Sure Your Friends Know Your Personal Boundaries

If you are just starting out, it can sometimes make sense to do a project for free or at a steep discount for a friend. Erin Rupp, writer at Erin Rupp Creative, said both parties benefit from the arrangement since they get a free service while you get portfolio examples and experience. 

As you become more established, other situations may also call for pro-bono work or they may not. Many freelancers and creative professionals understand there’s a lot of work which goes on behind-the-scenes when working on client projects. And while many don’t want to say no to doing a favor for a friend, a free favor cannot turn into being pressured to fulfill endless free favors. It’s important to clearly communicate and set boundaries.

“Your friend, or anyone, cannot know your personal boundaries unless you tell them. It’s up to you to express your needs in a kind, direct manner — including being able to say no,” Rupp said. “It comes down to respect in the end. Having respect for one another’s time and talent — and for your own — will strengthen your friendship.”

Make Your Money Work Better for You

Create a Standard Response If You Cannot Accept Unpaid Work

Sergio Petraccone, commercial photographer at Sergio P. Co., works with brands and ad agencies. Petraccone does not charge friends for personal favors and said the chance to reconnect with old friends through his line of work is a gift. 

This being said, Petraccone does establish boundaries with friends. Personal favors go on personal time and working hours are for paying clients. 

Some professionals cannot accept unpaid work. They may also be concerned services requested of them could be damaging to a friendship if a friend believes the work is sub-par or does not meet their expectations. 

In the event you can’t accept unpaid work or have concerns your friendship may suffer if you do, Dr. Ellen Contente, founder of Heart-Centered Programs, recommends having a standard response ready.

Consider saying, “I value our friendship and I prefer to keep our relationship strictly personal” to keep boundaries clear between both parties.

It’s Your Call

Whether you decide to take on pro bono work for a friend, offer a discount or decline entirely, the decision to charge friends for professional favors or offer them at all is completely up to you.

Megan Lowdon, owner and director of operations at Robert Lowdon Photography, said as the owner of a photography business these types of situations come up from time to time. While Lowdon’s business has the ability to offer wedding, family and engagement photography to friends as a favor, it is not something the business wavers on its boundary. 

Make Your Money Work Better for You

Sticking to your boundaries, while it may feel uncomfortable at first, does allow creative pros to see the benefits over time. If changes ever need to be made later on, they may be done as the professional sees fit.

“There is no hard and fast rule to live by and you can absolutely choose who you offer professional favors to for free, who you offer discounted rates to and who you charge full price to,” Lowdon said. “It is your business and one of the reasons you are in business is to be able to make decisions for yourself.”

More From GOBankingRates


See Today's Best
Banking Offers