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When friends and family see you hang out the “open for business” shingle, it’s almost inevitable that a few of them will flood your inbox with requests.

There will be some people who ask you for a discount. Some are even bold enough to ask for completely free labor.

Others will offer some sort of bartering opportunity where you get something other than money in return for your efforts.

I’ll admit, I have on multiple occasions offered a slightly lower rate to family than regular clients.

I’ve even accepted a trade with friends. One thing I’ve learned is that the work can quickly become demanding and not worth whatever you’re getting in return.

Ultimately, time spent on this type of work could be spent looking for new business and on paying projects.

With this in mind, declining requests can still be pretty awkward. Read on for a few ways to do it.

Give Yourself Permission to Set Boundaries

According to a survey by, only a small portion of top-tier freelance writers make $40,000 or more. Most freelance writers make around $10,000 annually including people with several years of experience.

The top tier freelancers are careful with their workable hours, stand up for themselves, accept rejection, and seek high paying work.

Caving into requests for free or discounted work that takes up a lot of your time is the opposite of what higher performing freelancers are doing.

Think of the very minimum you can charge anyone (including family and friends) that will still compensate you properly.

Then be viciously selfish with your time.

If a family member or friend asks you for a service, turn the question back on them and ask for their budget.

If their budget is not something you can honor based on the time commitment, understand that you have every right to say no.

Put All of Your Cards Out on the Table

Some family and friends will challenge your decision. The conversation may even get pretty uncomfortable.

You can handle it respectfully in two ways.

You can go the simple route of explaining that your calendar right now is full and you’re unable to take on any new work.

Then you can refer them to another source like a peer who can meet their budget or a freelancer marketplace.

If you get pushback, be sincere. Review how much you charge for regular work and the impact that discounts have on your business.

Sometimes people are simply not aware of how long it takes to do a job.

For example, if a friend is willing to walk your dog in exchange for editing their manuscript, they may not realize that a few hours of dog walks doesn’t come close to the commitment or effort necessary to do that task.

Final Word

Fielding requests from people you know who want a discount is challenging.

The giving person in us wants to please people and to do favors.

But the business person in us knows that there’s no way we can survive while giving away freebies to everyone who asks for it.

Stand your ground.