If you have a creative talent — writing, website development, photography, marketing, design and layout, etc. — chances are about 100% that friends and family sometimes say, “Do you think you could ‘give me a hand with/just take a look at’ [fill in the blanks]… ”

You’re a nice person and, of course, you want to help. But before you do, you might want to hand off a copy of the Helping My Friends Manifesto (HMFM). Otherwise, after you freely share, you could here any of the following:

1. I really like what you’ve done here. Can I make changes?
2. This is good. Could you give me the original file so I can play with it?
3. I don’t like this font. Can we try some other choices?
4. Would you mind if I ran this by another friend who’s a great [pick one: marketer, writer, designer, web developer]?
5. Why did you put THAT, THERE?
6. I hate that picture.

The Helping My Friends Manifesto

I’m happy that you’ve asked me for help. Normally, I charge (quite a bit) for this type of work, but I can definitely get you started for free. I want this to be fun for both of us, so it might help if we set some ground rules.

1. If you have a concept in mind — style, tone, appearance, layout, color, wording, headlines, copy, tagline, headers, font — please share your thoughts before I begin. The more detail, the better.

2. If you don’t have a concept in mind — in other words, if you are a blank slate who is simply saying “I need a brochure” — let’s agree that you have come to me for my skill and experience, upon which it makes sense to rely.

3. In this project we are about to undertake, I am the expert. Agreed?

4. Does the following statement sound like something you might say? “I don’t know what I want. I only know what I DON’T want.” If this is true, please provide me a point-by-point list of what you don’t want. Otherwise, I won’t be able to help you with this project.

5. Does the following statement sound like something you might say? “I don’t like it. I don’t know why. I just don’t like it.” Please understand that, in the hands of a professional, creative choices are driven both by talent and by reason. I will be able to tell you why I made a certain choice, so — in turn — you will need to tell me why you think a particular choice won’t work. Otherwise, please see #2, above.

6. When I show you the draft, if you have questions or concerns, I’ll be happy to explain why I’ve made certain creative choices.

7. Typically, my work includes one round of reasonable changes/alterations as part of the fee. Beyond that, I charge “x” dollars per hour. So, while I can draft something for you and make one set of reasonable changes, a wholesale “makeover” is not part of the deal. (Note: Time constraints related to paying work make it essential that I assume the role of “decider” as to what’s “reasonable.”) Agreed?

8. We are both free to say to one another “Let’s give this a rest.”