How to tell friends & family to stop taking advantage of my time?

As a freelance designer, I am constantly getting into the situation where a friend or family member asks for advice on a new venture and I am too nice to say no. I end up helping them for FREE or V CHEAP in what I think will be a quick job which then snowballs into a lot more work because a) I have free time to do it between other jobs and b) I know if they do it themselves it'll look bad (which for some reason I can't bear to let them do). It then turns into me resenting them for not respecting my time and skills. HOW do I stop family & friends thinking they can take advantage of me? 😫😫😫
I'm having the same issue, but for a different reason. I find that as a freelancer I'm always the person doing the life admin, free childcare, and I don't have the time to invest in myself and my business pipeline. Would love to hear suggestions!
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Hey Necole, Do you mean that people assume you have spare time as you are a freelancer?
100% but also just a lack of boundaries in general.
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
I feel ya!
iynna's profile thumbnail
It's all about setting expectations though I'd be very clear that you can help to a certain extent but after that, they'd need to book a time (and that time is not free). If it is someone you've already offered help before and they hit you up, say something like "Hi thank you for your note. Of course I'd love to help - you can actually book up a time here and here are the different packages I can offer for your case. Let me know if you'd like to discuss further." They will either not respond or they will respond (especially if they are family/friend) saying something mildly awkward how they did not expect to pay. To which you should say "I am surprised you are surprised as this is my expertise and what I get paid to do." Doesn't have to be some long paragraphs having to explain yourself that you deserve to get paid, you too have bills to pay! If it is a new email from someone you haven't "helped" before then it is a little easier as you can set the boundaries from the get-go. In practice it will be something like "Hi Elspeth, I am working on XYZ and would love to get your thoughts." To which you can respond "Hi X, of course I'd love to help out. The way I usually work is to have a 30-min consultation/call to assess your needs free of charge and after that we can discuss what package makes the most sense"Or whatever makes sense based on how you have structured your business model.All in all it is all about setting the right expectations and being in control of the situation :-)
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Thanks @iynna, This is really helpful Especially the 'I am surprised you are surprised' template replies and not needing to write a long paragraph to explain myself. I definitely need to check myself every time a friend tells me a new idea – I get over-excited and start suggesting things immediately. Your last paragraph sums it up well! :)
teresaman's profile thumbnail
This has happened to me in the past before. Now, I ONLY say yes to design help that I'm genuinely interested in for my friends, and by that point always offer to do it for free or for something nominal like homemade cookies / pies 😆The first step I think is to say "no" once. Tell that one friend that, yes you'd love to help, but you don't have the time to do that right now (and if it helps with your point B, recommend them resources and refer to other designers who you think may be able to help). The first "no" is powerful, after that — I opened up a world of guilt-free rejections where I've become conscious of protecting my time.
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
YES! I often get asked for a trade swap. Or the old 'I can't pay you much, but i'll sweeten it with free x'. Which I don't mind at the beginning, but after a month of 'helping' them the resentment creeps in!I like the first no, i'll give that a go! Thank you :)
JennineJacob's profile thumbnail
It sounds like you are by nature a giving person, and what you're struggling with is how to be a giving person without being taken advantage of.One thing you can do is set boundaries for yourself. You want to help, how long will this take. Adam Grant talks about 5 minute favors. Like see how you can help them in less than 5 minutes. For example, instead of helping your friend by doing the work, you can introduce them to someone else who can do the work for them at a budget they can afford. That way you are maintaining your identity as someone who helps while taking care of your own needs.
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
You've hit the nail on the head there Jennine – I am a people pleaser. This is great advice, thank you. Will test it out! :)
JennineJacob's profile thumbnail
Of course! Hope it helps! You got this!
erikajon's profile thumbnail
This is such great advice! Time boxing these favours and referrals can be a truly win-win situation - your friend is set on a good path and you can walk away with a positive feeling. I’ve got myself into situations in the past where I thought I was helping someone once but then these favours kept popping every month or so for 2 years!
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Ahh yes. The old 'just one more tiny thing, don't need to spend too much time on it.'
MWags's profile thumbnail
This can be really difficult, especially since as a giving person it can be difficult to say ‘no’ even with the best strategies in place! Here are 3 strategies I’ve used myself in my coaching practice and found effective:1) Prepare and Announce a Family & Friends program: If you know these projects come up, make a plan for them. Define how many F&F projects you can do per year or per quarter and what is a reasonable discount to offer for them. Send out an email to family and friends that your services have been so popular with those close to you that you are delighted to introduce a program just for them.2) Keep a List of What You Want to Yes To: For every one of these favors you say yes to, it means you may have to say no to something else down the line. Keep a list of what’s important to you to say yes to (work projects but also things at home- sleep, family time etc). When a new ask comes up, look at the list to remind yourself that you need to say no to this to make time for the things on your list.3) Start a List of Asks: You’ve put a lot out into the world, maybe it’s time to start asking for something in return! What are some things you could use support for? What are some services you could request from your network, especially those who have received something for you? This can make your experiences to date feel more balanced and less like you’ve been taken advantage of!
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Amazing, thank you. Point 2 shook me, in that saying yes means no to something else thats not necessarily work but time for me to NOT be doing work. I've never thought of it like that. All other points really helpful too. Thanks!
JenWalterCoaching's profile thumbnail
Hi Elspeth,I've been there, afraid to say no or even volunteering my time. I was a people pleaser. I wanted people to like me. I wanted them to be happy and prioritized them over me. Then I resented them for it. It killed my self-confidence by damaging my relationship with myself. It hurt my relationship with them. And... It didn't work!We can't "make" someone happy (or like us). We can bend over backwards trying to help them. But in the end, we can't control if that will make them happy. Only they can do that for themselves.And, it's up to us to make ourselves happy. Only we know if we truly WANT to do something. We can say no. We can create boundaries out of love, for ourselves and the other person.Sometimes NOT helping someone is the best thing for them. It helps them to learn new skills. It lets them make mistakes so they have the opportunity to learn.I hope this is helpful. Good luck!Jen
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Definitely, allowing others to fail so they can learn is painful to watch, but essentially a lesson they wont forget! Thank you for your advice Jen :)
KarenVenner's profile thumbnail
First, I'd like to make mention of this interview I saw one time of this rich ass lady - when she asked if she'd ever split from the game, she was like, oh gee I hope so, but people just keep asking for more and I can't say no. I can't explain how or why, but I took it as a lesson: if you have a skill so valuable that others can't stop asking for more, then 1) be grateful for such a gift, and 2) You're doing life right, even if it's hard, so good for you! 🙂 Now, also having experienced this, as an overcommitter (like my man Barrack!), I've found that not knowing how to say no, can really have a negative impact on the person you're trying to help. I have since adopted the quick and easy response, "I'm sorry, I just don't have the bandwidth". If a person can't respect that, get away from them; they're no friend. 🙂 Good luck to ya!
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Thanks Karen. Love the rich ass lady advice - you're both making me feel great and powerful! And that is a good response to have. Relates to @teresaman advice. Say 'no' straight away and if they're really keen they'll come back for more.
MyrnaKing's profile thumbnail
Love this question @elspethwatson i have helped Freelancers organize their "Billable Time." This gets straight in your mind that during business hours, you are either 1) working on paid business or 2) networking / searching for your next paid business. Outside of Billable Time, you have free time that includes friends, family, leisure time.I love the 5-min-favors mentioned here from Adam Grant - let me offer you a quick referral to: Fiverr or something else.I have also used a "Brother-in-law" rate system for friends and family. "My regular rate for this is $X, my discount Brother-in-law rate is $X. This is too big for me to do for free and still eat, pay my mortgage and other fun stuff! But I can refer you to....Good luck!
elspethwatson's profile thumbnail
Great advice. Thank you!
korilinn's profile thumbnail
Here are a few podcast episodes that may help! People pleasing: to ask for what you want: we overwork/overdo (and how to stop):
You explain to them, “I charge clients $50 an hour for this work” or whatever you charge “and this will take me X hours. MyVenmo is _______.” Then sit back and listen for the response. You might get, “Can’t you give me a deal?” Or you might get, “Wow, I didn’t realize it would take that much time.” Or perhaps crickets. But, don’t work for free.
heysharonpaz's profile thumbnail
Hi Elspeth, Thanks for sharing. I believe that the best approach is to always be as diplomatic as possible. Of course, you would love to help when and where you can, but your time and expertise are valuable. So I would recommend listening to them, then letting them know that you are happy to help but would ask that they schedule some time with you just as any other client does. If they get upset, reiterate that you are happy to help them in anyway way that you can - possibly offer a 1st time discount? There's the presumption that these perks should be offered to family and friends immediately, and that is fine. So saying that you could offer a free consultation for maybe 30 mins to help them should be more than enough. I get it because I experience this many times myself - but I realized that not saying No or not setting my own boundaries not benefiting me at all. I hope this helps!