Whether you're an electrician or an accountant, there's a good chance that your friends, family, and neighbors will call on your services. And sometimes, they're likely to expect you to do the work for them for free.

While mixing business and pleasure can be a problem when money becomes exchanged, working for your friends without any type of compensation can set you up for problems too.

If your friends call you for advice or asks for your services for free, here's how you can respond in a way that gently reminds them that you need to make a living:  

1) "You should definitely get professional advice about that."

If you're an accountant and a friend calls to ask about how to reduce her tax liability for her home business, make it clear that it's an important issue that should be addressed by a professional.

You might say, "Don't feel obligated to use my services just because we're friends. I'd be happy to give you some names of other people I trust too so you can decide." That shows that your friends are welcome to use your professional services while making it clear that it'll be a business transaction.

2) "I'd be happy to set up an appointment to talk about your situation."

If your friend tries to pick your brain during your kids' soccer game, set a clear boundary by offering to schedule an official meeting--rather than hash it out on the sidelines. Offering an appointment is a polite way to remind your friend that you're happy to help but that you're going to address the issue in a business-like manner.

You might explain your fees in a matter-of-fact manner at this point as well and perhaps even hand over your business card.

3) "Since this is a work-related issue, let's talk about it during business hours."

If you're a public relations expert and you've got a lot of friends who want to be featured in the media, there's a good chance your services will be called upon often. But it's important to avoid making all of your conversations revolve around how you can help them boost their business.  

Make it clear to your friend that you are trying to avoid burnout by establishing clear boundaries for yourself and you'd be happy to address the issue during business hours. Explain how your friend can schedule an appointment.

4) "Let's see if this is something we can solve during this phone call."

There will likely be times when your friends may need some quick advice and giving it to them makes sense. If you're a speech therapist, a friend might call you in the evenings to ask whether she should be concerned about her child's speech issue. Or, if you're a lawyer, a friend might call asking about how to address a real estate situation.

Offering to solve it during a quick phone call makes it clear that you're happy to provide a brief piece of advice about what to do next, which is much different than saying you're all-in for doing the work for free. After listening to your friend's concern, you might say, "You should definitely address this issue in more depth," and explain how to go about doing that.

5) "I don't want business to interfere with our friendship."

If your friend wants to enter into the business realm with you, you might decide to pass on the project. Designing a website or becoming a business coach for you pal, for example, might seem a little too close for comfort. If your friend isn't happy with your services, or if you think your friend starts asking too much from you, working together might strain the relationship.

So you may want to step aside and explain that you would never want your business interactions to stand in the way of a good friendship but that you'd be happy to refer your friend to a trusted professional who can serve them.

Published on: Oct 3, 2018
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