Q&A: Thoughts on Doing Business With Family
By Rachel Puryear
In this post, I will address a hotly debated subject regarding situations where freelancers feel taken advantage of by family members who expect free/cheap services and goods from them.
This is a touchy subject that many self-employed people deal with, and has implications both for their personal relationships, as well as for their bottom line.
A recent question involved a parent concerned about extended relatives of hers pressuring her teenage son – who freelances as a handyman – to work for them for much less for his customary price, or even for nothing – and insisting that the young man go along with this, “because they are family”.
The young man, of course, feels taken advantage of – but doesn’t know to what extent he is obligated to provide uncompensated/undercompensated services to relatives at his own expense.
Here are my thoughts on this sticky but important subject:
Two yellow “caution” cones shaped like banana peels, on a floor next to blue bucket. By Galen Crout.
Ask What the Dynamic Is
If one is fortunate, they will have at least some family members who want to support them in their ventures, and will insist upon paying the full rate (even if offered a discount) – because they understand that this is how the business owner makes their living, and that it costs something to run a business and to provide goods and services.
These wonderfully supportive family members can help the business owner get launched by giving them their first assignments/orders, followed by positive reviews and good word of mouth.
At the same time, the business owner may have other family members/relatives/people they know who see their new venture as a chance to get free or cheap services – and will expect a substantial break.
I will say this: I believe there’s a big difference between providing free/discounted services to an elder relative who played a major role in one’s upbringing, who sacrificed and worked hard to help raise and provide for them, and has consistently been there for them; versus a relative who has done none of those things.
The business owner could consider offering to gift goods and services to family members who always supported and took care of them early in life; if they feel led to do so, and particularly where their family member is in need, and the business owner can do it without hardship. Just like they might give any other gift.
Loving and supportive family members, however, are likely to insist upon paying for the goods and services (if at all possible) – out of a desire to see the young person they have invested so much in succeed.
However, people who really didn’t have much if anything to do with the young person’s achievements, should not feel entitled to special treatment just because they are related. The business owner should not feel obligated to give them a break, either.
That Said, Communicate Clear Expectations In Advance
This is a responsibility of the business person. No matter what kind of business you have, you will have far fewer customer and client complaints and problems (family or not) if you clearly communicate expectations from the outset.
Be as transparent about fees/prices as possible as early on as possible. Be clear about what goods and services you will provide (as well as what might not be included, where appropriate). Spell out timeframes, too (i.e., when you will be there, shipping times, completion dates). In fact, wherever feasible; a simple writing (even a text, if not a document) outlining these things can be quite helpful – and protect your interests in the event of a dispute.
Expand Your Horizons
The more people you make happy with your good and services – particularly if you encourage them to leave good reviews and spread the word; the more referrals you can get.
Word of mouth referrals rock when it comes to getting more business.
The more you can build solid sources of referrals (happy customers/clients who like to talk to everyone), and get the high quality customers/clients that tend to come from such; the less you need to beg for business from the kind of people who want to squeeze blood from you and stiff you after you worked hard.
When you can pick and choose your clientele, then you’ve really made it.
Appreciate the Ones Who Did Support You Early On
I hope you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life who makes a point of helping you get your business successfully launched – whether that means telling everyone they know about how great you are, mentoring and teaching you marketable skills, investing in your business, helping you get through bureaucratic tape to get started, or other essential assistance.
Just because they love you, and want to see you succeed.
Anyone you have in your life like this, always nurture those relationships. These people in our lives, if we’re lucky enough to have them, are the difference between making it, and not.
Do what you can to be there for these people, and love them back. At the same time, also pay it forward to someone else someday – that will make all the difference in their success, too.
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