Pricing can be a tough conversation for freelancers in any context, but especially when it comes to working with friends. After six years of working for myself, here’s what I’ve learned about offering “friend discounts.”
I work under the name Featherweight Studio and I offer both goods and services. Goods include graphic tees, one-of-a-kind clothing and art objects that I design and produce. Services include design and production of merchandise including graphic tees, bandanas, posters, patches and more, usually for bands, brands and boutiques.
When I started Featherweight Studio I had no experience working with clients and no existing network of potential clients to pull from. That meant that my first clients were my friends, and I quickly realized it was hard for me to charge my friends full price.
So in the beginning I always offered some sort of discount to friends who wanted to buy goods or services from me. I love a good discount or insider hookup myself, so I was happy to offer it to others.
After a while, I started to get referrals for additional clients. Since almost all of my clients came from word-of-mouth, I saw them as “friends of friends.” So even with these new clients, I would put pressure on myself to offer some sort of discount.
Even when I got orders from someone I’d only connected with online, I would want to put some extra gift inside the package, even though I already offer free shipping and include a handwritten note in each order. If I recognized someone’s name from Instagram, that “friend” feeling would kick in.
You can see where this is going.
Eventually I realized that I could justify seeing almost every client or customer as a friend. The day I realized this, I was packing a handful of web orders and kept looking around for an extra little treat to include in each package. Keep in mind I already pack each order by hand, wrapping items in colorful tissue paper with washi tape and sometimes putting stickers on the envelope. When I decided I would just pack what they ordered this way with a handwritten note and no additional gift, it almost felt like I was short-changing them. I had to seriously adjust my thinking!
I realized that I was rethinking my pricing and considering discounts for every single order. And it was draining me of both time and money. So I came up with a few rules to go by, to guide my decision-making.
These days I reserve “friend discounts” for real friends. I loosely define that as someone who would come pick me up if I called when my car broke down.
I also love doing trades with like-minded makers, I feel like that’s a perk of being a maker myself. Recently I traded some merchandise to a photographer for a future photo shoot. He decided to pay me for the hard costs of the goods, and we’ll trade our time and creativity equally.
Everyone who purchases from my web shop gets a nicely wrapped package and free shipping within the United States. And every client gets my best work, the quickest turnaround possible, and prompt and clear communications and expectations. No extras needed!
Pricing and billing can be an ever-challenging, ever-evolving area for the freelancer. I hope my take on “friend discounts” helps you come up with your own discount policy.
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