I know that as a designer you have been asked to do various family jobs for free. When you are starting out you usually agree because it is a good experience and its exposure. The trouble comes later. When you are starting it gives you an opportunity to get the experience and also gives you the opportunity to add to your portfolio. All this is good. You have time to give for free because it gives you an opportunity to expand your knowledge.
Your biggest trouble usually comes from family members that are proud of what you did for them and as a result volunteer your services to do things, which take large chunks of your time and won’t realize the amount of time it takes to do this type of thing.
At some stage, you are going to have to talk to them and lay down some rules. The simple fact of the matter is once you are a full time designer you will have to pick your own projects and not get hijacked into doing charity work for anyone or any charity, unless you actually decide that you have time to do it, and that you want to do it.
Many a time, you will get an email or a message from someone asking you to just check out their website. This is usually a warning signal. This person is probably going to ask you for help to just give a few suggestions on how to fix it so that it is better SEO’d, or it looks better or some such thing. What this really is usually is a website that is so horrible that it needs a complete makeover. If you get involved it will take you so much time you might as well do the website from scratch. Now you might have decided ok this guy is a good friend, and I am prepared to help him but when that happens what I honestly prefer to do is point him at various programs or things like WordPress with a good theme and give him a few pointers on how to set it up with the basic SEO program plug-ins and say to him “look your best bet until you have actually learnt web design from scratch is to use one or other of these platforms with a theme and plug your information in”. I usually have a list of programs and almost a pat letter to deal with this type of thing.
Fact of the matter is I once got caught by someone who just wanted help in how to use a program to post up their 5 page website, and I made the mistake of agreeing. This person took advantage to such an extent I spent two months solid while they extended and extended the website until I had to say sorry but too much work on hand, and I can’t help you further. When I did that they got really nasty, and I swore then it was the very last time I would do a favor like that again.
Fact of the matter is because they don’t understand the process, and how long it can take, they seem to think it must be free. They forget you make your living doing this, and they are not costing it into their budget at all.
Designer needs paid work to eat. Anyone asking you to do something free better have a very good reason or learn to pay.
What I do now is when someone asks for an evaluation I send a list of my fees by return mail. This lists things like evaluation, Improvement suggestion consultation fee and the like. Usually it is the end of the request, but I have had some good work come from that email. It is never a rude email just explains that as this is my day to day business I am sending them a list of the fees they will be incurring and to please contact me if I can be of assistance to them further.
You don’t have to be unkind about it, but you do need to be firm.