When does a favour become work?


Hi All,

I've just done a small change to a menu in exchange for a couple of scones. I don't mind this one as the scones are good and the job took 20 seconds. However, it got me thinking about when a favour turns into a paid job.
You know the thing, "Could you email me my logo as a JPG?", or "Could you send that photo to the magazine?", or the usual "Could you send me the proof again of the job you did three years ago?"

I don't tend to charge for these simple things. However, sometimes you can spend all your time doing small things.

What does everyone else do in these situations?

Graeme :icon_confused:
I don't mind doing favours but I always make sure the person knows that a favour has been done, so I will say that I will sort if for free this time so next time they know they will have to pay, otherwise people tend to expect something for nothing all the time and as you say you end up being busy and not getting paid.
When does a favour become work?

As soon as it is asked for... I get stuck in the same pattern, the odd 5 minute change here and there soon becomes a couple of hour's worth of work. It's a tough one.
IF the client is a good client (regular work, good payer) then I don't mind sending the odd jpg - but I reckon anything that takes 10-15 minutes or more gets billed. Sometimes I work it into the next bill!
Even worst when it's work for a good friend or family member.

By the way gprovan, any news from our last PM's?
As soon as it is asked for...

This is quite a good guideline. I do favours for my clients all the time, quick jobs that take less than 5 minutes that they'd happily pay for, but I do out of good faith. A lot of jobs come in that are actually more hassle to invoice for than to just do and be done with.
When an established client asks me for something that requires 5 mins of my time, I'll do it as a favour/goodwill gesture. I generally charge my time in units of 15 mins and, while a 5-minute job becomes a 15 minute one if I add in the time it takes to raise the invoice, on the whole I'd rather have the extra ten minutes to get on with other things. If the job's for someone I have current work with (even unrelated work), I'll add it to the total. New clients always pay for work - even five minute jobs (charged as 15 mins) - as I feel it best to make it clear how any future relationship is going to pan out rather than risk getting into a cycle of favours. If a lapsed client comes back to me after a period of months for a file or somesuch, I still feel its worth doing gratis as I feel it's good to be 'nice' to people who have kept you in mind and are still using your materials after a long absence (that said, I have been know to spend half an hour or so on a 5 minute request but I don't feel its fair to charge time arising out of my slovenly approach to file management).

As a general rule, I think you have to weigh-up favours in terms of their value as an investment in future business.
Agree with the general consensus that it really depends on who the client is and, if it's someone who you know will be back, then the odd 10 minutes here and there aren't a problem. If it's something I know I can just pop open and sort out really quickly then I end up doing when I have a quiet half hour or so without even really thinking about it, so it doesn't affect me.

Also agree though that it's difficult to know where to draw the line, as it is far too easy to end up getting bogged down all day doing favours without anything coming in.
Years ago learnt the 'friends and business' lesson the hard way. We had a new (to us) print shop that had all sorts of odd rooms and a friend (architect with his own new practice) came to stay for the weekend. We went down to the place to take a look at it and casually said "what would you do to improve it?" He whipped out a tape measure and the next week we had full blown plans and then a bill! OUCH! Always make sure that you know whatbasis you are doing work on!
I do lots of tiny little things for clients all the time, because it leads to repeat business so I view it as the same time investment as 'marketing'.

This is for clients mind you; people who have already paid for work and now just want the little favours like a different file type, or they want a slight change to a bit of text, or they want a colour change and new file. Little bits and bobs like that, I never charge for and I state that under my support offer that is detailed in all of my quotes (Graphic Design Support Services).

There is far less time/work involved in keeping an existing client coming back than there is involved in winning a completely new client. These little things do add up, but they will add up to far less than the time involved in winning new clients. It's worth doing little things for free to keep clients feeling happy and supported in their business; and when they do need something big/paid for, they will guaranteed come back to you for it.

People just coming in off the street wanting me to do little things for free even though they've never hired me before for anything? No, I rarely do that unless someone catches me in a very un-busy and charitable mood. I would not recommend anyone do that. Freebies are for clients, not chancers.

Or even friends - don't do things free for friends, it will only lead to disaster/strained relations).

I think like Boss Hog said, make it clear to them that you will do it for free this one and only time and then that way they should take the unsubtle hint and pay for anything else that needs doing. :)