So you would love the services of an artist, or writer, or web designer or massage therapist. Although you can’t afford their steep fee, they’ve agreed to either work for free or cut their hourly fee drastically to work within your budget. Lucky you! Here’s some tips to help you minimize conflict and feelings of resentment.
- Tip #1: Find a way to make things easier for this person.
If you’re getting a substantial reduction in fee for web design (as an example), can you get something basic done without the bells and whistles? Can you wait longer for your services so that your buddy can prioritize clients paying the full fee? If you’re getting a free service that needs to be scheduled, is there a way you can schedule it at a slow time rather than the busy time of day?
- Tip #2: Barring that, don’t make it more difficult for them.
Don’t call up the person doing you a favor at 2AM with silly questions. Don’t ask them unrelated questions you could easily find the answers for yourself. Don’t add to their workload by arranging multiple meetings, or to the cost of their services by asking for work requiring additional supplies (which you can’t provide). Don’t treat their work as if it has less value simply because you’re not paying (or not paying full-price) for it.
- Tip #3: Ask yourself, what can you offer them?
Maybe you can’t afford to pay the full fee (as we’ve established), but is there a way you can help the other person out? I got bodywork done once at a very low fee, and went out of my way to bring in relevant articles and books for my bodyworker to borrow. I also referred people to him regularly. I’ve brought gifts of baked goods or done proofreading and editing for people who basically helped consult me for free, or even sent them books as presents.
- Tip #4: Don’t work with people whose services you don’t care for, even if the price is right.
I once got sliding scale work done from someone, and realized that it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t afford her services if she was charging full price, but that I didn’t think the quality of her work was worth her full fee. If I had the full fee, I reasoned, I’d go to someone who was a better fit. Perhaps that’s what I should have done in the first place. Fewer sessions from a quality practitioner at a higher price are often more effective than going with the least expensive option.
- Tip #5: If it feels wrong, stop.
Sometimes people offer “free services” because they’re expecting “special favors” which could include something as innocent as referrals, or something else entirely. (And that’s when you should run the other way. This should go without saying.)
- Tip #6: Renegotiate, as needed.
So you got a sliding scale fee because you were out of work, but you finally got your first paycheck from a brand new job. Now’s a good time to renegotiate your fee–before your practitioner or provider asks you to do so.
- Tip #7: Pay it forward.
What can you do to help people in the same way as this person helped you? Spread the love.