Script: What To Say To Friends And Family Who Want You To Do Free Work

Get two email scripts for responding to the "friends and family discount" request: one to say no politely and one to say yes with boundaries.

Kid's Shocked Face when Friends And Family Request Free Work

Sunday Scripts

What’s the comeback for when a family member or close friend reaches out about help with a project and a “friends and family discount?”

When you’ve got skills, especially graphic design, brand design, web design, or web development skills, it’s only a matter of time before your friends and family will ask you to help them with a project. For years, I did all of the design work for my in-laws’ organic mandarin orchard and we built and managed their e-commerce website. I’ve also worked with many friends over the years, designing brands, marketing materials, and websites for their businesses.

  • We worked for my in-laws for free in exchange for all of the mandarins we could eat, a discount on the boxes we shipped to clients every year, and seeing them less stressed and happier during the short yet hectic mandarin season.
  • All of the friends I have worked with hired me just as any other client would. It was one business hiring another business and the value exchange was equal.

But things aren’t always so rosy in the land of working with friends and family.

Sometimes things can get downright dicey and if not handled well, the negative repercussions can be felt for years to come. This is why so many professional service providers choose to not work with friends and family.

The secret to a good working relationship, managing smooth projects, and creating great experiences starts with how the project is handled in the initial conversations. You must establish your role, set clear expectations, and create boundaries and guidelines for the project.

Below are two scripts you can use: one for saying yes and one for saying no.

If you want to work with friends and family…


Thank you so much for thinking of me for your exciting new [TYPE OF PROJECT]. I am so honored that you think highly enough of me and my work to reach out.

I would love to work with you and help create [PROJECT] for you. I don’t have a lot of time for free work, so I’d like to share a few options with you on how we can work together.

  • OPTION 1: We work with a real (but very reasonable) budget and I treat you like I would any other amazing client with the same quality/quantity of work delivered and plenty of room for feedback and collaboration.
  • OPTION 2: I work for free, but I have total creative control and do as much work as I can manage in my schedule without sacrificing my health or sanity. I will respect any deadlines that you give me, but appreciate flexibility. In exchange, you can buy me a cocktail every once in a while.
  • OPTION 3: Something between “proper client relationship” and “friend favor” — we limit the rounds of work, I have complete creative control, and you treat me to a fancy dinner or buy me some Legos.

I’d love to know which option sounds like a fit for you… I’m also happy to answer any questions too. Just let me know!


If you don’t work with family and friends…


Thank you so much for thinking of me for your exciting new [TYPE OF PROJECT]. I am so honored that you think highly enough of me and my work to reach out.

I would love to work with you and help create [PROJECT] but I like to keep my personal and professional lives separate in terms of working relationships to protect those relationships I value the most.

I don’t ever expect there to be a problem, but to be safe I have this boundary in place because I adore you.

What I can do though is connect you with a friend of mine whom I trust completely. I know you’d love working with them and they’re who I’d hire if I needed help.

I’m also happy to sit in on the first few calls or be available to review [TYPE OF WORK DONE] to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.

How does that sound?



These scripts are just two you’ll find in Confident Comebacks, a collection of professional client service scripts that will help you quickly and confidently craft firm, fair, friendly responses to sticky client situations.

Always Be The Professional

When working with friends and family, you’re working with people who already love you — people who will forgive your faults and offer leniency more than any other person would. This creates a level of comfort that can cause you to get a bit lazy with your systems and processes, communication, and professionalism. You may not mean to do it at first, but little slips here and there, with the justification that “they won’t mind” can add up to big client service mistakes and frustrating client conflicts.

It’s important to recognize that your friends and family reached out to you for help because they see how good you are, value your skills, respect what you do, and believe you can help them. They trust you to do for them what you would do for any other client.

If you decide to work with them, you need to either:

  • Get paid in full for your work.
  • Discount your work but put clear limits and boundaries in place.
  • Agree to work for free but set clear expectations upfront.

And, in all three scenarios, you must treat the project like any other and always show up as the consummate professional and the expert your friends and family expect and want you to be. If you can’t do that, it’s best to say no and refer them to someone else who will give them an extraordinary client experience.