Are mates’ rates a good idea?

A close friend of mine is our family dentist. I choose her because I believe she is excellent at her job – and pure magic with my kids. (My kids actually get excited about a trip to the dentist.)

After our appointments, the receptionist hands me a standard account which I dutifully pay. No questions asked. I don’t expect it to work any other way.

So why do I struggle when it comes to chargingmy friends full rates for my copywriting services? 

ratesOver time, I have had more and more friends ask me to write for their businesses. And although I was always eager to help, I couldn’t help feeling awkward when it came time to talk money.

Will they think my fees are unreasonable?
What if they don’t like my work?
As a close friend, don’t I genuinely want to help their businesses anyway?

So I used to offer discounted rates. (And shamefully, one or two ‘freebies’.) Not because my friends asked for or expected this. But because I thought I should.

It was a mistake.

While I don’t believe my work was compromised, I do believe it affected my mindset. The tasks would become a hassle – something I had to get done so I could move onto my real work. For my real clients.

Recently, a friend asked me to rewrite some web-pages for his legal practice. But he specifically asked for an ‘arm’s length quote’. No discounts.

Why? Because he knows from experience – in his case, providing discounted legal services for friends for far too long – that it could affect my mindset.

I provided a quote and he agreed to my fee, saying he was sure he would get value.

That got me thinking about those questions again:

Will my friends think my fees are unreasonable?

Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. But presumptions are a waste of time. And guess what? Since abandoning my mates’ rates philosophy, my fees have never been questioned. Not once.

What if they don’t like my work?

For the same reason I chose my dentist, my friends come to me because they believe I am good at what I do. And I believe it too. So the risk of failing to deliver is the same as for my other clients.

As a close friend, don’t I genuinely want to help their businesses anyway?

I do want to help my friends. I genuinely want to see their businesses succeed. But then again, I want to see all my clients succeed – friends or otherwise. That doesn’t mean my time and expertise isn’t worth paying for.

So it’s official. Full fees from now on.

And thankfully, no more agonising or self-doubt. My time is valuable regardless of who I give it to. My friends respect that.

Do you charge mates’ rates for your services? How do you expect to be charged when you seek a service from a friend?

Please post a comment to share your views and experiences.


About the author: Vikki Maver


With over 10 years’ experience as a freelance copywriter, Vikki is also a respected marketer, writing skills trainer and former university lecturer.

Vikki knows how to use words with impact. And she knows how to captivate and engage audiences in our cluttered world. Her professional background gives her the ability to immerse herself in the marketing needs of her clients – and the mindset of almost any target audience.

Many high profile brands have turned to Vikki for her copywriting expertise – including ANZ, Melbourne Business School, Kmart, Monash University, Lend Lease, Spotless and Crown Casino. She is also a regular writing skills trainer for City of Greater Geelong, Barwon Water, Deakin University and more.

Vikki has a bubbly and engaging presentation style with a passion for writing that’s truly inspiring.

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This article was first published by Vikki Maver

3 replies
  1. Xerxes Aga
    Xerxes Aga says:

    A true mate knows your worth. Both as a friend and as a professional. The friendship should be paid with reciprocity, the professionalism, with cold, hard currency. A true friend will know you live off your words. He, or she, knows that writing is your bread and butter. What you write for him is your bread. What he pays you is your butter. Surely, a friend would not want you to live on bread alone.

  2. Richard Mann
    Richard Mann says:

    Whenever I hear of ‘friend freebies,’ or even discounts, I shudder…

    It sounds great, but rarely works well for either party. As humans with flaws, we all want to please, do the right thing, follow the Golden Rule. BUT, ‘Do unto others…’ suggests similar responses, e.g., ‘I act in a civil manner to you in the hopes you will act likewise’. Problem is, such expectations are in your mind – not theirs.

    We all wonder after the fact. Personally, I’d feel guilty if you provided a service for me free of charge. I know it’s unfair to you, even if you insisted. And no matter how generous you are, I would always wonder how I could repay you. Even worse, if I didn’t know what I could do to pay you back, I’d feel like a mooch. There will always be that residual feeling of ‘what can I do for her’.

    Bartering is better. Agree beforehand that she’ll treat your family for a night out, change your oil, whatever. I’ve seen friendships weaken and people feeling they took advantage of the situation – even if you offered. I’m glad for you that your attorney kept it as strictly business. HE deserves a discount, but then lawyers make a good living.

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