Prep School: It’s Not a Hobby

No freebies
Gotta let ’em know.

Although you’ll hopefully do something you enjoy if/when you go into business, the career you choose is not a hobby. You’ll need to charge people for the product(s) or service(s) you offer, as that’s how business works. Unfortunately, some people around you may forget that. It will be part of your job to (nicely) remind them. I strongly suggest setting those boundaries early and having a script for the pro bono requests you will likely get.

Even when you are a struggling new business owner, you may find some family members and friends want you to do your job for free. Some people won’t make the connection between you not having enough money to do things with them and how the money you need comes from you selling your products/services to paying customers/clients. I’m not sure if this happens as often in product-based businesses, but it’s been my experience and the experience of other entrepreneurs I know that when your company offers services, some people think nothing of asking you to do your job for them sans payment. “Sounds familiar!” says every bartender ever.

As a makeup artist and licensed esthetician, my friends and family often ask me for beauty advice. I am more than happy to answer their questions, and honestly, I owe it to them since they’ve been so understanding of my entrepreneuritis. But when people expect me to do their makeup and not charge them for it, that is very different. It’s probably my fault because when I started, I wanted to do my friends’ makeup when they came over. After about five years though, I felt differently. As much as I love applying makeup, it is (part of) my job. And if I have a friend over and I can finally relax, the last thing I want to do is work more. I mean, think about it. Imagine you’re an elementary school math teacher and you go to a friend’s house after work one day. How would you feel if she asked you to teach fractions to her daughter and fifteen neighborhood kids?

I charge clients for makeup applications because I am giving them my time and expertise, plus using my products (which are not cheap). Now, there are a few people in my life who I choose to do makeup for at no charge because they are my family and have helped me and my business countless times over the years. And I’m happy to help a friend out if she is touching up her eyeliner at my house and I know a technique that could help her. When I volunteer to do it, it’s because I want to and I think I could help someone improve their beauty life. But if we are going out and a friend asks me to do a full face with my products when I just want to drink some tequila and catch up, I’m not into it.

Whatever job you end up doing has value, and that’s important to remember. I’m not saying you should never ever give away a product or do a free service for someone close to you. But if you do, make sure to be clear from the start what your boundaries are. And avoid casting that net of freebies too wide. For example, I would never ever charge my mother for a makeup application, but a friend who comes over with her cousin who I’ve never met? Nope. Not for free, and not without an appointment set up. You’ll have to figure out who you will give free or discounted services/products to, but I strongly suggest keeping it to a very small group.

In talking to other entrepreneurs, I’ve found that they have all encountered friends or family asking for or expecting free products or services. (I actually saw a post about this from another business owner I know as I was editing this post.) Early on, I suggest setting some boundaries so you don’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of or are losing income because you feel guilty about charging certain people. So in using the example of my friend from the intro who wants to open a yoga studio, maybe she’ll be fine with showing a friend a pose that would help with some back pain, but she will draw the line at doing a full, private yoga lesson for free. If you plan on opening a product-based business and you anticipate you’ll have family/friends who will expect the items you sell for free or deeply discounted, how about alerting them when your company is running a promo? Like “Hey, I know you love this ___. We’re selling it for 20% off right now, so thought you’d want to know.”

It’s not cold-hearted or mean to charge your friends/family for your products and services. If they truly love you, support you and value what you do, they will understand. The key is to set your boundaries early on by not giving away your products/services for free (so don’t do what I did). You’ll have to figure out the best way to say it, which is something a mentor or established small business owner friend/contact could help you with. (If you don’t know any other small business owners, try joining a local networking group or even Facebook page of business owners in your area or industry. You can sometimes get great advice from these types of groups.)

I know this can be a tough one, but running a business is full of tough problems. So get used to it! And I’ll say it one more time in case it hasn’t sunk in: set your boundaries early. That can potentially save you a world of trouble. And that’s what this Prep School series is here for.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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