Your parents provided for you for at least two decades of your life, and your extended family helped support you in a variety of ways. So do you “owe” it to them to help them design a website? Proofread ad copy? Give legal advice? And if you do lend your professional services for free, is there a point where you should draw the line? Is it ever OK to charge your family?
Career expert Alison Green (aka Ask A Manager) helps this reader come to terms with writing an invoice for his father.
I’m curious for your take on something that I don’t think is a big issue but some coworkers do. I have a background in design and currently work in a creative technology field. My dad recently started a new business; he hired a web developer to build his website, but the guy bailed before the job was done. I stepped in and helped my dad finish the site on a site-builder platform, and was able to customize an “out of the box” solution for him. We agreed that he’d pay me for the work. To put it in perspective, he paid me about 1/4 of what the other guy would have gotten in part because my solution wasn’t totally custom.
I have no problem charging my dad for design time, as I think my time is valuable and any other designer would charge for the same work. Designers already have enough trouble convincing clients that their work is valuable and worth a fair price. My coworkers, however, are horrified that I’m charging my father for my services at all. It’s not like I refused to do the work without pay, but they can’t believe I accepted his money.
What are your thoughts? We both agreed that I should be paid, and I don’t think being family automatically exempts someone from valuing my skill set. I’ve continued to slap logos on photos for him and haven’t charged him for that. It’s pretty easy to do, but it’s definitely something he would have to pay someone else to do since he can’t do it himself.
I think it’s none of your coworkers’ business. If you and your dad are both happy with this arrangement, that’s all that matters.
In general, though, I’d say that it’s pretty normal to do a small professional service for a family member for free. It would be weird to charge your mom for fixing her email settings or giving her decorating advice, even if you do either of those things professionally, but when it becomes a significant project, it’s totally reasonable to be paid for your work and your expertise.
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