Many designers begin their careers by helping their friends with their homes or offices “for free.” This helps them build confidence in their craft and gives them something to photograph for their portfolios. You may have done this as well.

This is all good, except this practice can carry over into a habit of not feeling comfortable or confident about properly charging real clients for your time and talents.

Or it shows up in giving away your profit on product because you because you “want them to have it.”

The result of this behavior is not feeling valued for your work, and NOT being paid what you are worth.

Sometimes I see designers taking care of a group of their friends who have come to expect a lifetime of free design service.

This amounts to running a “design charity” instead of a business.

Here is a scenario:

Every time you see a certain friend socially, she has another design question or problem for you to solve.

These requests can come at the most awkward times. Looking at, and giving advice about a bathroom when you are relaxing and trying to enjoy yourself at a party can be annoying.

So what do you do and say to your friends or acquaintances that don’t realize that interior design is your business, and they have stepped over the line?

This actually is not a difficult problem to solve.

Here are three easy tips to follow to get your friends to respect your boundaries.

Tip #1 – You need to realize that this is all about you setting the appropriate boundaries. Giving away your valuable time and advise may seem like you are helping people, but by doing so, you are devaluing your business and diminishing your self worth.

When you develop a habit of giving away your time and expertise it becomes hard for you to charge the appropriate amount when the good client opportunity arises.

Another huge problem is that free advice is often not valued.

When you set clear boundaries around when you work, and what you charge for your services, you become a well paid consultant. Clients will listen carefully to your words and act on your advice.

Tip #2 – You must make a solid decision to stop this self-diminishing behavior.

Write down on paper what your clear boundaries (new rules) are – especially working for friends and acquaintances. Be totally clear about exactly how much you are willing to do, and not to do, for friends.

Post this affirmation on your mirror, or on the wall in front of your desk so that you are reminded of your boundaries daily.

Tip #3 – Write out your script ahead of time and practice what you will say so that you are ready when the next occasion arises.

When you are cornered at a party about that bathroom, you could pretend you are a doctor and say:

“Call me at my office on Monday, we will book an appointment to take a look at it.”

If she calls and you want to gift her some time, you can say:

“When I take on a bathroom design job, I write a Letter of Agreement that spells out the amount time it takes to complete all the phases of the design.

Because you are my friend and I want to do something special for you, I am going to gift you the the first three hours of design time for the project. My design fee is based on $125.00 per hour and a bath remodel usually takes me about 10 hours.”

“Does that sound good to you?”

Once you have said this, and your friend has accepted, there is no need or expectation of any further “giving.”

Practice your script out loud, over and over, until your body feels totally comfortable and at peace with your statement, and you will be ready the next time a friend or acquaintance asks for, or expects, free advice.

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