What do I do when the client keeps asking for free favours?

Getting asked for free favours as a freelancer is practically a right of passage. It must be something in the name….😅

Ok so here’s why those freelancer favours keep stinging you in the bum!

“give a penny, they’ll take a pound”
What a pessimistic saying! 😖
but it’s often true.

Think back…

Have you ever made a special exception to your policy, done someone a favour, or offered to do a free extra….
only for it to come back and bite you in the bum, as they ask for more and more and more! 😡

So you FINALLY stick your foot down and say “No more! I’ve done enough!”

But instead of being grateful for all those 50 free favours you did, all those hours, all that extra work…
They are the ones who are annoyed when you say no!


But why wouldn’t they be annoyed?
Here’s why…

From their POV:
They have had it for free so far, now you’re going to charge them for this thing?!
When this happens, you probably weren’t clear about your conditions at the start.

I like to try to force myself to assume everthing is my responsibility, even if it isn’t my fault.
Most often when favours get out of hand, I see it as my fault for not setting better boundaries.
I knew that client was an askhole, so it’s my fault for not saying no more.

You don’t want to be the person who doesn’t help anyone out though…
It’s important to be flexible and generous, not just in business, but in life too.

So if you want to keep doing freebies or favours WITHOUT turning into a Scrooge….
There are lots of strategies for dealing with awkward conversations with clients.
But it’s much better to just set better boundaries to avoid those conversations in the first place!

Always do these x3 key things when you’re asked to do favours as a freelancer.

1 Make it clear it’s an extra

This is important.
The client often doesn’t even know you’re doing them a favour,
they are probably unaware it’s costing you time or stress,
or that you’re going out of your way to be helpful.
So make sure you tell them this favour costs you to help them out more.

2 Put a cap on it.

If you do a favour, it will quickly become the expected behaviour.
So don’t do it, unless you are willing to do it more than once.

But I like to be generous with my clients, and most of the time I genuinely want to help.
So there is a way around this if you want to help your client out this one time…

ALWAYS set a limit to the scope of the favour with clients.

🔹How many times will you do this thing?
🔹How long will you help?
🔹What IFs or BUTs will you set?
🔹What happens the next time they ask for the same thing?

Setting a backstop is the best way to save yourself from resentment.
Pre-address any additions, follow-ons or extra asks.
Now you can be generous, knowing that there is a limit.

Make sure you let them know these when you accept,
Otherwise, it’s your fault that they will keep coming back for more,
if they don’t have an endpoint, then why wouldn’t they?

3 Take responsibility.

Saying yes is the easiest option because it’s the path of least resistance.
But you need to commit.
If you don’t want to do it, do the hard thing and say no.
Otherwise, make sure you’re happy doing it, and do it happily.

So take responsibility.
Try to override your instinct to get annoyed or pushback.

Bonus: Stall

If you struggle to override your feelings of annoyance, then avoid responding straight away as you may react poorly.

Most “unreasonable asks” will catch you offguard, they are often thrown in at the end of a conversation, or after a much smaller ask.

Instead practice this line over and over again:

“hmm, let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”

It’s very hard to push back on this line without appearing unreasonable:

“What do you have to think about?” | “I need an answer now ”  |   “is it a yes or a no?”

These pushback responses come across as rude, and now the asker is the one who looks unreasonable.

Stalling allows your thinking brain to override your emotional brain.

You can just tell them you’ll get back to them about it later, or by email.

In my experience, if you stall for a few days, most people sort their own shit out anyway.

Give it a day, they usually magically find that email they were searching for, they manage to figure out how to work the printer, they couldn’t wait so they caught the bus instead etc. 😅

Bonus 2: don’t take it personally.

Remember asking for favours is just human behaviour.
People will try to offload their problems onto others. This too is natural human behaviour.

Your job is to try to be helpful and help as much as you are willing,
but also to make sure you communicate clearly,
and decide in advance where the line is drawn so you aren’t caught off guard.
If you agree because you feel forced but then resent the client for it, that’s on you!
If they react poorly, then that’s on them.

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Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

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