Freelance Favors Debate

Dawn Stanton’s article last week on freelance favors for friends generated a few emails. They were all supportive, except the one below. I thought running this exchange would be helpful this week.

I received the following email after last week’s article was published:


After reading freelance favors for friends,” I had to respond.

I too have been asked to proof resumes, read graduate school applications and edit essays. Never once did it cross my mind to arrogantly and selfishly ask my dear friends for payment for these favors. I am appalled that someone would hoard her talent from “good people, trustworthy people,” people she’s “known for decades.” People who have had enough decency to provide Dawn with favors for – gasp! – free.

I am particularly offended by the question Dawn poses to herself before gracing these supposed friends with her talents: “If I’m not getting money, what am I getting?” Friendships are not about calculating when to actually be a friend, tallying favors and meticulously weighing efforts against each other.

Living one’s life is this way makes for very empty relationships and indicates a lack of much-needed compassion. If that is how Dawn chooses to live, that’s her business (literally). However, publishing an article that touts the importance of denying help to a close friend in need is grossly misguided.

One good thing did come from my reading it though. It made me that much more thankful for friends who don’t calculate and analyze my every move in terms of what it will do for them.


Here’s my response:

Hi Lisa,

Unfortunately, as was pointed out in the article, some “friends” go overboard when asking for help. This was a very important topic because many writers are often asked to “work” for their friends/relatives for free.

While I’m happy to edit my mom’s Christmas family newsletter for free, I turned down my neighbor when she asked me to write her college entrance essay for her. A college essay is meant to judge an individual’s qualifications to attend that college and having someone else write it for her would be cheating. She was not happy about my response.

When I did accounting years ago, friends and family asked me to do their taxes for free. I always turned them down. Taxes (like writing) can take a long time to do, even if it’s just the 1040EZ form. Not only would it have taken time away from my children, but it would also put me at a liability if something was done wrong. Writers have to worry about creating a liability as well, should something go wrong with the “favor.” Let’s face it. We live in a litigious society and people will sue for anything these days, hoping for a big payoff so they can retire. It happens everyday.

Incidentally, the same neighbor above also asked me to do her taxes last year. Even though she had less than $200 in taxable income, I told her no. A week later, she asked if she could use our scanner to scan photos of herself to email to her boyfriend. I said no. Why? First, the scanner is business equipment and isn’t to be used for personal needs. Second, they were nude photos. Yeah, she’s a real piece of work, but she’s also a good example of a “friend” who asks for too much.

In my opinion, the writer of that article, Dawn, has been very generous with her time, offering first-time requesters her services for free and doing everything from editing academic papers to proofreading resumes (I’ve done plenty of that, too.) If someone keeps asking for those “favors”, which not only intrudes on her work time, but her family time as well, it can certainly get to be a drag. I can’t imagine somebody asking me to proofread an entire book, as someone did to Dawn. She was justified in turning that down. And, she says, “If I’m not getting money, what am I getting? I don’t like to feel that I’m being used in general, so a friend who constantly asks for favors of any kind and doesn’t repay them isn’t really a friend in my book.”

The key word there is “constantly.”

In the article, Dawn has shared information about her generosity to friends and also information about those “friends” who went too far and asked for too much.

When someone asks me for a favor, I ask myself how much time this “favor” will take away from time spent with my children. If it’s 10 minutes, I’ll probably do it. If it’s an hour, I won’t. Everybody’s time is valuable and when someone asks you to repeatedly do free favors for them, as Dawn said, that person “isn’t really a friend.”

If your friend was a freelance photographer, would you ask them to photograph your wedding for free? Probably not. If your next door neighbor were a doctor, would you ask them to give your son an exam for free? Nope. If your sister was a math tutor, would you ask her to help your son study for his math tests for free on a regular basis? Probably not. While you might think these examples are extreme, they’re meant as an example of people asking for unreasonable favors from friends/relatives with regards to their professions.