Setting boundaries for FREE work?

I would like some of your thoughts on this concept. I am doing a website for someone that will be free. It’s a favor. How do you set boundaries on how much “input” the reicpient of this free project can put in without coming across harsh? Since it’s free I feel the person should accept what I have to give and not try to be the art director. I have read blogs and listened to post casts that talk about this very thing: not taking ideas from the person who hires you. So, how do I tactfully set the boundaries of not taking design ideas from a person who is not an art director and should be graciously taking what I am giving for free.

Same as a paying client. What was the original agreement? Sometimes I take on a free or lower fee client with the ‘you get a price break and I get to play’ statement.

How about something to the effect of: extra customization costs extra.

I totally agree with you. They *should be happy with what they are getting and not look a gift horse in the mouth. The way I would deal with this would depend on the relationship with the person. What is your relationship with this person you are doing the work – family, friend, friend of a friend, etc?

Bitter experience has taught me that clients are no less demanding and full of expectations if you are doing something for free. So there’s nothing for it but to set some clear boundaries. You just have to. You can be nice about it, of course, but you need to be clear on what you can reasonably afford to do for free. One way I used to get out of it was to say that I had to give priority to paid work. If they get sick of the delays this involves, they may either offer to pay or go pay someone else. More often than not, the latter seems to happen (not that I have a lot of experience with this, mind you).

Bitter experience has taught me that clients are no less demanding and full of expectations if you are doing something for free

Ain’t that the truth! – not that I have much experience working for free or anything. Most of the work I have done without compensation is for direct family members. That is a much different situation than dealing with someone you don’t know. If my mom or dad needs some help with something I’ll normally do it but it is not a priority.

The same situation where I might not want to do something for even a friend I will just say I can’t do it, don’t have time, outside my expertise or some other line to get off the hook without sounding like a dbag. I haven’t been in the situation of doing free work for a complete stranger though. It has always been friends and family as a favor/nice gesture.

It would be hard to speculate how I would handle a stranger just for the fact I have no desire or need to whore myself away to a complete stranger. If I were in that position though I would probably just tell them it is my way or the high way. If you are so desperate that you need to do free work to pad a portfolio or whatever than you have probably already lost the battle. People will easily take advantage of that to. I mean that is what smart people do take advantage of others.

So at a point I would think regardless of how much you want the experience/portfolio piece dump the work and move on. Send a direct message to the person that they need you more than you need them. That might be the only thing that registers with them.

Again though much of the best way to approach it lies in the relationship with the individual for whom the work is being done. It probably wouldn’t be in your best interest to tell a friend or friend-of a friend to go f**k off but a complete stranger – perhaps.