What should I charge an acquaintance?
February 3, 2018 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I’m a freelance writer and editor, and an acquaintance of mine would like to hire me to critique her novel.

If she were a friend, I’d do it for free. If she were a total stranger, I’d do it for X. But this person is something between a friend and a stranger. (I knew her slightly, as a work colleague, years ago.) I’m inclined to charge her less than X, maybe 25% less, but my question is: should I tell her this? I guess I want to convey that I’m giving her a break, but I don’t know quite how to say it. Or should I just throw out the figure and leave it at that?
posted by swheatie to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a freelance book editor. Do it for X, maybe minus $20 or something. 25% is too much of a discount. Knowing her slightly as a work colleague years ago doesn't move her into the friends and family category.

In my work, my rate ranges from X-Y, depending on the level of editing needed, and I typically automatically offer friends and family my lowest rate, but it's my lowest normal rate, not a discount lower than that.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:06 AM on February 3, 2018 [9 favorites]

“My usual rate is X, but for people I know it’s X minus Y, so I’m happy to do it for you for X minus Y.”
posted by holborne at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Charge her full price! (I used to be a freelance editor.) She'll tell her friends, and then you'll be stuck raising the rate on them or doing their work for the same discount.
posted by 8603 at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2018 [23 favorites]

Depending on the amount, $20 may kind of be an insult to announce as a big deal discount. Like if my neighbor told me he could get me a deal on a mattress and the deal is $20 off, I'd be annoyed.

So I'd go with percentages, and I do agree 25% is too steep for casual acquaintance. So I'd go 10% or $20, whichever is greater, using holborne's script.

You do have to consider whether you'd extend the deal to someone she refers to you. You probably don't want to do that, or else you're never working for full price.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:15 AM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

When you invoice her, list the total non-discounted rate in a highlighted way (larger type, white space, whatever), then list the discount and the difference. That way she will know what a deal she's getting, and won't be misrepresenting your rate to others.
posted by amtho at 8:26 AM on February 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

Is the acquaintance hiring you because of your skill and reputation as an editor or because you’re a cheaper option as an acquaintance?

Charge your usual rate.
posted by notyou at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

I'm also a freelance editor, and feel like cutting an acquaintance that much of a discount is a mistake. If you want to be really generous, tell her that you'll do mate's rates and cut your standard fee by 10%, but honestly, if you're not pals, I wouldn't. I've worked with a few acquaintances, and they've either been amazing to work with or totally awful.
posted by mishafletch at 8:35 AM on February 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

Don't give her a discount at all. I know this sounds counterintuitive but I have NEVER seen this go well. All it does is devalue the work in her eyes. No discount you give will make her more appreciative of your work; but it will make you resentful of the time you spend; and she will be a demanding client because you've given an impression of being a cut-rate option. "I'd be delighted to work on your book! The rate is $X." "oh, are you discounting it for me?" "no, I want to give your work equal priority with all my projects, and this is the rate."
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:27 AM on February 3, 2018 [12 favorites]

I'd tell her something along the lines of "my rate is between X and Y, depending on the amount of editing your project needs, but since we know each other, I will do yours for X."
posted by rpfields at 10:52 AM on February 3, 2018

Charge the full rate. I don't like when friends give me discounts like that, because then I worry about my job being an imposition.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:01 AM on February 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another option: keep your hourly rate the same but fudge a little on the amount of time you spend. I edited a friend’s grant at my usual rate but instead of charging her for x hours, I charged x-3.
posted by coppermoss at 11:31 AM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

If I'm hiring a professional, I expect to pay usual-and-customary rates. This is a business transaction. Plus which, if you do happen also to be my friend, the last thing I want to do is stiff you when I know this is your livelihood.
posted by Weftage at 2:13 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

My first, best boss was a lawyer who would not give out free (or discount) legal advice. Generous man, but he said that he found that people didn't take advice seriously when it was given out for free (or discounted). So he didn't. To save both parties time.
posted by BWA at 4:51 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

My first choice would be to decline. Objectivity can be compromised, and if your assessment has anything negative about it, the relationship can be (cough) compromised. Second choice is full price. This is your profession, and "The labourer is worthy of his reward."
posted by charris5005 at 5:13 AM on February 4, 2018

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