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Last updated: November 22, 2017

What Would You Do: Charging Family and Friends

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It’s a constant struggle—where do you draw the line with family and friends who want free hair services? And what do you say when they start complaining about your work? One hairdresser has reached the end of her rope and reached out to the BTC community for advice—see what everyone had to say, and get some great ideas for how to handle this situation yourself!



I’ve been in the industry for 7 years and I’m enjoying every moment of it! I’ve been doing my family and friends’ hair for most of my career, and for the past year, also cutting my boyfriend’s hair. Recently I’ve been getting annoyed by them, as I feel they take advantage of me and then complain and make me feel like I could have done a better job. Do I just need to handle it as I always have, or do I fire them as ‘non-paying’ clients?”


You Should Be Charging Them


“We call those ‘disappointments.’ You know, there are appointments and there are disappointments! The ones who don’t pay!” – Mary Ziebarth Robbins


“This is a career, this is a ‘real job,’ and this is your life. You are worth charging. You are worth more than zero. Tell them they need to pay.” – Victoria Stevens


“Be honest. Have you approached any of them and started a conversation about how you are recently feeling? You may also lay down some rules like only scheduling them during slow times or bump them for paying clients. Business is business, it’s not personal.” – @pjshairart


“When I started 10 years ago, my mother told me, ‘Only do it for free if you actually believe your work is worthless.’ Although I do my family and close friends at a ‘preferred’ rate, they book and wait the couple months for a spot like everyone else, and never ask me to do their hair at home. Just because my friend is an accountant, I’m not going to ask about my taxes at a party, and I’m especially not expecting them to do it for free.” – Kelsie Marie McNamara



“I do my immediate family’s hair at no charge…that’s it. The only reason I do their hair at no charge is that they paid for my schooling and business start-up costs. I do have a preferred rate for some people close to me but everyone beyond my immediate family pays. End of story. Do these friends and family members give you free services from their place of work?” – Victoria Stevens


“Does Uncle Bob that works at the power company give you free electricity? All my friends and family pay, just like all my other clients. And in return, I follow all of the same rules with all clients—if they are unhappy with a cut or color, they get a two-week cap to call in. And yes, if it is warranted, they can get fired as a client too!” – @raelentfer


“Fire them. I used to do my family for free, do hair at holidays, all sorts of ridiculousness. After I moved away, I don’t even ask any more if I need to bring my tools when I come visit. Every time, without fail, someone has the nerve to say, ‘but why wouldn’t you want to bring them?’ I tell them that I like to go on vacation too, and that if they contact me ahead of time then we can talk about it for the next time I come. No one has taken me up on it yet!” – @mrskkdavison


Here’s What To Say To Friend/Family Clients


“I would tell them, ‘My career is at a place that I really don’t have time for free services anymore. I’d love to keep doing your hair but if my prices are out of your budget, I completely understand and we are definitely going to remain friends! Your free services helped me learn along the way and I’m grateful for friends/family like you who’ve trusted me from day one. Thanks for helping me grow!’” – Kristan Young


“Never take your shears with you to holidays or any family gatherings. Hand out your business cards at parties or events when people start asking you about hair. Say, ‘Give me a buzz at the salon and book an appointment, I’d love to talk with you about your hair.’” – Kimberly Winter


“I’ve been in this situation and when I got to the end of my rope, I just said ‘Look…I love doing what I do and I love doing your hair for you, but if you are not 100% happy, maybe I’m not the stylist for you. Another person may make you happier and I’m okay with that.’ It’s not fair for you to have to feel like crap or down on your work every time you do their hair. It’s also happened that they did go to someone else and realized how much they liked it when I did their hair better! Family and friends think it’s okay to say whatever they feel like saying about their hair because it’s YOU and FINALLY they can be honest about what they want/don’t like/etc. But sometimes that leads to them being overly nit-picky when there’s nothing to be nit-picky about…which is not okay.” – @nina.adado


“I would tell them that because you will be so busy for the holidays, your salon is not allowing non-paying clients to come in anymore. So they can either pay full price, or you could say half off. Our clients who pay full price are how we make a living—family is nice, but unless they leave you a heavy tip, it’s not worth it.” – @stephygoddess



Here’s How You Can Charge Friend/Family Clients


“I give family and friends the ‘family discount’ and ‘family service’—no frills. No finish time and you will come at my convenience. Family and friends WILL be the first to get bumped by a full-paying guest. If they are cool with this, you have a deal. If not, they can pay full price and get full service. Or…you are welcome to go elsewhere. You deserve respect—this is your career, not your hobby.” – @willbold


“If other people want ‘freebies’ they have to give me something in return. For example, my mom and grandma clean my salon for me weekly to cover their hair and nails (don’t worry, it was their idea, no grandmas were harmed in the making of this deal 😂).” – Amy Jones


“I don’t do any free services (unless it’s gifted for a birthday or special occasion). I was getting taken advantage of by a lot of so called ‘friends.’ I would charge barely $50 for $250 worth of services. I finally put my foot down. I give ‘friends and family’ 25% off services. A few had a hard time with this, but in the bigger picture, it helped weed out the people just using me and the cheapos that complain about everything. My real friends support me no matter what and are always willing to pay more anyway. Don’t ever under value your work—anyone who appreciates it won’t either.” – Gene-Marie Revercomb



“I owned a small salon (5 to 10 employees) and once or twice a year, instead of monthly training, we would have our family in and trade. I would do someone’s sister, brother, etc. while another staff member did my mom or husband. It was fun! Lightened the burden of ‘freebies’ and reminded our families it was really challenging to please every time.” – Diane Couch-Dawson


“Close friends and family get a 20% discount and my price for any product sales. Holidays are tricky, but I tell them, just like normal paying clients, they have to book in advance. If they flake (cancel without 24 hours’ notice or no-show), they get charged the $20 no-show fee. And they all know I absolutely do not ‘squeeze them in’ if they failed to book in advance…especially holiday time. I’m too busy with clients that pay regular price for that nonsense. If they complain, I treat them as a normal client…have a consultation, get to the root of the problem.” – @kandy_does_hair


“For me, this is my livelihood, so doesn’t fall in the same category as other kindness exchanged between siblings (like watching each other’s kids, etc., unless they own a daycare, in which case I would support). I charge my family 50% off my list price, and a reasonable discount for friends (when you’re tossing around heavy discounts, everybody wants to be friends—so never more than 20%). My family gets it, and they’re happy to help support my small business, my dream. Unless the dream is to be a volunteer, you have to kindly draw a clear line.” – @aprilstylebydesign