What to say when a client wants free work

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what to say when a client wants free work

Ever have a client or potential client come to you wanting free work?

It’s not uncommon at all! Here’s a question I got from one of my readers:

“What do you say when a client breaks their website months after launch and wants you to fix it for free?

But free work AFTER a project isn’t the only time freelancers are expected to work for free. Many clients will expect us to do work as a “trial” or for “exposure.”

Even if they promise future work, this is a sign that they don’t respect you or your time, so if you choose to go forward you need to proceed with caution!

After falling for a few of these requests early on in my business, I can say that in my experience, they have always lead to more requests for free work, and never any paid work. Your mileage may vary.

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You don’t have to explain why you won’t work for free

If you choose not to work for free, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

You’re running a business. Businesses make money. If someone doesn’t understand that, they’re going to be a terrible client!

And if they’re a past client coming back for free work after the project has ended, you need to put an end to that by wrapping up your projects with a clear ending, and saying no to ongoing, unpaid support.

I include in my contracts that I’m not responsible for maintaining their website or any changes they make–I recommend getting that in your contracts if you don’t have it already!

Psst! Need help with your contracts? Get ALL the contract templates you need for just $30!

Here are two quick email scripts you can copy+paste:

Option One – Freelancers die from exposure

Hi [NAME],

Thanks for your interest in my services, but at this time I am unable to work for free or for exposure. If you would like to hire me, a rough quote for this project would be $____ – $____.

Please let me know if you’d like to move forward, and I’ll send you an official quote.



Option Two – When something breaks months after you launched it

Hi [NAME],

I checked out your [WEBSITE] and see what you’re talking about–I’d be happy to help at my hourly rate of $____. I’d estimate the fix to cost $____. 

I also offer monthly retainers if you’d like regular maintenance and support. Let me know if you’re interested. 

Once I have the okay from you (just respond to this email), I’ll schedule the fix and shoot you over an invoice!



Need more email help?

Writing emails to clients can be scary. You want to make them happy, but also don’t want to get walked all over. If you have trouble dealing with sticky client situations, I can help! I’ve written an e-book full of scripts you can use to navigate your way through the most common client problems!

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