Charging Your Friends

Oh how we all get anxious when the word money comes to the table. Why is it that money has become a dirty word? It’s almost crude to talk about how much you make and the discussion of how much you would like to charge for your services, well, is kind of inappropriate.

It all starts when we first enrolled in the University. We are no longer general pupils of high school, all desperately trying to fit in with the rest. Now we started to realize the aim of the game isn’t to blend in like a zebra rather than it is to find your own path or purpose; profession. And the more you believe in yourself and your chosen university, the more people start noticing your newly developed and improved skills.

Then it begins with a simple, »can you photoshop my profile picture«. For sure it is not a job, it’s more of a fun practice, you see it. Eventually, the word goes around and people start asking you for favors, such as creating posters for events, editing business cards and generally just a bunch of small bits and pieces which don’t take more than a couple of hours of your time. And you are still a student, so you »sell« your work for a beer or a lunch.

Then you graduate. You are now a Master of Architecture. Surely, that has some value now, right? Unfortunately, no. Not on there at least. Note this, nothing changes until you change it. You soon realize that it is your responsibility to muster up some guts and say to your friends, look, I will start charging for my services now. And if you are anything like me, at first, saying this statement will give you some uncomfortable feelings. You (I) never want to come off as a person who sees all things through money, for sure your true values lie somewhere else.

Nonetheless, you pay your friend who does your hair. You pay your mechanic, whom you’ve known your lifetime, for repairing your engine. Why then do we have trouble with putting a price tag on our work? It’s a service someone needed that you fulfilled. Truth be told, you know you’ve earned some money and they know it too, as soon as you mention it.

The real topic is, How much?.

 When my partner and I started our own business and landed one of our first projects, we were delighted. I opened my Excel file and earnestly started logging in my hours. I then checked how much my time is actually worth. According to ZAPS (Institute for Architecture and Space of Slovenia), the standard working hour for an architect is valued at 47€.

That’s a lot of money! I did a quick calculation; if I were paid according to this standard, my monthly salary in an office with a regular 40-hour work-week should be a whopping 7.896€! That made me instantly question just how much should I ax the prescribed value now that I am on my own. For sure my time isn’t worth that much. I mean, I have been an employee for about three years straight, and even though I reached a Senior Designer position in Japan, I can for sure tell you I wasn’t paid 7.896€ per month.

So, axing it is. And How much? is the refined question. 50%? 80%? Now, I can’t tell what your first bill should state, but I did find a nice way of letting people know your »doctors prescribed« worth. First, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to start taking yourself seriously. Write a proper bill, then if you please, add a clause stating »friendship discount« or something similar, so they see just how much you are actually lowering the price. For all I care, you can send them an email with the attached bill that ends with a »100% family discount«.

Just learn to value yourself. Because honestly, I didn’t know how much my time is worth until I googled it. And for sure your friend doesn’t either, so it might just be that they will never be aware of a favor you decided to so graciously bestowed upon them. And then slowly everyone gets cranky and no one knows why.

Money isn’t a bad word. Condescending, exploiting, milking (you, not a cow) and not appreciating you are. So sit straight, write a number, be proud of your work and may the odds be ever in your favor.