Mates rates. Those dreaded words. They’re along the same lines of “can I pay by cheque” and, “I bought some cheaper materials…”

More and more often, tradespeople are finding themselves spending their weekends doing work for family and friends with no more than a thank you as payment. But, how can you get out of it without upsetting anyone? Well, we teamed up with Scruffs Workwear to take a look into the top ways on how to get out of doing work for free.

1. Set boundaries.

If it’s ‘just a few tiles’ or changing a light socket, then these kinds of jobs may be acceptable under ‘mates rates terms’. However, if ‘just a few tiles’ soon turns into a full bathroom refit then you can see how things will soon end up being not only time-consuming but also costly for tradespeople too.

So, one way you can get out of doing free work is by setting boundaries.

Scruffs commented: “by setting these boundaries, everyone is on the same page.”

“This will leave both parties happy and no one will be out of pocket.”

It’s not just the scale of a job where boundaries need to be set either. Oh no. Who you do free work for is also really important to make clear. Work for your elderly mother? Of course! But fitting your sister’s, boyfriend’s, aunt’s neighbour’s new kitchen for free is just taking the mick.

Scruffs continued, “at times, family members may call on you to do free work.”

“But when this starts getting offered to people further and further outside of your immediate family and friends this can start to cause problems.”

“So, to avoid getting stuck in an awkward situation, make it clear that free work is not something you’ll do for everyone, and not for people to offer around.”

2. Know your worth.

Would a masterchef offer up meals randomly for free? Of course not! So why should your work?

Tradespeople are skilled in what they do and are specialised in their trade. So, what’s your work worth? If you’re asked to do some work that you know will be time-consuming and costly, make that clear and explain why you need to charge them.

This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to ask for full price payment. Mates rates and a deal could mean that both parties are left happy and neither out of pocket. But don’t undersell yourself either. If this family member or friend knows how hard you work, and how skilled you are, then asking for payment won’t come as a surprise.

Scruffs added: “it’s very important for you to know your worth.”

“Do you need the good reviews?”

“Or do you just want to help out a friend?”

“Either way, make sure you remind them how much this would cost if they were hiring an external tradesman – don’t sell yourself short.”

3. Just say no.

Easier said than done we know, but if you’re honest and explain your reasons behind it, then who can complain?

At the end of the day, you have bills to pay and if doing free work could cause issues financially then it’s only right to turn it down. You never know, they could offer to pay anyway!

Tradespeople can work from 7 am to 7 pm every day and paid work has got to take priority. This is what pays your bills and provides for your family. If your friends know this then they’ll understand. Making sure your family are provided for is the priority.

However, Scruffs added: “remember not to overwork and find time for yourself too.”

“You’ll be no good to anyone if you end up ill from not taking the breaks you need.”

“So if you’ve got the weekend free and someone is asking you to do unpaid work then we suggest weighing it up. Is it worth it?”

“Or is a chilled weekend and spending time with the family more important?”

“Plus, if family and friends aren’t offering some sort of payment for the work in the first place then should you be doing it?”

So, tradespeople, don’t let yourselves get passed around like a cheese board. If you’re doing work for free, weigh it up. Would that person do the same for you if the roles were reversed? No? Then take a stand, and put an end to mates rates and free work.

But what do you lot think? How do you get out of doing free work? Let us know in the comments below!

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