Does a favor ever cease being a favor?


April 27, 2003, 06:51 PM
A few weeks back, I asked THR members to critique a website I was working on for a friend's gun shop. This all really started last August, when I said I'd do a website for him for free, since he'd done some favors for me. I also wanted to get a few sites under my belt so I could start marketing website development in additon to the photography and digital manipulation that I do now for a living.

At any rate, from time to time he's requested additional pages for this or that product, photos and information on the products, etc. The site now has 17 pages. Each page has two versions: one that contains some Flash components and is "weightier;" and one that is purely html and loads faster. Additionally, each page has three "sniffer" pages that direct users to the either the Flash or non-Flash page depending upon their modem speed, whether they have the Flash plug-in, and whether they've been to the site before. So, the site actually has 65 pages.

On top of that, there are 160 "sub-pages" with photos and descriptions of the guns, knives, accessories and so on.

I've also done search engine optimization for the site. Do a Google search on "Ed Brown pistols," and this site comes up #1. Kimber, Wilson Combat and a number of other product lines that my friend carries also now bring his site up on the first page of most search engines.

All together, I probably have between 200 and 300 hours put into this effort, perhaps even more.

Whew! I'm getting too wordy here!

Anyway, every so often my friend says "we have to think about a way of reimbursing you for all this."

I'd like to reply, "how about a Kimber Eclipse Target?" But I keep remembering that it was me who approached him with the offer to do a site for free.

Am I wrong? Your opinions, please.

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April 27, 2003, 07:04 PM
As a person who only recently learned the value of what you have done for your friend, I would say it's time to draw the line. Explain to him what you have done in graphic terms and make it clear that you can't do this forever for nothing and then help him understand that that Kimber is a small price to pay for what he has gotten and will probably continue to get for your work. If he doesn't realize that, you don't have a friend. You're just letting yourself get screwed. Stop it, or you have no one but yourself to blame. Good luck and do your best not to lose a friend, if he is one.

April 27, 2003, 07:17 PM
The work you have done is worth literally several thousand dollars.

If this is equitable to the favors you received from your friend
you can in good conscience stop doing it or start charging.

It would be in good form I believe to ask to work on trade
thats where a kimber would come in.

Now having said that...

[Anyway, every so often my friend says "we have to think about a way of reimbursing you for all this."]

Money talks and Bull**** walks, you maybe you are being taken advantage of.

If you had done that work for me you would have received your pick out of my shop a couple times over at the very least.

Sometimes folks keep taking and taking and have to be reminded that you and your efforts have value.

Hope this helps

April 27, 2003, 07:21 PM
I have found myself in a similar situation before.

People just don't realize what effort and time, and tedious work it is to put up a web page. And, once it gets started, it's hard to stop doing it free.

I will admit that you are in a bit of a sticky situation. If you casually mentioned the amount of hours you've put into the site, he may be sympathetic.

What I've found is that non-computer savvy people think editing a webpage is just like going into a program like MS-Word and adding or deleting lines, etc. They don't know what it's really like to make additions and changes, then test and debug.

I hope you come out with a good solution.


April 27, 2003, 07:26 PM
Nosy questions, not to be answered but to be pondered:

Why did you take on the project in the first place? What thing did you want out of it? Have you gotten that thing?

Will you owe your friend anything if you quit now? I am not saying, do you feel as if you want to be nice to him, or do you feel as if you ought to continue -- I am asking if there is any actual obligation between you. Did you tell him you would work for him for x amount of time, for instance, thus binding yourself to do so?

Would it make you unhappy to stop working on those pages? (Think long about that one -- you might find that you would be more unhappy to lose work you enjoy than you would be happy to gain some income. Put those two on the scales and see how they balance.)
Anyway, every so often my friend says "we have to think about a way of reimbursing you for all this."
Your proposed response would (I don't know your friend, I know my friends!) probably not hit the right note. A better response would be a frankly helpless, "Well, it has gotten to be a bigger job than I can simply swallow. Can we talk about it?" This would let him realize that you are perhaps at the end of the freebie stage and let him segue into what he is, and is not, willing to do about it.


Most of us ask for advice when we know the answer but we want a different one. -- Ivern Ball

April 27, 2003, 07:27 PM
When it goes from something you want to do for someone into something that you don't want to do or at least something you don't want to do without compensation, it is no longer a favor. It has become a job.

April 27, 2003, 07:49 PM
Amen to that!

I had a good acquaintance (I am very picky about who I call friends) who runs a gun shop. Problem is, the help he employs are not too knowledgeable about guns or salesmanship skills.

For a while, almost every time I walked in the store, I saw a potential customer who was being talked OUT of a sale by the store personnel. I would politely step in, and make a few comments, then would come the sales pitch. I must have sold about 15 guns for this guy this way, ranging from Ruger automatics to M1A's.

A while back, after I talked someone into buying a pistol (Colt Series 70--the old one) with him standing there, I asked him (only half jokingly) about letting me have one of his guns as a bonus for me making a whole hell of a lot of profit for him.

His response? He said he'd let me put it on layaway for 6 months instead of 3!!

I guess that it depends on how much you value this guy's friendship. If you want to be compensated, I suggest that you give this guy written notice that:

Any further work will be paid at the rate of (xxxx) per hour or per project, or will be compensated for (name your gun here).

April 27, 2003, 08:53 PM
I've learned that I can help people out somewhat, but to never lend my expertise as a lone worker to friends, ever. "Do you do work on the side?" For me, the answer to this question is always a resounding "NO!" Sorry, but true friends are few and far between. Generally speaking, your "friends" will take advantage of your friendship. I will give advice, or lend a hand if a friend is doing it himself, and simply needs 3 hands for a particular task, but that's it, and they all know it. "Do this for me and I'll owe you big time." "What kind of deal can you offer your friends?" "Yeah, but you wouldn't charge ME that much, would you?" Do these sound familiar? I learned a long time ago as an auto glass/trim installer/repairman, how to get screwed, and later as an electrician to say no. Your true friends will recognize that your time is worth money and will remain your true friends. The others are not worth worrying about.

Bruce H
April 27, 2003, 09:05 PM
Favors should never involve time, effort, or money. Keeps the playing field much kinder and far more happy.

April 27, 2003, 09:21 PM
If a favor can't be time, effort or cash, what are they? ;)

But the folks are right, website design is a business. What business favors did he do for you in return? Hummm? :)

BTW, did you create this in code, or use a website program?

If he can use a commerical program to maintain his site, you could show him how to do it. If not, site maintainance is expensive, and he should do more than offer to pay you 'someday'. With the easy to use programs like, say WebMaster, folks just hate to pay big bucks for a site. I'm sure you've heard the tales of countless sites done as a favor to a friend, or as in your case, a portfolio piece. I've had dozens of folks ask me too, but I just show 'em the website programs and say, "If you do it this way it'll cost you nothing. If I do it my way, it'll be very expensive. :) Sic 'em!

April 27, 2003, 09:26 PM
You volunteered to do it for free, so it wouldn't be ethical to expect reimbursement up to this point.

BUT, you can decide when and where you can't afford to work for free anymore since you didn't agree to do it forever.

Next time he asks for a change, or improvement tell him that it's taking too much of your time to keep doing it for free. If he's a reasonable person, he will certainly understand.

Tell him that you can recommend someone to carry on from this point, or casually mention that you would consider continuing the work on a contract basis for store credit.

My wife does some work in her spare time for some friends who own a small shop. They pay her in merchandise which is a great deal for them since they are giving her stuff at retail value they bought for wholesale prices and don't have to bother with paychecks, taxes, etc. It's also a good deal for her since she only spends as much time working as she feels like, and gets "free" stuff she wants.

One of the local gun shop has a similar arrangement for people who agree to help out at gunshows.

Standing Wolf
April 27, 2003, 10:53 PM
I once volunteered to help a girl friend paint a couple rooms in her new house. The whole house later...

April 27, 2003, 11:31 PM
Great answer JohnK,

And in this case, I'm jealous. I've always wanted a Ed Brown pistol. :)

April 28, 2003, 12:12 AM
Thanks for the replies, everyone. Pax, I don't know how you find the appropo quotes to go with each reply, but my hat's off to you!

I do enjoy tweaking the site until it's something that I feel I can point to as one of the best examples of what I can do. However, that's been the case with me and my photography business for over 25 years: I usually go beyond the client's budget because I can't stand it if it doesn't look right. So, I often wind up not getting paid what I should. ( Did I say "often?" How about "usually").

This friend is my former sales rep, who also was a sales rep for a company that did large one-off ink-jet prints. He sneaked about four or five 40"x40" prints of my work through the back door for me. He also had some banners printed for pro-gun legislators I was working for. I honestly don't know the dollar value of what he provided, but it could be a couple of thousand dollars.

What's been clouding my judgement is that I really want a new gun but, with all the home improvement stuff that's been going on, I can't justify the expense. That "gun lust" had me confused; I felt like Dick Gephardt proposing that I get something because I feel like it's due me.

Reading the replies, I don't think that it would be out of line to suggest that we barter for further changes, with the Eclipse being the target. Just re-doing the Kimber page with the 2003 models took an entire day. At $50 an hour, I could be getting a couple of Kimbers a year.

If only I'd followed my educational route; I'd be a senior software engineer by now, and would have a vault full of guns. :(

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