Using Contracts for Family or Friends

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yesterday I talked about some standard elements that should be included in a wedding planner's contract. Today I want to talk a little bit about how to handle contracts for services you may donate.

If you are gifting your services for whatever reason, such as donating your time and planning to charity or to a family member, I recommend still having a contract signed regardless of the level of planning formality.

I actually have a policy that I do not plan events for close friends or family members unless it is as a gift to them because 1) I would not be comfortable accepting payment from them and 2) working with family and friends can be a convoluted, bumpy ride full of unrealistic expectations and a distinct lack of respect or understanding for what you do.

The latter isn't usually intentional, but it can be hard for family and friends to view what you do as a real business. After all, they have known you since you skinned your knee falling off your first tricycle. Or they were your confidant and accomplice in all your college sorority shenanigans that occurred, fortunately, before Facebook existed to document it all. Often, friends or family will see your price tag and incorrectly assume that the entire amount is going into your pocket. They do not see the behind the scenes costs of running a business.

So, if you are going to donate your time as a gift, conduct it as business as usual, but simply zero out the fees so that it shows no money is due to be paid. This does two things: it leaves a paper trail should you need to provide proof for a tax write off later on or provide documentation should a matter arise in the future. It also reinforces your worth to your clients, even if they aren't paying for your services. Recipients of donated services are less likely to try and walk over you or push certain boundaries if they understand that they are getting a valuable service gratis.

Your business is not worth burning bridges with those closest to you. Setting policies up front, that work for you, will save you headaches, and possibly heartache later on down the road.

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