Saying No To Free


I killed a friendship on Sunday.

Remember how we use to go camping a lot? Lately I’ve been “advising” the guy who took over The Point’s website from me, on various CSS and layout issues they’ve run up against when the owner of the campground purchased a template site from …someone. In offering my help, I only succeeded in opening a scab that seeped resentment.

Back in the day when I created the original site, I was unaware that there was a problem with it, but yet as soon as I dropped it was released from all responsibilities towards the site, some of the images were instantly changed, like…oh the titles/headers. I happily volunteered my time and effort in creating a site that didn’t have spinning animated GIFs or 3 year old site images, and had cleaned it up to something more recent and professional. After SharkBoy and I announced our desire not to return to the campground as seasonals, I told the owners that any updates would be paid for on an hourly basis. Suddenly the update requests stopped coming in and the site changed.

That’s fine. Thems the breaks. Sayonara!

My friend who’s working on the site messages me a few months back and asks if I wouldn’t mind helping fixing a template. I’m not cool with the prospect of revisiting this, but he is a friend, so I say yes. This guy isn’t strong in basic HTML/CSS and got me to dive into the code and try to mold this “purchased site” their needs. I fingerquote that because the code is really bad (multiple nested tables, background images linked twice: inline and in CSS, etc. Basic Frontpage crap) – whoever sold them this template site certainly is laughing all the way to the bank. I digress. After a few hours sitting, we got a page to acceptable template level. Yay!

A few days later, he messages me about the reservation form I had created on the previous site. Quickly, I dropped the old code into the new template and sent it back. And of course, it wasn’t working. My friend then asks if I could I try to fix it, or adapt this new form code he had found. I look at the new form and I see nothing but hours of work involved. He’s implemented part of the form in test already and I’d have to learn where he’s left off, let alone learn the code for the form system. And get it to lay out correctly in the fixed template.


This is where I bailed. Quite abruptly, I’m afraid. I think these were my words: “I’m done. I have no desire to try to figure this stuff out.” Which I think was fair, considering that I was not getting anything for something I’d usually charge $75/hr, one hour minimum, from people who I felt trashed my original efforts as soon as I was out the door.

I know it was rather unfair of me to leave my friend in such a lurch (you’ll see he’s got the form working on the live site now, anyway. But he hasn’t stripped out any of the original layout coding, making the page glorp to one side).

I feel bad about that, thanks. I’m an unreliable friend. I’m not comfortable with that and I’ll take it to my grave.

But as I hung up the phone I remembered every single time I’ve been nice and helpful and got burnt as compensation. You may remember the 2 hagbag Publishers from Toronto/NYC who failed to pay me my final two months worth of work because I asked for their outstanding invoices to be paid. And just last year I volunteered to get the catalogue for Casey House’s Art With Heart art acution online which went south (gracefully) after they asked me to put 300+ pics into a power point presentation. And then get that file hog online. When I asked if they could edit down some of the pictures, it was received with a cold “We’ll think about that”. And the phone stopped ringing.

So I’m no longer whoring myself out for free – it only leads to heartache.

I see this as a plus! I now have much more time for Xbox, and Wii, much like this freelancer!

9 thoughts on “Saying No To Free

  1. Dead Robot

    Campit with the Poodles!

    We’re game for that! We may bring Kenny. He has a leash.

    we won’t be seeing you guys at the campsite this year

    Considering who I just shafted, probably not. Keep an open mind when you’re listening to the gossip about us around the pool.

  2. Lew

    I offered to do a pair of sites for a flat fee. One took five days. Perfect. Four or five “free” updates since then.

    The other site took 18 months. Bits. Pieces. A color tweak. A new picture. I finally had the similar convo of “at some point, this is done.”

    I finished those tweaks, heard her say “I love it!” The phone hasn’t had one ring since. Nice doesn’t buy mice. That’s my new motto.

  3. Normlr

    Sooooo….. I guess we won’t be seeing you guys at the campsite this year.

    Years ago when I started freelancing on the side I had a client who I told from the get go that I had a full time job and could only do evenings and weekends. All was well for a while until the phone started ringing during the day for immediate help – a lot. Then they started getting very insistent, then I told them they should find someone else.

  4. SharkBoy

    Not fun… but then again if your phone only rings for “free requests” maybe it’s best it not rings anymore for a bit.

    Can you help me with my blog tonight? or do I have to pay?

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