The problem with “I’ve got a friend who can help us for free”

“I’ve got a friend who can help us for free” is a dream come true for low-budget entrepreneurs.

However, there are three common problems with the “I’ve got a friend” option:

  1. The friend isn’t used because they have exactly the right skills for the job — they skip the normal vetting process and are used just because they are a friend.
  2. The friend is not paid so they have to prioritize their other clients, not the work you need them to do.
  3. If what the friend does needs to be updated in the future, they often get stuck into a longer-term agreement they didn’t plan for.

When you’re bootstrapping a new venture, friends (and friends of friends) can be a free way to get stuff done. But always ask yourself the true cost of “free”.

Would you hire them based on their skill set for that specific task if you didn’t know them? What if the work isn’t good enough and you have to get it re-done?

Can you afford for there to be a delay? If you’re not paying them, you can’t expect them to make it a priority.

Is this just a one-time job or are you going to need them in the future? Agreeing to something once feels like an easy option for a friend, they might not be so motivated in six months when they’re stuck doing work for free.

Hiring a professional might turn out to be cheaper, faster, and/or worth the reduction in stress.