You wouldn't walk into a fashion store and expect to walk out with free clothes, so why do friends and family not get the idea?

What do you do when friends ask you for freebies?

I was recently browsing Facebook, which is what I do when I’m at work, and I happened upon a conversation about friends expecting free services in the NZ Beauty Therapists Facebook group. Mary Purcelle, owner of a local Auckland beauty clinic, shared her frustration with friends and family who expect freebies and discounts from her. Other beauty therapists chimed in, sharing their stories and speaking of lessons they had learned.

The consensus in the group was to avoid selling yourself short. You know how much you’re worth, so don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

So when friends and family expect discounts or freebie services, there are several ways you can deal with the situation diplomatically.

The Discount Card

Marla Dani has found a simple idea that she says has worked in various upmarket salons, but doesn’t get talked about enough.

Make “Mate’s Rates Discount Cards” that are each marked with a special number and have 10 – 20 boxes printed on the front. The cards can be given to family and friends, and each square entitles the bearer to a 5% discount. It’s only a token discount, but people feel special having them.

“When they’ve filled out all of your squares, they can receive a small gift; for example, on eBay there are amazing little items that cost as little as $2 delivered,” Marla says.

The secret is to make the card a badge of honour, a symbol of being part of the “in crowd.”

“Let card bearers know that only selected people have them and they shouldn’t tell anyone, and they will be very happy with it.” Marla explains. “The cards can be used for problematic friends or family members, especially the ones that ask for discounts. Giving them a card makes you look good and stops them for asking all the time.”

The Product Discount

Other beauty therapists choose to not give their friends and family a discount on services, but instead sell them products at wholesale price. That way their time, which is really what you’re selling, is not devalued.

Makenzie Patrick, owner of a home salon in the North Island of New Zealand, says that her close family pay full price for her services, but they get their products at wholesale price. When it comes to friends and distant relatives though, there are no exceptions.

The Firm Stand

To avoid the problem altogether, some therapists don’t do discounts or freebies at all.

Jessica Wiseman, a beauty therapist at a well-reviewed Nelson spa says, “Make it clear that you can’t do deals anymore, for anyone! I don’t discount friends, on services or on products, so we all know exactly where we stand.”

Lynn Johnson, another beauty therapist, makes no exceptions either. Beauty therapists earn their living by making others beautiful. You wouldn’t expect to walk into your friend’s retail store and walk out with a pair of jeans because we all know that’s not how it works. So why would it be any different for beauty therapists?

“If they are real friends,” Lynn says, “they must understand that this is your livelihood.”


When people don’t respect the work you’ve put in to get to where you are, remember that you have options.

The important thing is that you’re not devaluing yourself. Perhaps Mary Purcelle, who started the thread, said it best.

“You are not a slave, you are a professional. Sometimes in life you have to do a ‘clean out’ and surround yourself only with people that make you feel good.

“Let those who suck the life out of you go and everything will fall into place.”