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Why is this such a difficult concept?

 2:10 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have gone the entire day with an email open with a reply half written that I'm really not sure how to respond to.

I host for a husband and wife, each with their own business. They are also personal friends. I've done a lot of freebies for them over the years, just to help them promote their business, most of which they never even knew about.

Anyway, the husband is current on his accounts, but I haven't received a payment for the wife's hosting since January 2009. In the interim, I've paid for five of her domain renewals and done updates on the sites at various times. I haven't been paid for that either.

Since we're personal friends, I know that they've been going through a very difficult time in their family, so I just haven't made an issue of it. I thought when things straightened out, I'd get paid.

Yesterday, I get an email that is a reply to the last overdue notice, (just the past month) that she knows that they are autogenerated, but that since she hasn't made anything off of her web site in a long time that maybe I should rethink the invoice.


. . .



Yes, I know this is my fault for letting it go this long, but I never expected I would be asked to apologize for the priviledge of personally paying for some of their business expenses.

Does her cell phone company "rethink the invoice" because she hasn't made any money off of it that month?



 2:31 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Never mix business and friendship. Tell them you're not responsible for it anymore.


 4:25 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)


Yeah people are amazing.

Personally, the cost of hosting a real friend's site is trivial, and for a good soul I'd carry it ad infinitum without a peep.

But in a case like this, I would value something else more. "Why are you making your lack of commitment my problem? Your site isn't making any money because you don't do the work, which has nothing to do with costs of hosting it and our original agreement. Your lack of action is irrelevant to my invoice."

Heave ho matie . . . this is not a friend and they aren't deserving of your generosity.


 4:31 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

What you could do is send an invoice, when they ask just say something like..

"Ahh thats my automated billing system"

It breaks the ice, draws the matter to their attention and also gives the impression you aren't "personally" sending the bill.

Just remember though, friendship works both ways... They should be paying:)



 4:44 am on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

As a friend you did some things that a business person would not do. And, as a friend, you should stop what you are doing and let them know you want to remain friends so you can't do any more work for them.

That way you can remain friends. You have merely paid to educate yourself as to the cost of business v friendship.


 6:03 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the input . . . yes I know this whole situation is my fault for letting my personal relationship with them bleed into our business arrangement.

The whole "rethink it" thing just floored me. And no, the marginal cost of the hosting itself isn't going to kill me, but I've done updates for one of the sites . . . which is on a CMS that she could do herself . . . which I provided written AND video instructions on AND paid to keep her domains current.

So it has cost me in time and money . . . but I'm supposed to "rethink it."

I also don't get why people think that just because they pay this piddly amount in hosting per month that somehow that is supposed to guarantee search rankings. Her site actually did use to rank a lot higher for her field locally . . . but it was six flipping years ago that I designed it for her.

Has she done anything to promote it or added anything to it in all that time? No. Has she paid me to promote it for her? No. Although, like I said, I have done a few things for her for free because I have a local site that gets a lot of exposure.

But again, other people PAY me for that extra promotion that she has gotten for free.

I was trying to find a way to be tactful, but I just went ahead and sent what I had.


 6:27 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yesterday, I get an email that is a reply to the last overdue notice ... maybe I should rethink the invoice.

Reply: "I have rethought it, as you suggested, and have realized that I must start to treat this situation as a business transaction, which it is. Accordingly, since you are well beyond the grace period allowed to my other paying customers, you are requested to submit payment in full."


 10:41 pm on Mar 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Next time you are tempted to do business with "personal friends", be sure to start the conversation like this....

"Of course, if we do business together it means I want your money more than your friendship."


 11:28 pm on Mar 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's tough switching from a friend doing a friend a favor to a business relationship. I think people think the internet is free, and so is hosting. The whole vapor ware / black box issue makes them think you are a magician but they usually play it off like the favor is nothing, and that what irks me.
I host for several friends, one is a band, the other are bars. They bars make great money, so after a year free, I told them times up, gotta pay up. It wasn't easy, and they got p'd off, but did finally buy a hosting account through me. Once you feed the bears it's really had to keep them from coming back for favors. Once guy calls me all the time for free troubleshooting, but I don't get so much as a Christmas card from him. Ingrates! lol


 3:53 pm on Mar 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've done a lot of freebies for them over the years, just to help them promote their business, most of which they never even knew about.

Doesn't sound like freebies, sounds like favours for friends. Maybe you should rethink the invoice and keep the friendship.


 12:57 am on Apr 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

If they are friends, and as you said they are going through hard times, you don't know what may be going on in their lives to cause this email. However, you need to explain, as a friend, that you've spent time and your own money to keep her site working. Give them an accounting of the work and money that you have put in. It is quite probable that she has no idea. Then ask her if she wants to keep her site online. If she does, then give her a figure that she needs to pay you. If she decides it is not worth keeping the site, and not paying; then tell her that you will take her site down for her. Either way, you will clear the air and keep a friend.


 2:37 am on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Shut down the site.

Or, if she really is a good friend, have a conversation with her what she is ACTUALLY paying you for, and then shut down the site.

No, seriously...maybe she TRULY thinks she is paying you to promote the site. I would suggest that you send her an email with the DETAILS of all the work you've done for her for free, and let her know how much it would have cost. Make sure you also add line items for the domains fees you paid out of pocket. And then, if she still doesn't get it, SHUT DOWN THE SITE.


 10:29 am on Jun 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

I know how you feel. I was hosting my sister in law's blog for free, which she never really kept updated or used. I recently moved to a dedicated server from a reseller account and decided not to move her sight over. I just made a back up of it. 3 months later I get a frantic phone call from her that her sight is down and there must be something wrong with the server. I told her about moving to the dedicated server and that if she wanted me to continue hosting her site it would be $12 a month. She freaked out and thought my price was crazy and told me she could go find a host for $5 a month.

I told her sure you can go get a shared hosting account or for the same price as a Red Bull she could be on a secure dedicated server with personalized support. (She drinks around 3 Red Bulls and smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day)


 8:34 pm on Jun 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

First, stop the e-mails.

Then decide if you want to risk the friendship for the money. If you do take the risk, speak to her, even over the telephone, and explain the differences between hosting and site popularity. But do it speaking to her. That conversation would be very illuminating!

If you don't want to take the risk then just let it drop. But if you do that, it will always be in the back of your mind, is she really a friend.

Good luck.


 7:48 pm on Jun 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Politely reminder her that this is a real business and you have money invested in servers, bandwidth, etc. that's only offset by the small fees you charge. That while it's unfortunate you haven't made any money on your site that doesn't change the fact that I've incurred expenses (both time and money) to keep it up and running.

If that approach doesn't bring you a check, then she wasn't really a friend to begin with... she was using you for free hosting. :)


 4:20 pm on Jul 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another approach: You've been giving something for nothing, but you could ask for something in return!

I recently made a list of all the people I did favours for who I never asked for anything in return, I then forced myself to list the things they could do to help me if I asked... it was instructive.

It may be that they have some skill, service or contact that would benefit you, and maybe you never asked. Technical people often get asked for help by friends, if you never ask back - you never get :)

Fortune Hunter

 4:55 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yesterday, I get an email that is a reply to the last overdue notice ... maybe I should rethink the invoice.

Reply: "I have rethought it, as you suggested, and have realized that I must start to treat this situation as a business transaction, which it is. Accordingly, since you are well beyond the grace period allowed to my other paying customers, you are requested to submit payment in full."

LOL! That is great!

First, I think you have a problem because of mixing friends and business. I try my best to never do this for just this reason. However I would do as another poster suggested and outline everything you have done for free and what she is actually paying for as well as showing her the hard expenses you have incurred on her behalf for hosting and domain renewal. Politely explain that because she is a friend you were trying to help, but this simply crosses the line and that her lack of making money is not your issue and why.

If she still refuses or doesn't knock you over with the tail wind on the way to get her check book she is neither a friend or a good client and I would dump the web site and the "friendship". Life is simply too short to call people like that friends or clients.


 6:09 pm on Jul 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

personal rule. When I do things for friends, I do them pro bono. They do not pay me. Any relationship that involves payment is not a friendship, and I hate blurring those lines. I host sites belonging to my brother and father, several more belonging to my wife, and I "own" several domains on behalf of a friend who was in imminent danger of having her trademark squatted. Not a cent changes hands.

Mind you, my father does "pay" for his hosting, in a way. He babysits my kids occasionally, I use his truck when I have to move heavy things, and a while ago gave me his old laptop to use as a spare machine. None of it is accounted, and if I was asked how much he "owes" for hosting, I'd have no idea.

I did once build and host a site for my best mate, a service which I lost in a game of poker. He had three queens, I think... and I ponied up a nice 3-page website, a domain, and free hosting for 2 years.

I think you see what I'm getting at.

I like @niallflaherty's suggestion a lot. If your friend/client can't pay with cash, ask them if they can help you paint your garage door, make cupcakes for a party, babysit your kids while you go out for a romantic dinner with your SO, change the oil in your car... whatever.

Bartering is the best currency among friends.

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