Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Publicist Must Stand Up to Demanding Family

DEAR HARRIETTE: I work as a freelance publicist. I have been doing this for about five years, and it’s going OK. The problem is that my friends and family are constantly asking me to do things for them for free. They feel like since they know me or are related to me, naturally I will do them a solid and help them out. I understand that in theory, but this is my livelihood. It’s one thing to do a project once as a gift, but they come back again and again. Whenever I suggest they pay me, they get ornery and act like I am being greedy. How can I get people to pay for my services? -- Freelancer Trying to Make a Living, Seattle

DEAR FREELANCER TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING: Create a rate sheet for your services if you don’t already have one. Include each service you provide and the parameters for the task so that your clients are crystal clear about what they are getting. List a fee next to each service. If you would like to be somewhat generous and strategic, create a discount for friends and family that reflects your affinity toward them while keeping things professional. The next time they ask you to do something for them, provide the rate sheet. Point out that you are offering them a family discount but that there will be no more freebies. Stick to your guns, and you won’t have this problem after they realize you are serious.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A college friend just wrote to me saying she is coming to town. She then asked if she could crash at my house while she’s in town. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I do not have air conditioning, and it has been crazy hot and humid all summer, including now. It is miserable, and I don’t feel like having company who I have to try to make comfortable until the heat wave passes. I can’t seem to get her to understand. How can I say no? -- Too Hot for Company, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

DEAR TOO HOT FOR COMPANY: A wise financial adviser once told me that “no” is a complete sentence. Sometimes you have to say no and mean it. If you know that you cannot handle having guests during the peak of the summer heat, don’t welcome any.

If you are so inclined, you can tell your friend that she is welcome to come at another time when the conditions are more suitable for you to have company. You have to remember that she planned her trip without consulting you about lodging. That’s on her. It really is OK for you to take care of yourself and let your friend know that you will not be able to host her at this time.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)