Rethinking the Friends and Family Discount

Rethinking the Friends & Family Discount

Do you like handling work for your close friends and family? Many shop owners tell me that doing anything for the people that are the closest to us is the worst experience ever.

Why is that?

Think about it. They say “familiarity breeds contempt.” When your cousin Eddie calls you on Wednesday wanting shirts for an event on Saturday and asks “Hey cuz, can you get me out of this jam?”, of course, you want to help him. But, then he throws out the “Can I get the friends and family discount?” as the closer.

I can now picture the steam blowing out of your ears like a cartoon character.

A New Set of Rules

What if there was a new set of rules for Friends and Family?

You could even make wallet-sized cards to hand out at family gatherings and functions because there is always someone who has the “greatest idea ever” for a t-shirt design.

“Can you shoot me a few dozen? I’ll let you in on it when it blows up!”

Let’s change the Friends and Family game

  • All orders for friends and family should be thirty days out at a minimum. Get on the radar early. Did you know that we charge a Rush Fee for normal clients?
  • Friends and family should readily agree to pay 15% more than regular customers. If you really want to “help us out” this won’t be an issue. We have a special plan which is called the “Friends and Family Patron.” Instead of a discount, the order will add on an extra 15% to help us out.
  • If you want to pay the regular price that would be ok. Always
  • When we give you a discount, it shows our support and love for you. That’s what it is there for.
  • We’d love to help with a discount, but just know that you are taking spots on our schedule that full-paying clients need too. Be patient.
  • You can earn more points with us (and really boost our exposure) by liking, sharing, commenting, and reposting any and all social media posts that we push out. Help us go viral. Become part of our hype team. Only “helping” us when you need something is obvious.
  • Please, come on down and help with your order. Learn what we do. We absolutely can put you to work.
  • Please don’t make it funky. How you talk, act, and treat our employees matters. Don’t be hurtful, we have a business to run.
  • We’re professionals. Believe it or not, we know what we are doing. Please take our advice when offered. We aren’t trying to be difficult when we say that that style or color is not available, but this alternative one is currently.
  • If you want us to decorate that jacket, jersey, or shirt that you bought somewhere else, know that we are not liable if something goes wrong during the decoration process. But ask yourself if you would bring your own groceries to a restaurant to have a chef that is in the family cook for you? It’s just as weird to us like that.
  • We define who fits into the friends and family category. Not you.

As Always, It’s About Clarity

For the Friends and Family situation, what is needed more than anything is clarity. I was serious about writing down the rules.

Your business needs the guardrails in place on what you will and won’t do for your Friends and Family. It may be an awkward situation, but if you have already mapped it out and written it down, you can use that as a guide in the conversation to steer them into the outcome that you want.

It is ALWAYS up to you to set clear policies for what you do. Not your friends. And certainly, not your family.

You are in charge. Act accordingly.

Respect Your Time and Business

When you allow yourself to get run over by others, it signals that you don’t respect your business the way you should. Having firm policies in place are the guardrails you need to keep your friends and family’s respect.


Set aside time.

When is it on your schedule the most convenient for you to do Friends and Family projects? This could be at the end of the week. Once per quarter. On the fifteenth of the month.

It’s your schedule. You decide. Then, make that part of that policy and add it to the written document.

Use a pre-written script.

“Aunt Betty. I’m incredibly excited that you want us to help out! Awesome. Please know that I hope that you would hire me because of what my company brings to the table, and not our relationship. Before we begin, please ensure that we’re the company that you truly want to work with, as we do not give a Friends and Family discount.”

By the way, using the word “hire” implies payment. Modify this as circumstances appear or as your policy is created.

Politely decline.

It’s ok to say no to offering any special deals to Friends or Family. It’s your business. You decide the rules, not Crazy Uncle Joe who wants to start a new professional fishing league and needs some merch.

Bring him another beer when you let him down though.


Again, be clear about what you intend to do. If you want to run the order at no charge or 50% off be clear in writing upfront. Put the order in the system. Show the discount. Let them know the value of what you are providing before you start working on the project.

If this is part of your process and standard policy it will completely avoid the awkwardness when they swing by to get their order and “thought it was free.” Again, respect your business.

I’m Serious

By the way, I was serious about the Friends and Family should pay 15% more to support the business idea. Do we all need more Patrons in our lives?

Can we make that happen?

“Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe it anyway.” – Elbert Hubbard

“In every conceivable manner, the family is the link to our past, bridge to our future.” – Alex Haley

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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Marshall Atkinson also shares exclusive blog content at Supacolor makes The World’s Best Heat Transfer and provides tips, inspiration, and other resources designed to empower professional garment printers.

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