Ideas for "friend rates"?

Hi, I know a few designers who would really like for me to print some things for them. But I wasn’t sure about how to charge or price it out? Maybe something like:

They pay materials (can use from their “stockpile” I’ll keep for them).
Setup fee of $20 for artwork, only pay once for multiple of same item.
$1.00 for 2 minutes of laser time?
They do all of the weeding/cleanup.

Anybody else thinking of “renting their GF” out to friends?


‘Mates rates’ is always a tough call.

In my line of work i do mates rates only if the job is very small or an absolute emergency.
There has to be a balance of recognition that:

  1. They are your friends!
  2. What you are doing is your business and their time is your money.

With the above exception i only ever do barter work… i honestly find it cleaner that way, then we both have an appreciation of each others talents, skills and time.
The other side of this is that I never never ask for mates rates myself.

A lot of this comes from my particular philosophical background though, perhaps in the same way that Christians (as a pidgeon-holing example) emphasise Charity.

It really is a very personal decision.


If it’s just for a gift, I give an OK price. If it’s for something that could get me more work and/or is pretty hands-off for me, I make it pretty reasonable.

But then a buddy of mine does finish carpentry for a brewery chain and asked about engraving the ends of 6-pack bottle caddies that he can give their office people as gifts. He needs 20 and only wants one of the two ends engraved, so I told him $10 each. He’s getting me a vector file of their logo (two small lines of text) and supplying the lumber. I’ll engrave 3 at a time, probably 20min per batch. Although it also works to his advantage that we’ve been best friends since we were 3. (if we still lived near each other, I would have done it for beer & some laughs in the garage while his engraved were running)


Way too complex of question for there to be one answer. How close of freind? How big of a job? Are they willing to help?

I personally hate to take cash from a close friend but I have no problem with asking for a favor in return at some point.

I have this one friend that I have made a lot of stuff for and continue to because what he asks is often just enough different than what I do on my own to stretch my horizons. Most of the $$ I have made with the :glowforge: has come from doing something for him and then capitalizing on the new skill! So this guy gets everything free or cheap as long as the great ideas keep coming.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with telling a casual friend that “this is my business and my rates are…”

If they bring the design (or use a catalog design I have) and material, free of charge.
If they don’t have the material, but it’s small enough to fit on scrap, free of charge.
If they need more then scrap worth of material, I might charge the material cost (or have them pick up food/drinks on the way over).
For designs, if it’s something cool and interesting or let’s me learn a new technique, I’ll do it for free, but I want to show it off. Small design changes I’ll do for free as well. Otherwise, I’d tell them to get me a design and I’ll make it.

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More thoughts and ideas here:

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My rule: If either of us are not willing to work all day for free doing something like putting on the other’s new roof , then we are not friends but just acquaintances. And a Friend never asks for your help, unless they have no choice. You offer. Facebook has totally distorted our idea of what a Friend is.


Your friend rate is exactly half of what mine is, which is 1/2 of my standard or “card” rate. My card rate was derived based on the dozen or so commercial laser cutters in the LA area. Because I am in a huge metropolitan area and have and are competition but also have a large pool of potential clients based on our per capita, basing my pricing on competition without dramatically undercutting them we should in theory all win, including my friend, without tanking the market rate for everyone in my area.

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I should have pointed out, that these friends want things printed for them to sell. Like in their own Etsy shops. This would be a regular thing where they just send me a file and ask me to please print it on their piece of wood or whatever. I’m in Hawaii, and have no idea how many others here are trying to do this. I’m in a special niche crowd of trail runners and race coordinators who will regularly want custom medals and awards for the many trail races here on Oahu.

These guys are my inspiration!

Yeah that changes the equation a quite a bit. I’m looking at this same thing right now with an old friend from college and I’m going to treat this as I would any wholesale situation. Definitely more of an “old friend/acquaintance” than a friend-friend, but if they’re making money on it then I don’t feel it’s wrong for me to get a piece of it too. Because if they weren’t paying me something, they’d probably be paying someone else even more.

In my case it’d engraving her insanely amazing sketches, so it’s time intensive when I’m already crazy busy with the laser. And since I’m in CA and they’re in FL, I’d be supplying the material and dealing with shipping finished product back to them.

Definitely keep art-time in mind too. If they’re providing the files, unless you give them a nice crash course about how to design for lasers, there’s gonna be some time on your end to make their art laser-friendly. (my worst nightmare)


I wouldn’t mind running something for a friend, but the setup time for the digital files would be my hangup. If I didn’t have to spend ANY time setting up the file, I wouldn’t mind running it. Unfortunately, few people know how to set up clean vector files or bitmap files.

It’s the same problem for 3D files. My friends aren’t savvy enough to create 3D files, much less optimize them for 3D printing. If they were, I’d allow it.

All bets are off for close friends or someone who wanted to learn something to advance themselves, like a student who just cannot afford access to an expensive machine. I would gladly help them.

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@Mike13 I agree with Mike "make their art laser-friendly. (my worst nightmare) "

Oh wait, my Worst Nightmare is making art laser friendly AND shipping it. Ughhhhhh…


I’d look at what it would cost them from Ponoko and then provide them a friends-discount. That way you have some real intel as to what alternatives might cost as well as what it seems to cost in order to run a profitable venture. The folks at Ponoko have undoubtedly gotten the “make a profitable business” thing down so it’s a good place to start.