How to refuse to do extra work the client wants you to do for free, politely?

Question Icon
Posted by: from Toronto
8/31/2018 at 8:05:56 PM

Hello. I started my own business and I have a really frustrating problem. Almost half the jobs I do I have the client asking me to do extra work and they don't want to pay for. They always say something like oh if you don't mind can you also do this? It should only take a few minutes.

I used to just say yes to be polite but now it's just making me angry and I don't have a polite way of going about this. Like do I say how much will you pay me for that? What do you guys say in a situation like that? Also, would you do extras if you think it'll own take a few minutes or do you not do extras at all?

I did this job today and they ask me to patch a small section of ceiling drywall where the paint was chipping off so I was like it'll only take a few minutes so I said sure. I patch and try to paint and when I go to paint it starts ripping off other sections of paint... So I ended up doing more work for nothing. So even if I think it'll take a few minutes I want to refuse extra work if I'm not getting paid for it. Is this reasonable? Imagine if we agree to a price and at the end of the job I say hey pay me an extra $200 for no reason. Is very similar when we agree to a scope of work and the client wants to add work...

User Icon
Date/Time9/1/2018 at 11:48:51 AM

take payment immediately after completion of the task. Also keep a change order book with you at all times. Write what is requested by the client and price it out. Have the client sign off on it. Also take before and after pictures of the work to be done.

User Icon
Date/Time9/1/2018 at 4:16:03 PM

Make an another contact write it down all extra things and make them sign and ask for deposit of extra work too .never add in same contact thank you

User Icon
Date/Time9/1/2018 at 4:30:12 PM

Put it in your first quote as a disclaimer that any extra work will be charged. Or verbally we say, we can but it will be charged as an extra, time is money especially for your own business. Take an invoice pad with you when they ask if you can do something bring it out and write it down in front of them, shows that they will be billed for it.

User Icon
Date/Time9/1/2018 at 7:35:21 PM

Learn to say no. Finish first your scope. After go for the extras. always with money. I just to think like that. Be polite o humble no pay for gas or your bills. Do a list of all extra work and ask for money

User Icon
Andrij from The Garage Gurus in Calgary
Date/Time9/1/2018 at 7:56:47 PM

It's a great idea to have a change/work order book with you at all times. When a customer asks for extra, which they will on a regular basis, grab your change order book and write extra tasks in the book with a cost associated with it. Get the homeowner to sign any changes to the original scope of work. Dont be shy either, homeowners aren't dumb, they know they will have to pay for work that is not included in the original contract. It is good to always do a little extra but make sure you decide what that extra will be.... clean a surface or shovel a walkway. These little extras you do will encourage referrals, repeat business and ultimately grow your business in the least expense way.

User Icon
Date/Time9/2/2018 at 2:22:32 AM

My wife calls me The Good Samaritan because I often do the same thing like you do, and I know the feeling. I still does that though occasionally but I based on two things: 1. If it's just a very small job, then I willing do it so as to please the customer; 2. If client has more big jobs to be done in the future, then I would gladly do the additional small job for free, and in this way, I would probably have a bigger chance of getting more jobs from the customer in the future.

User Icon
Date/Time9/2/2018 at 6:08:17 AM

Good morning Angelo. As a fellow contractor I feel your pain. I have avoided this problem with simple paperwork. Before you begin any job my friend, take time to prepare a written estimate...not quote...estimate. A quote is a firm price while an estimate is subject to change.To preserve my reputation I try very hard to stay at, or below my estimate but things can and do happen. In the estimate list the job description and be very specific listing all work in point form. Now if the client asks for anything other than what is listed on the estimate you can politely tell them that you will do the extra work for a good price since you are already on the job-site. But free is not a good price for anyone. Hope this helps. Your friend in business. Ron

User Icon
Date/Time9/2/2018 at 1:23:28 PM

Hi Angelo

This may only seem difficult if you do not write things down. Never give a Estimate on the spot unless your writing it down word for word. A copy for you and a Copy for customer. Put as much detail in that Estimate as possible, and at the bottom put a note stating that all extra repairs and or materials not described here will be EXTRA. Make this very clear to the customer

from the very beginning. 99% of the time there is no problem.

User Icon
Matt from Kirkland Roofing and Exteriors in Parkland
Date/Time9/2/2018 at 2:32:55 PM

Always sign contracts stating the scope of work involved.

Anything over and above will be an extra cost.

If the "small" thing they would like you to do does not take to much to get done. It may be wise to oblige and be helpful. (At times this will turn into more paying work for you in the future.)

If this is happening to often and the customers ask politely for an extra service to be completed. Then politely say you will do it at a discounted cost. And state your discount.

User Icon
Darlene from Miller Homes Inc. in Oshawa
Date/Time9/2/2018 at 2:51:19 PM

We have a detailed contract with everything written out that's included, step by step, so both sides know what is included. If they ask for something else, either at presentation of the contract or later, we sometimes say, yes we can do that for you, or if it's something that will take too long or cost too much we'll say, I'll figure out a price for that and get back to you tomorrow.

There will be times that you will underestimate the time or further problems such as the paint problem you describe, but experience will help you avoid most of those. Don't ever agree to re-use brick you take off, as the labour to clean it is ridiculous and all the mortar will never come off so it won't look right when done. Always look at the job before your price it. It's always more complicated that client says.

User Icon
Date/Time9/2/2018 at 10:20:50 PM

understand how much this is really frustrated specially when the clients think that all of these extras are just tiny thing and you have to make it for free and most of the time they did not even appreciated.Try to eliminate doing things for free even if you just charge a small amount of money at least they understand that you will charge them and will not continue asking for free items all the way through the project as it always ends up more than items and not only just a single request.

User Icon
C.M.R.S from C.M.R.S in OTTAWA
Date/Time9/3/2018 at 8:34:11 AM


I understand your frustration.

It happens at almost every job. If the client asks for extra work you say Sorry but that was not in the scope of work or estimate, if I do this extra work for no charge it might bring more surprise work then expected. If I said yes to extra work for you I would have to say yes to all my clients requests for couple of extra minutes of free work here and there. my company would be under if I started to do extra work for free.

I only do what is on the scope of work. No more no less.

Or say sorry but that was not in the scope so it will be an extra charge.

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area.

Find your home service pro
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.

Get quotes from top-rated contractors