How to sell to family and friends without them owing you

How to sell to family and friends without them owing you

As a business owner, your first set of customers are very likely to be your family members and close friends. However, more often than not, these set of people who can be very supportive in the beginning may not even value your business or take it seriously. How do I mean?

Family and friends can treat you like a joke o!

And it can be very painful. My family for example, when I said I was starting my ankara business – they were all supportive. Telling me the dealer to buy from and where to get this and that. Only for me to start business and I start hearing things like “Ronke, give me this gele for the wedding I want to attend next week. Mo ma sanwo later” (I will pay you later)
Ahahn! If I run down my small business with debt, how will it grow? Aunty better go and collect gele from the place you bought aso-oke. Toh!

The hard reality is that family and friends often feel like you owe them, which is why they are comfortable taking things from your business on credit and not bothering to pay up.


The worst part is that you cannot even say you want to disturb them because they will just make you feel bad for asking for your own money

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After all, you cannot call police to arrest them? Unless you want them to call family meeting on top of your head – and you still won’t get your money o!

The good thing though, is that I have a formula that will help you to sell to your family and friends who are unwilling to pay

… and get paid. Not only that, it will also make them take you more seriously and accept that it’s your business and they have to pay for it. 

What you do is simple;

If you really have to sell to them, then all you have to do is keep a record of whatever you sell to them. However, this only works if you have a system of record keeping – not just selling things without having records even if it’s just a receipt book.

For example, your aunty wants to buy a product of N15,000 and she doesn’t want to pay. What you do is that instead of allowing her to go without paying anything, offer a discount. Even if it is as bad as 90% off and she has to pay only N1,500 then let her pay N1,500. Issue her a receipt and make it clear that the product she bought was sold at a discounted price.

What this does is that now you have a record, abi? Next time she comes around, she will know that she did not take the product for free O and will be clear you actually paid for it to keep your business safe! It was a discount that you gave her. So another time, she will come ready to pay the full price. 

Keeping the record and issuing her a receipt instead of allowing her just walk out will give her some respect for you because you are being professional and even if she might say “Am I not your aunty, this one is not necessary nau!” Just smile and say “It is business ma. I have to account to other people about it (even yourself)”

Trust me, she will have more respect and value your business because you have treated her like any other customer and there is no preferential treatment when it comes to your business. It shows that you take your business seriously.

Also, people have more value for things that they pay for.

If you give that aunty that product for free, she will not value it O! She might even be walking on the road and it falls down and she will just shrug and say that after all, she did not pay for it. “But even if she pays as low as N500 for it, she will definitely have a different sense of value for it. 

The best way though, is to let someone else deal with them – that is, if you have someone you work with. This way, they will not bring any over familiarity to your business because you are not around. They will even pay full price sef! 

Another good method is to give them “Family special payment plan” Put “special” there O, so that they will know they are special until they pay your money finish. This plan will let them pay for a product over a period of time instead of paying for it at once. For example, they can pay for a product of N15,000 over a 5 month period (thats N3,000 every month). It will make them accountable because you will make sure that they know they will not get another product until they finish paying for the first one. Issue a receipt for every payment and keep records too. 

The good thing about this strategy is that the ones that start feeling “too big” to pay in installments will either pay up quicker than imagined or they will leave your market jeje so that someone else can buy it. That is a win for you! 

What’s more, when she enjoys the product that you sold to her on a discount, she will definitely come back and have reason to pay full price without any argument. You can say something like –
“You like the service ma? Ehen, now you will help us grow by paying full price ma. Please your patronage will be sowing a seed in the business biko.” 

It’s a win-win right? Because family members are often very good marketers so they will help you spread the word and get more customers for your business. 

Communication really matters because if you make them feel like they are a bother, they will continue to bother you so you have to handle it “jeje”

Now, if at this point, your family/friends still aren’t cooperating, my brothers and sisters – RUN O! This is more than enough reason for you to remove family from your customer base because they will obviously kill your business. There are many other people to sell to asides your family! 

The best thing is to refer them to a competitor as they will take strangers more seriously. This way, you are helping someone else’s business and this will create good will for you in future even with that competitor. 

Have you ever had a family member that refused to pay? How did you collect your money? Or did you just leave it?

Join the discussion

Meet Aunty Ronke


I recently started my own small ankara business and it has been one tough ride!
So I thought, why don't I share my experience to make your ride smoother? Enjoy the ride!


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