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.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My adult son just decided he had had enough of his job, which he has hated for several years, so he quit. I couldn't believe it. I understand that you can be disgruntled at work, but I was taught to keep your nose to the grindstone and tough it out -- unless, of course, you are being abused. He just didn't like it. Now he has asked to move back home while he figures out what he wants to do next. I am furious. He should have made a plan that allowed for him to find another job so that he could remain self-sufficient. I don't want to say no to my son about coming home, but I also do not want to enable him. How should I handle this? -- Uncommitted Son, Silver Spring, Maryland
DEAR UNCOMMITTED SON: Welcome your son home -- with provisions. Give him a lease with a fixed rent that he must pay monthly. Help him create a timeline for finding a job and saving money. Schedule weekly meetings where he must present his plans. If he does not agree to your terms, tell him he has to live somewhere else.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-boyfriend from college just lost his ex-wife. They were divorced for years, but they have a child together, so they stayed in touch. She had breast cancer and didn't survive. Their children are in middle school and obviously upset. I feel so sorry for him and want to be there to support him. We have stayed friendly over the years.
The problem is that my current boyfriend is jealous of any of my past relationships. He has demanded that I not communicate with my ex. I think this is ridiculous and do not want to agree with his demands. I am a grown woman. I am not interested in this guy. I want to be a friend to him at a time when he is in mourning. I plan on calling him. Should I keep it to myself or let my boyfriend know? I'm not trying to start an argument, but I also don't want to start hiding my actions from him. I feel like his possessiveness could eventually be a deal breaker. -- Jealous Boyfriend, Denver
DEAR JEALOUS BOYFRIEND: If you have any hopes of your relationship with your boyfriend turning into something long-lasting, you need to be able to be honest with him, especially about how you intend to handle a tragedy.
First, call your ex and express your condolences. This way, you do not allow the drama that may ensue with your boyfriend to get in the way of being appropriate about this death. Find out if there is anything you can do to help. Then tell your boyfriend that you called your ex to let him know how sorry you are. Tell your boyfriend that you hope he understands, but you were clear that you had to show up for this moment. If he doesn't understand, tell him that you two probably need to assess your values to see if you are a match. You must figure out how to agree when a crisis arises.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently met a nice guy at the gym. Not only is he nice, he is also super buff. I asked him what he does to get such a great body, and he told me that he was incarcerated for a few years, and working out was how he kept his head. This admission scared me. I didn't expect him to talk about doing time. I have never met anybody before who admitted to being in prison.
I didn't ask him what he did to land in prison. Part of me feels like it is too pushy to ask, but if I don't know, I don't think I could be comfortable dating him. Do you think it's OK to ask? What if I find out that he did something really bad? -- Ex-Con Date, Raleigh, North Carolina
DEAR EX-CON DATE: If you want to get to know this man better, be direct and ask him to tell you his story. You want to know who he is and what he has done. The more you learn, the better you will be able to decide if getting to know him more and dating him is worth it. Don't decide until you get the whole story. People do make mistakes. He may be in a new place, ready to forge ahead.
DEAR HARRIETTE: This will be my second time going on a business trip for my company. There are five of us who will be traveling and staying together in one house, and I am not looking forward to it. Last year when we did this, my boss was way too demanding. She wanted all of us to eat together every day. Sometimes that was OK, but other times I just wanted time to myself. She thought nothing of calling meetings late at night, since we were together. There seemed to be no boundaries.
I want to have more space this time, but I don't want to offend my boss. This may not seem like a big deal, but we work 12-hour days regularly. When we were away last year, my boss acted like we were on 24-hour call. We are not being paid for that time. I need personal time, even when I am working hard. I am not a slacker. I give my all, but I need time off, too. What can I say or do to protect myself? -- Work Trip, Detroit
DEAR WORK TRIP: Talk to your boss privately before the trip. Tell her that you are committed to getting the work done to the best of your ability, and point out that you need downtime during the trip to do your best. Lay out your concerns. Tell her that sometimes you need to eat alone, and sometimes you need to be in your room or go for a walk or otherwise have time off so you can give your all when you are working. Let her know that you want to make her aware of this because last year she asked for more than you can offer this year. Add that you are not trying to make anything difficult for her; it's the opposite. She will get more out of you if you can recharge your batteries while you are on the trip.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I visited my hometown this summer and ran into a few people I do not remember well. Here's the thing: I moved away many years ago while most of them stayed home. They have stayed close and built their lives around each other. There's something nice about seeing how close they are. On the flip side, it was awkward for me, as I am not part of their world anymore. In fact, I don't remember many of the stories we shared in high school. I would like to get reacquainted with them, but I feel like they have an inside story that I don't know. Also, they seem to put me on a pedestal because I went to the Big Apple and built my life while they stayed at home. How can I manage this situation? Part of me would like to get to know these kids as adults. -- All Grown Up, Bronx, New York
DEAR ALL GROWN UP: If you have decided that you want to devote time to reconnecting with these people, start by telling them. Admit that you don't remember many details from your past, nor do you want to live in the past. Tell them that you would like to get to know them today and forge a friendship in the present. Tell them you appreciate the relationship that you witnessed among them and you would be honored to be included in their circle. Be fully present as you see how things unfold. Let the relationships take time to blossom.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a daughter who is in her last year of college. She is very social and gets along with everyone. This may sound a little weird, coming from her father, but I am kind of concerned about the fact she has never had a long-term relationship.
I don't suspect she is interested in women (even though I would not have a problem with that), but she has never had a man who she was particularly interested in, either. I am put in an awkward position because this is every father's dream -- never having your daughter's heart broken -- but I also think it's an important experience in life. Do you think this is abnormal at her age of 22? Would it be appropriate for me to bring it up with her? -- My Daughter's Future, Los Angeles
DEAR MY DAUGHTER'S FUTURE: Your daughter is not abnormal. While many young people do navigate the dating world when they are in college, some are more focused on their studies or just haven't found the right person to spark their interest. Ask your daughter about her life. Do so without judgment, though, which will help her to open up. Start by asking her if there is anybody special in her life. Do not assume that there is not just because she hasn't told you. If she says no, ask her if she has dated at all in college or if she wants to. Allow her to share her thoughts, and know that this should be an ongoing dialogue. You do not need to get a complete debrief in this first conversation.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106