3 Rules for Working with Friends (Without Getting Screwed Over)

3 Rules for Working with Friends (Without Getting Screwed Over)

Friend discounts, sometimes called “bro deals” by the uncouth, can be dangerous waters to wade into.

Ask anybody and they will likely have a tale of a working with friends gone wrong, especially when it involves one (or both of you) creating something. It seems that designers are often the ones who end up with the biggest horror stories.

Things often so south in one of two ways:

1. Working for Free. Instead of spending time on client projects that actually pay well, the designer ends up working with friends for free or insanely cheap to create something for a client-friend who never fully appreciates the work (because they got it for free). 

2. Huge Delays. Since the designer is doing it for free or insanely cheap, they end up taking forever to actually finish or they do a sub-par job, making the client-friend wish they’d just asked a stranger.

So how do you prevent these things? If you’re the one doing the work, then the simplest way is to treat your client-friend like a client. Plain and simple.

Set a Price Immediately.

When you’re asked to design something, no favors are being done for anyone by being vague on the price.

Settling this right away means that everything going forth will be some sort of business transaction. There doesn’t have to be the final weirdness when the project is done and they just offer to buy you a pitcher of beer or their cold sweat when they see their bill. And yes, unless this is really something you can finish in twenty minutes, or it’s a gift of some sort, you need to charge them

Set a Deadline.

If you’ve settled on an amount of money, then that means you have to follow through.

While you may be charging them a lower price, you still have to give them a realistic idea on when the project will be done. Maybe you’ll have to bump it lower on your priority list, but it can’t just be shoved aside until you start getting panicked emails from them. Give a date like you would with anyone, and if you really consider yourself a professional, you should be able to hit it and still do a good job.

3 Rules for Working with Friends (Without Getting Screwed Over)

Invoice Them.

Don’t hand over the finished product and then say they can pay you whenever.

Don’t sheepishly try and back out on the price you initially gave them. Just type up an invoice and send it off. That will usually spur them to respond as businesslike as possible with your payment.

Now, we said this was simple, but we didn’t say it was easy — you may not feel very comfortable being so stiff when working with friends. It may even make things uneasy between you during the process. But from experience, most people will say that a little uneasiness between friends during the process is worth it if the friendship is still there at the end.

Check out Becoming a Successful Freelancer and learn more about how to navigate tricky relationships in your freelance business.

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Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.