Saturday, January 26, 2013

Business + Personal: Working with Friends

In business we work with people that we have mutual interests with. Sometimes friendships are developed during this process. Heck, it can be inevitable at times. Your creative colleagues are sometimes the only folks who you could watch a documentary on Helvetica (yes, the font). We can be nerds with these folks and they really get it or add it to it. You may even have a friend that was your 1st client and continues to support you through your process. Support i.e. embarking on business ventures together and hiring you for personal projects.

Just because we’re friends, you don’t have a pass to be late for a job. Or to forget about an appointment. Or to jeopardize your clients for the sake of a project with your friend. Or to assume that I will work with you on a project when I said “maybe”.

All of these things can lead to a messy situation. Ultimately becoming detrimental to your friendship. Friends and business can mix; but, only if there is open communication in regards to expectations and professionalism.

Our clients have expectations from us to deliver outstanding service, quality product and professionalism. These same principles apply when working with a team. Regardless if you are friends, everyone needs to deliver their best in all situations. As friends, there should be an unspoken agreement regarding these basic principles and values. If something is lacking, then embark on a conversation with your friend. Exercise those listening skills. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. Hear the root of the issue. If you cannot hear it, then ask your friend to give you specific examples to illustrate their point. If your friend is on the defensive, ask a probing question to illicit a more detailed response.

At the end of the day, you are both professionals and business is business. If you can’t keep your emotions out of it, don’t work with your friends. If you are progressing and you notice that your friend is stagnant; don’t continue the work relationship. Let’s be honest, certain friends are only in our lives for a season and reason. If you have a strong relationship, kill the business side and opt to just do “friend stuff” i.e. gossip about reality shows, wine festivals and skating.

Try not to live by the barter system. One person can get used to you working for free, but honestly, it is an insult. Overuse can lead to resentment. With proper communication, this can be avoided. We are self employed (no 401k’s over here). Bills have to be paid; therefore, rates should be discussed. Images can be used as currency i.e. TFP. Even with images, you may not get what you expect (here’s when clear communication comes in). But a picture is more tangible than an empty promise.