There is an old saying that you have probably heard: Never mix business with pleasure. Basically because most of the time it results in a lot of awkwardness and the possible end of a friendship. But when you are starting out as a freelancer, sometimes your first clients tend to be acquaintances, or even close friends. You aren’t really in a position to turn down a paying gig.
But working for a friend can be really tricky because you may feel weird about charging them for your work. And what if they are slow to pay, or not pleased with your product? It can just get super icky. Here are a few tips to try to make it as painless as possible:
1. Just treat them like you would any client
It may feel a little awkward at first to send your friend an invoice, but you just have to do it. This makes your business relationship very clear and hopefully they get it and will follow suit. If they get mad, then you may want to reevaluate the situation.
2. Give them a (small) discount
You could offer to give them a “friendship” discount, but don’t devalue yourself. Or maybe give them a discount for something in return for services. How can they help you? If you do some work on their site, could they refer you to a handful of clients or maybe offer accounting services?
3. Do it for free
Maybe you have enough money to do this. If you can, great, but make sure it will not take up a ton of your time and that you really want to commit. Otherwise you might end up feeling resentful. But the friend needs to give you something back, whether it is introductions to paying clients, cleaning your house, buying you a drink every time you hang out with them for the next 25 years, a lifetime supply of cookies, or helping you move. Unless it is your mom, there needs to be something given back to you.
4. Set a timeline and stick to it
When you’re doing some work for a friend, it can be easy to push the project to the back burner. To avoid pushing off the work and getting into an awkward situation, set a timeline for the project. You can even make a deal with your friend to only “talk shop” during the scheduled meetings.
5. Set boundaries
No freelancer wants to end up out for drinks at the end of a long week only to have her friend ask about the status of the logo design. If your friend doesn’t keep work and play separate, drop hints that you don’t want to talk about work while out with friends, and if they still don’t get it, don’t be afraid to pull them aside.