How Freelancing Can Ruin Friendships

Cheney Meaghan Giordano

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In my brief year-long stint as a web designer, one of the projects I took on was a website for a friend’s organization.

At first, I was happy to get her business because I knew she had money to spend and I’d rather her spend it on me than use some boutique business way out of my league.

I was just getting started and could use the experience and reviews, and she knew that and was excited for me to do the job.

But the excitement for me only lasted for that first discovery meeting we had, and everything went downhill from there.

I learned very quickly that there are perils to having your friends be your clients, and some of them are bad enough to bring ruin to a friendship.

Your friends will expect you to charge them less.

Whether they have less money to spend and you’re doing them a favor by lowering your rates, or if you know this client has money they would have spent elsewhere and you need to be firm to get them to dish it out, getting your friends to pay you what you’re worth is probably going to be a struggle.

You can avoid this by having clear boundaries before you start a project and treat your friend like any other client, and if they push back, you stand firm and remind them of the rates you agreed to.

Your friends will be more in your face.

Unlike regular clients, friends have access to your cell phone number and feel free to text you whenever they want, and soon they’ll be texting at all hours about their project.

When you spend time together and aren’t working, they will want to ask how things are going or offer their new advice that makes your head spin without your planner in front of you, and generally, your time together will be much less enjoyable.

I know, I’ve been through this before.

Some friendships will become very strained if you take them on as a client because they aren’t going to understand that you aren’t on the clock for them at all hours.

You don’t want to disappoint your friends.

While juggling a friendship and client relationship, you have to still do the work on the project they’ve hired you for.

Not only are you grateful that they’re giving you a chance while they could have gone elsewhere, you are extra nervous about not disappointing them with the finished project.

Meanwhile, they’re constantly hovering over you giving their ‘helpful advice’, wanting to renegotiate your rate at the last minute because their cat got sick or something, and now you’re even more stressed out about a project you may not get paid well for and want to be extraordinary.

All because you’re doing it for a friend.

Sometimes, what you end up with is a stellar product with a side dish of resentment for your friend, and there’s only one way I can think of to avoid ruining a friendship if you are going to take them on as a client:

Set clear boundaries and stick to them.

That is the only way you can work for a friend and not come to resent them — or at least be completely annoyed by them — in some part of the process.

Set your rates and be hard as stone about keeping them.

Make them sign a contract just like everyone else, and don’t let them negotiate you down or get a friend discount unless you genuinely want to give it to them.

Set boundaries on when you will discuss the project, and when it’s off-limits.

You won’t be talking Wordpress plugins at your friend’s birthday party or talking color schemes for the fifth time over breakfast — those details will remain in your scheduled meetings, just like with other clients.

Deliver the best product you can, and don’t take things personally.

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to impress your friends even more than your regular clients, and that added stress isn’t good for your relationship.

You have to remember that if your friend isn’t satisfied some way with their end product, you can’t take it too personally. You did your best work under the contract you both agreed upon, and extra edits are, well, extra.

But the best way to avoid conflict in working with friends?

Don’t work for your friends.

That’s my ultimate bit of advice.

I bet you knew it was coming down to this. 😉

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I write about parenting, family, relationships, education, disability, mental health, and a whole lot about writing.

Salem, CT
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