Working with a friend? Read this first.

So you have this – like awesome! – friend whom you ADORE. You do everything together. You have the same tastes in clothes. You watch the same films, read the same books, go to the same meditation seminars and blog summits and – oh. my. god. – both came up with an idea that will SO rock the world, that it won’t even know what hit it!

OR They want to hire you to do that logo for their small start up that they’re finally launching.

OR They have no money, but NEED your services NOW.

OR You need THEM cus they’re just amazing at what they do.

OR. OR. OR.

I love it. I wish you luck. Please read this article first and ask yourself the following questions NOW, before you go wild creating stuff together (or you go on working for them) that may impact your future relationship forever.

WARNING: These are NOT comfortable questions. They are simply necessary and true. And I beg you to answer them as honestly as you possibly can, at least in the quiet recesses of your mind.

For collaborations:

1. Do you have complementary skills?

Complementary skills means that if you’re opening a flower shop and have no other partners or advisers, that one of you be good at the books, while the other at flower arrangements. SO many businesses have fallen flat on their faces because both partners were, well, sorta impractical. And neither watched the books, didn’t understand (and feared) money and the practical aspect of it.

If both of you are really into PR, someone has to do the actual building / making / working on the business from the other angle. So if you’re both clear you’re not that person, get someone to help you ASAP, and take the pressure off the friendship.

That way, both of you can do what you love.

2. If your skills are not complimentary, but one will clearly have to do more work, have you discussed the ramifications?

If you have ANY idea what it takes to run your own business, you will stop and breathe before doing any kind of partnering with anyone unless they can bring the same amount of energy and help and support and whatever is necessary to the table as you.

If they don’t, you’ll be running the dang thing yourself, and only taking 50% of the profits. No bueno. You’ll hate them and yourself for it.

Make sure work is evenly divided, and that if in the beginning one of you has to do more work than the other because of the skills possessed, that there is a balance agreement and fairness clause, either in the profits, payouts or work down the line. Sign stuff on this matter.

3. Is one of you the CLEAR business bringer?

There were several occasions when I was asked to go into a collaboration around design and web development. They wanted to partner with me, and at first I saw it as an asset. Until I realized I would be the main business bringer and would have to split my profits 50/50 while doing most of the work. They were good at touchups and minor stuff, and I did everything from top to bottom.

I realized this when the lawyer we hired (thank GOODNESS we decided to do the paperwork before any kind of partnering) advised us to determine the pay structure we would do for our business.

When we ignored the form for 2 months, we both knew something was up, and upon closer examination, I realized I really didn’t want to do any collaborations like that at all. I’d be losing out the entire time. We discussed it and remained friends (until they ripped off my design ideas and another colleague’s course structure for themselves. Let’s just say I got lucky when I didn’t go into business with them.)

If your friend is hiring you:

1. Are you doing it for free? At a “friend rate”?

Stop. Think about this fact: When people get things for free, friends or not, they are 100% bigger pains in the butt than if they have to pay for it.

Why? Because when you offer stuff for free, you usually also don’t set clear boundaries around where the free ends, and the folks who get the free will keep asking for other things / fixes / additions, etc. In terms of services, free eBooks and stuff, this doesn’t really affect.

So before going forward, make sure you actually – yes, do this – write up a short agreement. If you’re in business for yourself, I recommend that you ALWAYS have a contract, so just simplify the one you have, set clear boundaries, ask yourself if this is actually fair, and go ahead.

If it doesn’t feel fair, set a barter agreement or come up with a discount that truly feels good. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel like a victim and your relationship will suffer.

If you’re feeling like a victim you wont do a good job on the job, affecting their project as well, and that just doesn’t feel good ever.

If you’re hiring your friend:

1. Are you setting clear boundaries, offering compensation and requesting to be treated like a client?

The last thing you want is to be treated like a project that “can wait” when it can’t. How do you make sure someone takes you seriously? You have a timeline, a budget; you pay and you show up.

If you don’t have money and your friend is doing you a favor, set clear parameters of barter (please, just offer SOMETHING so they don’t feel like idiots spending time on your project instead of their own stuff. This breeds resentment.)

If you really can’t trade anything, I don’t know what to tell you. You have something you can trade so they feel valuable.

2. Do you HAVE to work with them?

After years of working with friends, I realized that the only reason to do it – really – is if I pay them their going rate and if they’re really really good at what they do. Otherwise, it doesn’t work out.

Or I create fair barters with them.

My friend is a wonderful wood worker. I traded him web hours for a custom desk. It was made from scraps, so he didn’t have to buy material, and we thus traded hour for hour, as we cost the same at the time. It felt wonderful. I helped him, and he helped me. I still have the desk and love it.

The final and most important question: Are you communicating and being HONEST about your feelings and how this new working relationship is affecting you?

This is the mother of all questions, and I hope that the answer is “Yes!”

With one of my dear friends and past clients, we would discuss EVERYTHING that bothered us and worked it out each time. We were in business together for 2 years, and worked together daily. This was a really magical relationship because we communicated through even the most uncomfortable of things. Without it, we surely would have stopped being friends and broken our working relationship.

We no longer work together for mutually beneficial reasons and are still great friends.

That’s it!

If you can get really honest with yourself here, you can seriously save a friendship and make some money together. Or at least help a friend out without hating them in the end.

  • Laura

    Excellent post, as always. I wish I would have read years ago. But experience is a great teacher 🙂 Thanks for sharing your wisdom ~ you can feel it come through your words.

    • Oh yes. 🙂 I wish I read this a few years ago as well. But it can get very awkward – until we get properly burned at least once – to discuss financials and other “formalities” with people we care about. Once we get burned, we know it’s ok and necessary to protect both the business and the relationship… Much love.

      • Laura

        I only needed to get burned 3 times! lol. Once with a friend (in my 20’s) and twice with family. But I can say I am much more confident and clearer now in my business dealings 🙂 And the family relations are excellent! xo

        • What did you feel were the most troublesome issues in the family involvement? Was it the lack of boundaries in the beginning? Or the lack of equality? I’ve never gone into business with family, so I’m very curious. Thanks!

  • Laura

    I would say with one it was lack of boundaries and doing it for the wrong reasons – to help / ‘save’ (oye!) her after she came out of an unhealthy marriage. I thought it would be something that she would love and could excel plus lucrative. I think I lost about 6 x’s more than she did. And the second was a total blindside. It was madness. I experienced what it was like to be attacked for hours a day by the most intense pain bodies I have ever experienced! lol It affected my health, pocket book and drove me to watch the 700 Club daily!
    The gift – I healed (well, still healing) some deep patterns from past lives 🙂

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