Freelancing for Friends
I’ve taken on a new website project—for free. My client is my friend, and the entire project process is exactly the same as any other client except that money will not change hands.
Even with all the freelance work going on, I recently decided to help a friend with a new web project. It’s not a complex project, but it will be a significant investment in my time. I have also decided not to charge for this work.
The project—essentially a news site targeting a niche market—is a good opportunity to stretch my creativity beyond my usual taupe, corporate design mindset. The website will encapsulate new colors, new design ideas, new layouts and really set itself apart from other sites in its market, which are cluttered, table-driven, ad-laden pieces of digital poop.
I’m treating this like a real project. My friend becomes the client. A project folder gets set up. We maintain a schedule. Deadlines are set, goals are marked. Everything runs on the same schedule as a normal project except that no money changes hands. I will even send him annoying e-mails asking the status on the site copy.
My father-in-law is a successful small business owner, and is well versed in the nuances of entrepreneurship. He has one piece of advice when doing business with friends or family:
Fair enough. But I have found that contention always centers on money—almost by default, it becomes the greatest point of stress. In the past, business with family and friends has been awkward because there is a degree of built-in guilt whenever I’m totalling an invoice, and the temptation (at least for me) is to cut corners and give them discounts, usually without them even knowing. I’ll be the first to admit this is bad business.
So this time it’s all or nothing, and I choose nothing. I prefer not to have the shadow of cash looming over our efforts, and I think we would both be more comfortable entering the project as partners rather than entrepreneur/contractor.