Are you mixing friends and business?

There will come a point in your life where you will find yourself mixing friends and business.

The line between work and play will be blurred, crossed, and could put you in a tricky situation.
mixing friends and business
I personally have crossed this line on more than one occasion.
And no, its not always ended in disaster.

Here are some different scenarios and, as always, some tips on how to deal with mixing friends and business:

Mixing business with pleasure?

I’ve never hid the fact that I started mixing business with pleasure little over 5 years ago.

I met John in Dubai and we started working together. And yes, we ended up getting married.

The outcome could have been very different. We could have been badly burned and had to walk away from a lot of hard work, time and investment.

Tip: If you do find yourself mixing business with pleasure you need to be aware of the potential outcomes:

  • If it all goes belly up you will lose both your relationship AND your project/business.
  • If it goes fabulously well, you could end up in the South of France, with a ring on your finger, a new last name, and a kid.
  • Be aware that just because you get on really well on a personal level does not mean you are going to work well professionally. Working with your partner/spouse is seriously challenging (and isn’t for everyone!)

Mixing friends as colleagues and suppliers

We all have friends who are amazing at something. That “something” could be really useful to your business.

For example, I have a few amazingly talented designer friends who could work magic for both my business and my clients.

I have in the past outsourced work to a friend and it almost cost us the friendship. Why?

Well, to my friend, I was just a friend and the project wasn’t taken seriously. Deadlines were missed, communication was informal and unclear, and I got into sh*t countless times with my manager over a tiny project.

Tip: If you find yourself wanting to hire a friend to work with you, you need to consider the following:

  • Is your relationship worth sacrificing?
  • Does this friend understand this is business and have the capacity to be professional with you?
  • Understand that you are probably a different person professionally, and your friend could be the same.
  • Outline your expectations clearly from the start and manage them throughout.
  • Schedule meetings and make sure they are in a professional setting.
  • Keep all communication related to work professional. Keep the chit chat for another email or call.
  • Consider hiring someone you don’t have a personal relationship with in order to preserve your sanity.

Giving away your trade to friends: The Tipping Point

I know that a few people have come to me over the years for advice about marketing their business and about life as an entrepreneur in general.

Usually I am happy to give away some pointers, some thoughts and suggestions but there comes a tipping point.

The tipping point is when you actually become a FREE consultant. And, we all know what I think about all things FREE!

You shouldn’t work for free. Ever.

How often do you go to a restaurant and see the owner giving their friends lunch for free every week?

Tip: If you have a friend who is picking your brain and you are getting nothing in return this has to stop. Now.

  • Explain that this is your trade. This is how you make money. If they want more they need to pay.
  • Realise that you are devaluing your expertise by giving things away for free.
  • If you are helping them MAKE money then you should be sharing in that!
  • Understand that business is business – and businesses make money (or at least they should).
  • If you friend doesn’t get it, well they aren’t a friend, they are a user.
  • Helping a friend in your free time is one thing but it’s a slippery slope.
  • Be aware that you may have already created this problem by giving too much away and not defining the boundaries.

Mixing friends and business is a tricky situation.

There is no one size fits all solution but I’ve outlined the possible scenarios.

Remember, if they are making money using your advice, expertise or trade, then you should too.

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16 Responses to Are you mixing friends and business?

  1. Great post! Looks like you have learned a lot from working with friends. I found that I can’t work with my friends because I am bad at confrontation. It was too hard for me to reprimand them when they needed it. So for me it works best to keep my friends out of my business. Some people can do it, I can’t.

    My husband for example, has a very successful working relationship with his best friend of 20 years. They are professional, creative and always meet their deadlines.

    I think this is a much needed post about knowing what you are entering into before you make a commitment.

    • Hey Amber, I’ve learnt this the hard way – there are sooo many facets to it too … sometimes not realising your worth until afterwards can leave you excited that you finally know your potential or it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Some friends can work together as long as they have the same drive, goal and working style … you work with Eric and it works .. I am sure you have the explosive moments like John and I do … but that’s normal eh?? LOL!

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. Hi Ameena,

    It seems that you’re still inside my head 🙂

    I have a lot of experience about mixing business and friends, and especially from the past weeks, after I started my business. A few of my friends are buying me pizza every time they want advice, and I’ve been fine with that, because I love pizza (but I’ve come to realize that pizza isn’t going to pay my mortgage), and I got involved helping a friend on a project (because he couldn’t do it himself), and I still haven’t received the payment. It’s been more than three weeks after the deadline of my invoice.

    It’s hard to say no. Because I really feel that I’m helping my friends.

  3. Hi Ameena,
    It can be a tricky area but not to be avoided. I have friends who are clients and I also have clients who have become friends! I think the trick with friends is to be very clear with them upfront that when doing business you will treat them as any other client – you will challenge them, expect them to hit deadlines, and, of course, pay you – and on time!
    I agree with not doing it for free – I made that mistake once, and it got difficult when I got to the stage that I felt I was being taken advantage of. Sorted it, but never to be repeated!
    Thanks for this!

  4. Wonderfully put, Ameena.
    It is funny (not ha-ha) how many of us actually have been bitten by this exact issue.

    There are so many levels of this and they all seem to (sadly) lead me to believe exactly how you put this into words.

    I believe, personally and over the last few years, I have finally come to understand this on a different and clearer level. It is respect. It is either there (both ways) or it isn’t.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Good thoughts Ameena.
    Sometimes friends just need to be friends. Saying no to a buddy is hard when it comes to your livelihood. I turned down a friend recently but instead of just saying no I sent him some contacts of other aquaintences that could do the work for him. I help him out and did a little pay it forward at the same time.

    For me all this is simply equity. I truly believe that the more you build on relationships the more value you get in the end; both for your network and your own personal growth.

  6. Hi Ameena!
    I think every connection needs to be carefully handled in business as you do hope to have a good relationship with suppliers, clients etc. and some of them can become friendships.
    My husband and I work together but we started doing that after we married, and only after a lot of hard thinking. It’s worked fine for us, and especially for the kids who saw a lot more of their father than most of their friends did of their fathers. (we work at home).
    The place I get in trouble, and it’s just a small thing, is when a friend pays me for my product or service with cash and I neglect to count the cash in front of them, count it after they leave and notice they are short – augh!

  7. Great post! I am a hairdresser of 5 years and have plenty of clients that I consider my friends. Yes I’ve had certain issues with friends making up their own prices or just show up without money and giving me “IOUs” or offer to buy me drinks or food in exchange, its awful!! I feel so taken advantage of yet I dont want to lose my client or friends.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Paul – I have been offered cupcakes in return for my services and I’ve always been polite but firm and said “The day that cupcakes become a recognised currency at the electricity company or supermarket then I will be glad to accept them. In the meantime my fee is X” At the end of the day money can mess up the best of friendships and you can end up ruining it all by not being clear that business is business. Stay strong! Know your worth and don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve!

  8. Great article!

    I find it difficult to say no to people (especially friends) when they ask for favours or advice, and I know that it devalues what I’m doing, and eats into the time I could be spending on paid projects! It’s tricky though, because I WANT to help people, and if I had enough money to do what I do and not get paid for it, I probably would… but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a business and I SHOULD be getting paid for the time and work that I do.

    Your advice is good though, and I feel like I probably need to resist the urge to say “YES! I’ll help with that!” and put more of a business head on, and learn to say no 🙂

    • Hi Ross, thanks for sharing your experience!
      Saying NO is really hard but really important – it does take time to resist the urge to say “YES”.
      Another helpful thing to do is to create a documented policy or terms and conditions – if nothing else so you know where YOU draw the line.

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