How to Work with Friends or Family Without Getting Screwed Over

Being a creative person who provides a service for a living is a job that provides so many perks (some of which are better than others). Your friends and family members likely saw you grow up and knew you before you started your creative career. This means they knew you back when spat-upon their shoulder as a baby or perhaps they witnessed that time you barfed inside your own boot in college (just me?). This means they view you as a person who is imperfect and real rather than the imperfect, real, professional you are. Because they don't know much about the service you provide and have an imperfect impression of who you are, they likely don't respect the service you provide simply from lack of knowledge.

After being jerked around and pushed over through numerous pro-bono projects for friends or family, I've developed a concrete system that works perfectly for me when handling these projects from the first inquiry to the first creep-up on that scopey scope.

No Matter What

Make them sign a contract!
The contract protects them and you against the timeline dragging on and makes sure there's a clear set of deliverables. It also helps you prove to them that you're a badass professional!

Be professional!
You want this person to understand that you're good at your job and you should be taken seriously. Treat your friend or family member with as much professionalism as you would any real client. This helps them to reframe their vision of you from the angsty teen you once were to the hardcore pro you are today.

Option 1: Pro Bono

If you're willing to do this project for free, this is the first option to give them, but with a few stipulations:

You have creative control!
They should be allowed to give you as much information upfront about their needs and preferences as they'd like, but you are the professional, not them. This means you have 100% creative control over the vision. They do not get any revisions! If they'd like to push you around and get revisions, they can choose option 2. This means you'll end up with a project you're very proud of and it can be a great opportunity for you to play around with different styles or be curious about trying something new. These projects are great for if you're wanting a portfolio piece in a certain area or are looking to practice a new skill.

This happens on your timeline!
You're busy because you have real, paying clients or a jobby job to deal with. If they want to choose to have you do this for free, it must happen on your timeline, not theirs. You should be upfront and create a calendar of deliverables to keep yourself on track, but those deliverables should be scheduled when is most convenient for you.

Option 2: Discounted Rate

This option allows you to treat this friend or family member exactly as you would a regular freelance client, but make sure to do the following:

Show the original and discounted price!
Whether you're giving them a 5% or 70% discount, make sure to show them the original price of your service, crossed out, with the discount applied. Make them see just how valuable your services usually are and how good of a favor you're doing for them! It helps them to understand your worth.

Build out a timeline, scope of work, revision schedule!
Be as organized with them as you would a regular client. Create a timeline with deadlines for yourself and for their feedback, give them a certain amount of revisions, and make sure there's a defined scope of work. Without all of this, they'll end up creeping on the scope and asking for more favors. Without this structure, you might end up with a toxic situation or an awkward relationship going forward. Eeek! Nobody wants that.



Just the TipsMeg Lewis