Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Clients Professional

A slippery slope for me has been working with friends. Working with people whose company we enjoy has been instilled in us since grammar school. It is why I worked with my best friend for our science fair project when I was 12. We liked The Simpsons, pro wrestling and George Carlin records. That should have made the project go smoothly, right? Not necessarily.

Perfect Strangers

I once heard Seinfeld co-creator Larry David talk about a preference in performing stand-up comedy among a group of strangers, opposed to friends and family. I feel the same way. There is a sense of familiarity with people you know, but ultimately, there is more on the line. I think of it like selling a car to a friend. If something goes wrong, a relationship is also at stake.

I am fortunate enough to work with my good friend Cara on an upcoming freelance project. We had met at my last job and have a younger brother/older sister relationship. We really hit it off as she is also a “big thinker,” has a similar sense of humor and trusts me. My “sister from another mister” and I get along great, but we also butt heads like family as well.

Walking The Line

When working with a friend, I feel more pressure. I feel as though I have to work twice as hard to make a personally invested client look terrific. It causes me to change my creative process. I’ll have a 20 minute phone conversation with Cara and have some hearty laughs, but then hang up and realize we didn’t really talk about the project at hand. When at the same job, we both grew in our respective roles together. When the time came to design a campaign for her, we both assumed the job would be easy. Instead, we clashed. I felt she took the task too lightly and she felt I took the task too seriously. The job eventually came out great, not withstanding some bumps in the road.

The previous story was a valuable lesson. When walking the fine line between friend and client, treat a friend like you would a regular client. It establishes professional respect. I have worked a few more jobs with friends (they know I work cheap) and they are impressed with my work ethic. I never like to “jinx” the job until it is completed. When it is finished and they are happy, then we can grab some food, laugh, celebrate…and I won’t complain if they want to buy a few drinks, either.

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