handout guyWe’ve all had different types of jobs referred to us by all different types of people. Some referred by other business associates, and some by friends and family. However, one could easily assume that a job for a friend or family member would be easier than one for an unknown client with no strings attached. Doing word for family and friends comes with a host of warnings. I’m going to lay out 5 quick ones:

1. They may expect you to give them the world and in return expect you to do it for free. This is dangerous because it treads on your patience. If you’re just starting out and need to beef up your portfolio this may be a great idea. But if you’re a bit seasoned and have actual paying client then decide on this “charity” work, you may end up in more work than you originally planned.

2. Your work may be subject to difficult scrutiny. Because this is for a “buddy” they are obviously closer to you than your clients. This closeness presents an open arena for them to nit-pick every little thing they possible can about the work you’re doing for them.

3. Actually getting paid. Most designers charge a deposit or retainer for new projects. No work gets started without that. A family member could easily tell you that they’re going to pay you when they “get their check” or give you excuses about all the free things they’ve done for you in the past.

4. Liability. This is a strong warning here because if something goes wrong during the project development, or even after, you’re on the hook not only as a producer but also as a friend. You may be expected to pay for some unseen expenses or even damage control when it may not even be your fault.

5. The separation of friend and client. This may be difficult because you may have daily conversations with this person and part of those conversations need to be cut short in order to talk about business. Its easy when business talk is daydreaming and forecasting on the end result of the project, but when it needs to be about payment, deliverables, due dates, and other key elements of the project it could cause for some phone silence.

I personally have a few experiences dealing with family. I’d say out of four, 1 was truly successful. The other three I’m still wondering what happened or what is going on. And they range from missed payments to projects that were assumed to be free just because.

Your time is valuable, remember that. As a freelancer you really need to focus on what actually makes you money. You don’t really have time to get involved with extra stuff that distracts you from what really matters. Now I say that with a grain of salt, because exposure is exposure. You could have a friend or relative that could render your project some great media attention that gives you a huge boost. That boost may be worth looking over my 5 warning signs above.

I’d love to hear you’re responses to work you’ve done for friends and/or relatives. Had great experiences, let me know your best. Had some bad ones, I’d sure love to gripe with you.