I started freelancing out of a befriended network of makers. I appreciated working for them and forgot sometimes the business side of my job. I found myself spending more time on projects for less money just to see happy faces. I still face such situations nowadays, but I want to share some learnings which led to healthier relationships:
Forget contracts for smaller projects! You are working with friends and you will not going to file a lawsuit against them just because they don’t ‘get it’. Instead focus on communication.
Set expectations early: Most people have no idea what it takes to realize their projects. You are the expert — onboard them! If they fail to give you a good briefing write a step by step list based on your assumptions on what exactly is going to happen. Brian Krogsgard of Poststatus published a few great lines to onboard clients for small web-projects.
As a freelancer you have to keep an eye on your project schedule. In most cases you are working on many projects simultaneously, which makes it hard to guess how long something will take. Not to mention: Unplanned changes, which screw every deadline. If you set deadlines, set them for you and your friends. They should react to your work in an appropriate time-frame as well as you should deliver on time. If you cannot hold deadlines communicate issues early. If you do not set deadlines you run into a non predictable und less manageable project. I am still having less sleep because of unoptimized project management… Question to the more experienced freelancers: Will this get better anytime soon?
Always make clear that changes and revisions need to be within the project-scope you outlined before! Make this point very clear in the beginning. Every client tries you to change something and then something more and more. This is cool to make a project unique, but it can also become a thread to your business. Take care to stick within the project-scope or negotiate for more money and another deadline.
Always work with payments upfront. Payments should be spitted in halves or thirds. At least you need to cover your running costs. Let them know that and they will understand. Another side-effect of upfront payment is to underline the seriousness of a project.
In case you do not need the money right away you can waive upfront payments for reliable friends.
If you do not make a contract just mention beforehand that the copyright of your work will not be transferred after all. You should release your work under a license, which clarifies usage-rights! Make clear that swapping copyrights need to be negotiated and set on a written paper signed by you both.
That’s it. Your clients are not perfect, neither are you. Keep that in mind when heading in your next project and clear expectations in the beginning to keep your relationships healthy!