Working with friends

Freelance life

I started freelancing out of a befriended network of makers. I appreciated working with them and sometimes forgot 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:

Contracts
Forget contracts for smaller projects. You are working with friends, and you won’t file a lawsuit against them just because they don’t “get” it. Instead, focus on communication.

Expectations
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.

Deadlines
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. Communicate potential issues early if you feel that you cannot hold a deadline. If you don’t set deadlines, you run into a non-predictable und less manageable project.

Changes
Always make apparent that modifications and revisions need to be within the project-scope outlined before. Make this point very clear in the beginning. Every client tries you to change something and then something more. That’s cool to make a project unique, but it can also become a threat to your business. Take care to stick within the project-scope or negotiate for more money and another deadline.

Payments
Always work with payments upfront. Payments should be split into halves or thirds. At least you need to cover your running costs. Let them know, and they will understand. Another side-effect of upfront payments is to underline the seriousness of a project.

Copyrights
If you don’t make a contract, mention beforehand that the copyright of your work won’t be transferred after all. You should release your work under a license, which clarifies usage-rights. Make clear that swapping copyrights needs 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 into your next project and clear expectations in the beginning, to keep your relationships healthy.