How to Work with Your Toughest Client: Your Family

Doing freelance design work for a family member or friend can be super stressful. While some freelancers have no problem working with family, others would say that family projects are miserable.

In fact, some freelance designers have a policy not to work for a friend or family member and regularly refer those design projects to colleagues.

There are times, though, when you can’t turn down a friend or family member without causing a major rift. This post provides some pointers to help make friend and family projects go more smoothly. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Working With Friends and Family Can It Ever Work?

Ten Tips for Working with Friends and Family

So, you find yourself working for a friend or family member, but you don’t want the project to deteriorate into bickering and fighting. What can you do to keep the project running smoothly and protect your nerves at the same time?

Depending on your family member or friend, some disagreement may be inevitable. If you don’t ordinarily get along well with them, you can’t expect working with them on a design project to be any different. But there are some things you can do to minimize the damage:

  1. Manage expectations. Explain what you do and how you do it to your family member. Show them some of your samples so that they have an idea of what to expect. Give them a realistic timeframe. Don’t promise more than you can deliver.
  2. Set limits. While you are managing your friend’s expectations, be sure to explain what you will not do for them. If you don’t work evenings or weekends, let them know that. Make sure that the scope of the project is clearly defined.
  3. Listen. Listening is a vital part of any freelancer/client relationship, but it’s especially important when you also have a personal relationship with your client. Don’t let familiarity get in the way of hearing what the client is really saying.
  4. Communicate in writing. Even if your discussion with your relative is verbal, write down the main points and email them to your friend or family member. Ask them to review the email. It will be much easier to remind them later of what you agreed to if it is in writing.
  5. Pick a project leader. Avoid dealing with a group of friends or family members. Too many bosses always spells trouble. If your project is for more than one friend or family member, make sure only one of them is in charge. Explain that this is how most projects work.
  6. Stay cool. Nobody can punch your buttons better than a friend or family member. However, the best way to preserve both your personal and professional relationship is to stay calm. If you feel yourself getting angry or upset, give yourself some space until you can recover.
  7. Charge a fee. If you can, charge your normal rate. If you feel compelled to work for free because of the personal relationship, at least tell them how much you would normally charge. This will help them to see that your time is valuable.
  8. Don’t gossip. Even if your friends and family members are ordinarily your support group that you talk to when projects go bad, don’t turn to them about this project. Don’t complain about one friend or family member to another friend or family member.
  9. Separate work. As much as possible, keep work and your personal life separate. No working during family get togethers. Work on the project only during business hours. Don’t let them push you into working on their project 24/7 just because you are related.
  10. Do your best work. Above all, once you accept a project from them, your friend or family member becomes a client. It is still important to have a happy client. Do your usual good work for them. A satisfied friend or family member may become one of your best references.

What Do You Think?

Do you work with a friend or family member?

If you have worked with friends or family, what problems have you had? If you don’t work for friends or family, why not?

Share your answers and experiences in the comments.

Image by ramsesoriginal