Now before we begin this week’s post, I’m wondering how focusing on our last post’s “sweetly simplified action” went? Did you find yourself being too friendly, or too formal with clients, or just right? I’d love to know in the comments below!
And to continue on with this same stream this week I thought we’d fully delve into how to handle working with an actual friend, as the question came up in response to our last post (and by the way, I love it when you ask questions that I can turn into a post! Gives me great material!). So, let’s get to it, successfully working with a friend.
The Right Expectations, at the Right Time
Now to some, working with a friend might sound like a dream. And to some, working with a friend might sound like a nightmare. The reality is, it’s probably a little bit of both. Amazing that the awkward ice breakers don’t have to occur, but awful that the awkward “we need to talk” conversations probably do.
It’s just a bit of a sticky situation and no matter how you play it, it will be a different experience than working with a stranger, or even a client you’ve already worked with. Not surprisingly though, there is one HUGE factor in your “working for a friend” success. One that’s already the answer to oh so many other problems, and that is, setting the right expectations.
But, don’t be fooled by the idea that you just need to set the right expectations. You also need to set them at the right time. I mean, how helpful is it to set the right expectations halfway through a project? As you already know, it’s not.
What is the right time then? Well, it’s when your friend first suggests that you work together. It’s right when that thought first enters her mind and comes out in conversation, that you tell her like it is, or as it would be, then give her the necessary space to think on it.
And I know that may sound a little cold and direct (don’t worry though, you know client friendly language is of top importance and I’ll give you an example below) but it’s paramount to your future working success. To have any hope of things working out well for you both, you have to start by first sharing the reality of what it would be like to work together, and then give them time to consider it. And that’s because the possibility of misaligned expectations is about a million times more likely to be an issue with a friend (or family member), than with a stranger.
They think the experience will be casual and you think it’s going to professional. Or, they think the experience will be professional, and you think it’s going to be casual. It really can be a recipe for an absolute typhoon of problems and hurt feelings. So, in order to kick all of that messy confusion completely to the curb, you want to set those expectations as soon as those words “I need your help with my …” come out of their mouth.
Here’s How I Work
Now, what does “telling it like it is” sound like when it’s for a friend? Well, it sounds like ground rules that openly acknowledge the oddness of being formal together, stated in a way that show how it’s for their own benefit. Here’s what it might sound like.
Friend: “I need your help with my living room. I just don’t know what to do with it and want you to design it for me.”
You: “I’d love to! Working with friends and family is one of my favorite things to do. And even though we already know each other well, I always follow the same procedures, meeting schedules, etc. to make sure that the experience and project is just as wonderful for you as it would be for a client I don’t know. It may feel a little funny at times to be so formal but over time I’ve found it makes for the best outcome. So just think on if that’s what you want to do, and if it is, you can just let me know and we’ll schedule a time to chat on the phone about exactly what you want done!”
And then, you give them a moment to speak, if they’d like. And if they don’t say “let’s go for it”, then you just change the subject. And if they come back to you and say yes, they want to move forward, you treat them exactly as you would another client, starting with scheduling a screening call.
Same Procedures, Same Price, Same Level of Satisfaction
So you schedule it, and then you ask all of the same questions, about budget, about the project details, about everything. You acknowledge yes that it might seem strange to ask all of these questions especially as you might already know some of the answers , but it’s important that you follow the same procedure so nothing slips through the cracks.
It could sound like, “ok, so, I’m going to ask you questions in detail about your project. You might think that I should already know the answers, and I might, but I don’t want to make a mistake because I know you, and assume something that’s actually wrong. So everything we do together from here on out, I’m going to give you the exact same experience as I would with someone I don’t know, to make sure that I give you my absolute all and you end up with a spectacular space.”
And then you just keep going, and going, and going like this, throughout the entire design process. No assumptions, no missed steps, no glossing over things that might seem silly because you already know them. Every meeting, every updating email, everything, is the same as it would be with a stranger.
And why? Because the more you let things “slide,” the more and more likely it is that someone is going to be unhappy. The more likely that it is that you’ll both be unhappy. But if you told them the truth of the formality of the experience from the beginning and then you completely follow through with it?
Well, then no one is left feeling hurt or confused. Nope, instead they’re left with a spectacular space that fits them to a t, and you’re left with a beautiful project that can be added to your portfolio, plus the profits to go with it.
And speaking of profits, a quick note on that. If you’re wondering whether or not you should discount your prices, it’s probably best if you don’t. And that’s because when working for a friend, you’ll probably spend a lot more time on the project than usual.
You’ll spend more time talking on the phone, or in a meeting, or on a site visit, because you’re friends. Or you’ll spend more time hunting down that one thing that you know would make her deliriously happy, because well, your loyalty to her as a friend could make you take some extreme actions that you wouldn’t otherwise. So do both of you a favor, and charge full price. That way, you won’t end up frustrated and feeling disrespected, and she won’t end up with a friend whose frustrated at her for something she didn’t ask for.
So that leaves us with this week’s sweetly simplified action,
Sweetly Simplified Action: Write up a canned response in your own words (or use mine if you’d like!) to have at the ready for the next time a friend or family member asks for you to work with them. And then, read it over and over again, and keep it somewhere close to you. Resist the urge to be casual, and devote yourself to delivering the same, spectacularly well defined experience that you would give to anyone else, ensuring that the only thing that comes out of the project, is a beautiful space.
Let me know in the comments below, have you ever designed a space for a friend or family member? How did it go? I’d love to know!
And if you’re looking for more ways to find just the right balance with clients, then take a look at what we’ve got for you here!