Want a free year on Tuts+ (worth $180)? Start an InMotion Hosting plan for $3.49/mo.
At some point in your life, someone close to you will seek out your illustration or design skills. Trust me, if they haven't asked you yet, they will. So what happens when friends and family become your client? We've put together some tips to help you out.
Bad clients are a nightmare. But imagine if they could follow you home or track you down on the weekend for an impromptu consultation. Not a nice thought is it? This is what it's like to have a family member or friend — turned client — who cannot respect your professional relationship. The following list is a few ways to avoid any conflict and help keep everyone involved happy, including yourself.
Family, Friend or Partner?
Think about who your client is and how well you get along with them. If it looks like the project could fall apart due to personal differences, don't be afraid to refer the work to someone else. There's no point in taking a project to avoid a fight if there's a high chance of having one later on.
Is the Request Realistic?
Family and friends may have a high opinion of how skilled you are. This is great, because it means that they believe in your skills. But a best friend who thinks you're a superstar can expect more work from you than you can hope to achieve. Before you start a project, you need to sit down with the "client" and discuss exactly what it is that they want you to work on. If the response is along the lines of
"I really like Amazon.com, can you make a site like that for my small business?"
kindly inform them of how much work goes into the project, and exactly where your skills begin and end. Don't try to meet unrealistic expectations, there's a high chance that you will let someone down later.
Ask for a Written Brief
Another place where people can go wrong is informal project briefs. These often take the shape of a quickly written facebook message, or even worse, a few comments from a conversation that took place without you. An example of this would be a friend who needs a logo for their business, and the only direction you receive is,
"Make whatever you like, I'm sure it will be great!"
No matter who the client is, you should always ask for a written project brief. It doesn't have to be overly complex but it should outline the basics such as, ideas, audience, purpose and timeline. Work together for as long as it takes until you both have a clear idea of what is required. This will save you a lengthy revision process later on.
"Communication" by Bucket'o'Thought
Just because they're close to you doesn't mean the project should be infinite. Setting deadlines will give you some leverage when it comes to chasing up payments or assets. This is especially true for multifaceted projects such as websites. Many people want a website but often don't think of content creation as their responsibility. A deadline will help you break the project into small milestones and assign outside tasks to the appropriate people.
Negotiate a Fee
Negotiating a fee isn't always about money. If you're committing yourself to someone else's project then you should ask for something in return. Can this person help out around your house? Do they have a skill, such as accounting, that you would find useful? A little bit of give and take will help grease the wheels of co-operation and won't lead to any ill feelings if the project requires some extra time and effort on your part.
Do You Have a Story to Share?
Have you ever worked for a friend or family member? Was it a great experience or did it put a strain on the relationship? Share your story in the comments section below.