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#1 sanity

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 10:04 PM

For those running their own business what is your position on working (paid) for friends?

We've always shied away from this but now I'm in a position with someone that has become a friend and wants me to do their site and I'm not sure what to do. I'd love to work on their site but I'd hate anything to come in the way of the friendship.

So I'd love to hear how others handle working for friends.

#2 tomnic

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 11:20 PM

Interesting question. I've done this for a couple of friends in the past and it has worked out generally OK. I think the key is to keep things professional. Write up a proposal as you would with any other client and give them a fair deal. If you can work things out up front then there should be less chance for any misunderstandings that might later poison the relationship.

In one of these situations it is important to look out for any red flags up front. By a red flag I mean someone who expects the work to be done for free or someone who otherwise seems inclined to take advantage of the situation. If any hint of that pops up in the initial conversations then I would be inclined to pass on the "opportunity" as gracefully as possible.

#3 EGOL

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 11:22 PM

Lots of people that I know ask me to help them with a website. I get at least one request per month. I always decline.

I am not really in the business of doing work for others because I have far too much work to do on my own sites. However, I do have a small number of clients that I advise on content and SEO. These people own sites in topic areas that I know very well but that do not compete with me. I enjoy their content and would love to own their sites. Those are the types of clients that I want to work for.

When someone that I know asks it can be very hard to turn them down. Here are the reasons that I do it.

1) I don't know what is in their mind but I am willing to bet big bucks that they would not comprehend the amount of money that I would charge them. They don't know how much work is involved and they might be surprised that my labor rate is higher than their plumber.

2) Second, they would expect me to get their site to very high positions in the search engines and that would require a lot of time, high quality authorship, and link building. They think that I have a magic touch that will get their sites up to high positions. That is not true. (I did help two friends with sites in the past. They were to do the authorship and the linkbuilding and I was to make the site and do the SEO - they did not follow through with high quality content and that cost them the abilty to get high quality links for free. They thought that websites were easy money and learned that they are not. I learned to be picky about who to help with a website.)

3) Friends will have less resistance to coming to my office or calling me with frequent questions and expect me to spend hours of website discussion time with them - off of the professional clock. I don't want those interruptions and don't have time for those duties.

4) Most important. I have too much fun working on my own sites.

I recently broke my rule of helping a friend with a website but it was a great experience. A long term friend owns an important domain and had been working at it for a few years. His content is best on the web but he ranked at #20 for his main terms. The site was built with one of those awful sitebuilder programs. The SEO was awful and he could not change it. This guy is a very hard worker and superb writer. But he knew little about websites. I offered to help him with his site at no charge. He was shocked but agreed. It really bothered me to see his great content at the bottom of Google's second page. One of my employees rebuilt his site in Dreamweaver. He then came to my office an afternoon per week for a couple months. I showed him about KW research, page optimization, analytics, and how to hunt links. He bought Dreamweaver and a ton of tutorial materials - and worked very hard on his own to learn it. We finished working a couple months ago and he has optimized the entire site and is now hunting links. He is up to #4 for his main term and traffic is way up.

So, my new rule is... if you work for friends, pick the ones who are hard workers and already have tons of great content in hand. Then help them for free.

#4 SEOigloo

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 12:16 AM

Wow, EGOL really said it all in that post, Sophie. :notworthy:

The only thing I can't think to add to this is that few professional people give their friends free services. For example, if you've got a friend who is a dentist, would you really expect him to give you a filling off the clock? It wouldn't be right to expect this of someone who works so hard to earn a living. Even if the job is less technically skilled (say, if your friend owns a restaurant) you wouldn't expect him to have the cook feed you for free, right?

I think the main danger in mixing business with personal relationships is that the quality of the personal stuff can become equated with the free business services and if one goes downhill, for whatever reason, so does the other. Worst case scenario: you take this on and then simply don't have the time to rewrite all of their terrible copy for them because you've got to pay the bills working for money. The friend doesn't take this as a business issue...they take it as a personal one because you are personally related. You could lose the friend.

But, if it's a teaching situation, perhaps EGOL is right. If you truly see the person as being motivated to learn to become self-sufficient, it could be fun helping them get on their feet, especially if you know you're rendering help that could improve the quality of a loved one's life.

We've built blogs for my mother, my mother-in-law and one sister, but these were very quick jobs with a quick tutorial on how to blog, and a word of encouragement to get going and learning. After that, it's up to the ladies to make what they can of their own smarts and they know how hard we work already and wouldn't expect us to devote ourselves to their projects, because they know we've got to pay the bills, and because they love us :P

Good luck to you, Sophie! I'm sure you'll make the right decision about this.
Miriam

#5 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 01:00 AM

That can be a tough one - and it really depends on the context. Like Egol says, friends who have already worked hard and have a demonstrated commitment to their websites are people whom I'm far more likely to help out than are people who just want to jump into the "easy" money on the web.

Getting a good sense of what their expectations are and their own skill level is a huge aspect of deciding whether the project is worthwhile.

I have done projects for friends, and I've had good experiences. But I know that it can be a risky business, as well; and I've certainly done projects for friends which have not turned out so well. Thankfully, I haven't actually lost friends because of it; but it's been frustrating.

#6 rynert

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 02:51 AM

For me working with friends on a shared project is ok, working for friends on a salary is ok, friends working for me on a salary is ok.

Being paid for consultancy or on a per-project basis is not something I would do for friends unless it was a simple project that had no ongoing expectations. It's ok to build the site, but I would make it clear that I am doing nothing beyond that.

I generally give advice without a problem, even if it takes a few hours, for my close friends I would help out, but like Egol, for free, which removes the 'expectation' from your friend.

Unless you know and trust them extremely well, I think you are always going to risk your friendship by taking on ongong SEO work.

#7 tomnic

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 02:56 AM

I don't know what is in their mind but I am willing to bet big bucks that they would not comprehend the amount of money that I would charge them. They don't know how much work is involved and they might be surprised that my labor rate is higher than their plumber.



EGOL, that's very well said! This could be applied to many potential clients (not just friends). :P

#8 saschaeh

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 04:46 AM

I have done lots of work for friends, billed them and generally i have had no problems.

The other side of this is: I find lots of good friends and friends 3 times removed coming to me with what they think is the next big online thing. Mostly they are no good ideas or the people that want it are not committed enough.

If the ides is good and the person is right and if they want you involved on an ongoing bases then they could give you a percentage of their business. Recently i have gone into such an agreement. I loved their idea - they have put in lots of work also for couple years but where in a stale mate situation as they did not know how to go forward. I saw lots of space for growth and improvement.

They are the expert in the field but have no idea about building a website or any idea about good Online Marketing. For my ongoing advice and development time i have requested and received 30% of their business.

Yes it has its risks and you cant take on endless amount of projects but you can carefully select some when you feel you have the time to do so and the idea is catchy. Your risk is that you might loss hours/days of consulting and development if the idea is a flop or your new partner is not hard working.

Edited by saschaeh, 14 January 2008 - 04:48 AM.


#9 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 07:33 AM

Never an easy situation, and depends alot upon their personality, your personality, and the type of work to be done.

Treat them like a client, and go through all the steps of dicovering the aims, purpose, ideas, targets etc.
I'm always willing to spend an Hour or two going over things and batting the ball around for a bit.

It helps them get to grips with all the vagaries, and helps you because they start to realise all the different things that are entailed.
From there, simply ask them how they want to proceed... do they want to 'hire' you, are they jsut wanting the odd bit of guidance/support/help, or are they wanting your services for free.

Once you have all that sorted, the decision should be a lot easier to make.
To my mind, making a decision before you have the facts could be bad, unfair or simply cause issues. So long as you make at least a little effort and they can see it, then things should be safe no matter your answer.
(alternatively, if you say no and they kind of get negative over it... that solves the 'are they really a friend' issue that crops up.)

#10 sanity

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Posted 14 January 2008 - 10:58 PM

Thanks everyone for your considered opinions. I should have clarified it's for logo and web design & SEO. Basically building a site and driving targeted traffic to it and they have stated clearly they want to pay for it.

So, my new rule is... if you work for friends, pick the ones who are hard workers and already have tons of great content in hand. Then help them for free.

I hear you EGOL. I actually have done a simple one page for them which has bought success already but they're looking to take it to the next step. It's for an existing service business and I have no doubt of their willingness to contribute I guess it's just we've always had the policy of not working for friends and it's worked well. But I also want to make sure they get the best possible site. I guess the alternative is to recommend someone to them and just advise them as they go.

Decisions, decisions.

#11 rynert

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 02:27 AM

You could do the logo and website, including on-page SEO and then work with them to choose and keep on top of an SEO do carry things forward.

Keeps a clean break between the 'finite' work what has very clear end goals and deliverables, and the 'infinite' work of SEO, where it's not so easy to say things are completed.

#12 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 04:43 AM

I think ...rynert... has highlighted one of hte biggest issues of working for friends (or doing things cheap/free in general);
where do you draw the line, and how to make sure they know of it and abide by it.

In many cases I will bend over backwards, do additional research and digg for contacts/exposure for some of my clients - all as part of the serice... but htis can prove to be high-effort work.
If you are do do such a thing, you need to let them know there is a time limit, or set a figure and when your work reaches that amount, all the free stuff stops etc.

It not only acts as a safety net to stop you running to ground, but it should also help them see exactly how helpful you are being, and generate/strength the bond of client/provider (or friendship).

#13 saschaeh

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 05:50 AM

Other small note: Depends how close you are. I have a hand full of friends that are more like family. If they need advice id give it anytime and would even be willing to meet on a weekly bases over a drink or dinner no probs. If i had spare time i would also put some development time into it but I know there is mutual understanding that they are not expecting it.

I know they would do the same for me. One hand washes the other.

The rest of the world i charge for and treat as i treat any client. Same process same price.

#14 wolseleygirl

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 04:30 PM

I'm starting to think that working for friends, family, or friends of family is one of the big business "no-no's". I find myself in a situation where I provided a client (friend of a relative) with a website for a ridiculously low fee, as a favour to a relative. The original site specs were very simple, and would not have taken much more than a day or two to complete. I give the client the files, do a quick tutorial on how to use the site, the blog, and image gallery, and step away. If only that had been the case :)

Six months later, having completed a site worth 10 x what the client paid, and having repeatedly told the client that all further requests were billable at my standard rates, I have presented her with a VERY reasonable invoice for work done since the site went live. I have been trying to get her to commit to a maintenance contract since December, and she has always said "Oh just keep track of your time". I have continued to humour her because she is a close friend of my niece. As her account balance has edged upward I have been increasingly reluctant to continue, and finally put my foot down.

The client, who has been told repeatedly what my rates are, and that everything she asks me to do is billable, just sent an email telling me that my charges are ridiculous, and not justified. I fully expect to be battling this one out in court.

When will I learn. Never take on business as a favour for a relative or friend. Sigh :frustration:

#15 sanity

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 05:34 PM

Hi Lynne and welcome to Cre8asite.

I'm sorry to hear of your troubles but sadly this is quite common. Without any more information I'm not sure how you can handle this client I but can give you some tips for the future.

First take this as a lesson - sure a hard and maybe costly one but one that you needed (and anyone in your situation). Use it to formulate your policies for the future. I find not working for family and friends works for me. Having said that if you are going to work for a family member or friend make sure you treat them like any other client - contract, deposit etc etc. That way you should both have a clear understanding of what is expected of both of you.

Good luck and I hope it works out for you.

#16 wolseleygirl

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 05:48 PM

Thanks for the welcome, Sophie.

Your advice is spot on. I should have put this person on a contract from the beginning. That has always been my policy, but I let myself get swayed by the fact that my niece asked me.

I am consoling myself with the fact that I have kept copies of every email from the client, with details of everything she has asked for, and the amount of time each request took. When we get to small claims court, I will be able to present all of this to the judge, and get a ruling. I also have the client's banking information, so I'll be able to actually get the money once I get the ruling. Between now and then I expect I'll have to turn off her site in order to get her attention.

Fun and games, sigh.

Edited by wolseleygirl, 04 March 2008 - 05:57 PM.


#17 sanity

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 06:08 PM

You're welcome Lynne. It sounds like you have a good plan - annoying and time consuming but good none the less. Who knows if you inform the client that you'll be taking them to small claims court maybe they'll pay.

Let us know how it goes.



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