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  • Viva Sarah Press

Should freelancers work with friends?

A friend of a friend emailed me a request to ghostwrite a blog for a company she represents. In the email, there was a deadline, word count and the amount she would pay me.

Another friend sent me a Whatsapp message to check if I could help with a few lines of text. She requested an urgent turnaround and noted I should charge my regular hourly rate.

This blog is a virtual high-five to these friends – and others – who pay me for my work. On time. And without making things awkward. (I give a real thanks, not virtual, to the friends who trust me with their work on a regular basis.)

As a freelancer, it can be tricky to ask for remuneration.

It can be even more uncomfortable when I’m asking a friend.

There are tons of blogs by freelancers on how to avoid making mistakes in the gig economy.

There are blogs on why never to work with friends.

I’ve been a freelancer – on and off -- for over two decades and I still make judgement errors.

I know and understand people who don’t work with friends.

Yet, I still do.

Especially as I am based in Israel. A country known for lacking the concept of “six degrees of separation.” Where everyone knows someone who knows someone you know.

Most of the time, we understand that while friendly outside of the job sphere, in the work realm if they need me to write, edit or present – then they’ll pay me for these services like they would anyone else.

Sometimes I’ll help compose an email or proof a couple of lines as a good gesture.

I’ve found that 90% of the time, friends I help will usually stick with me for future projects that come with a price tag. That’s a pretty good ratio. And a great networking steppingstone.

I also keep our friendship outside and expect them to do the same.

For the friends who find it too embarrassing, I’m just as happy that they pay someone else.

Why? Because everyone deserves compensation for their work. It could have been me. It’s okay if it is another freelancer.

In fact, I turn to my friends-with-skills on a regular basis as well. If I need their help, I'll always note upfront that I expect them to charge me.

That’s not to say I haven’t tripped along the way. If I do have to request payment (because for some reason it’s not obvious that I like to get paid for my work), there’s one reaction that is the worst of them all: the offer to be paid in glory.

Not long ago, one potential client, who got my name from a friend (I do not hold my friend responsible), wrote a pleading email that a speaker had pulled out of an event just 72 hours prior to it happening. I was asked by email if I could step in. I started shuffling my schedule around to make it possible.

After all, if I can help, I always will.

But helping, from my point of view, meant altering my schedule and preparing a talk with nearly no advance warning. I knew that people were paying to attend the talk I would potentially give.

The person offering me this talk had a different kind of help in mind. She wanted me to speak at the paid event for free – after all, I was a friend of a friend. She offered glory as payment, saying I could get my name on the internet invitation.

It’s unnecessary to note that I passed up this plum opportunity.

So, this blog truly is a high-five to friends, acquaintances and of course, clients, who believe and agree that my work deserves remuneration. Thank you for your trust in my work and for making my invoices slightly less awkward.

If you’re reading this and you’re a freelancer – what’s your view on working with friends?

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