Why you should reconsider working with friends and family
So your friends and family know that you make websites, but do they really realise how much effort and work goes into creating each site you work on? Probably not. This is likely because of a fundamental lack of understanding of what it is you actually do on a day-to-day basis.
You know the situation, someone in your family needs a website and knowing that is what you do, it almost becomes your duty to create that site for them. You are thrust into the limelight with little or no choice, just like the mechanic in the family fixes car related issues or the DIY guy gets roped into small around the house jobs. Here are some tips, ammunition if you will for getting out of this tricky situation that will likely go wrong or become awkward down the road.
The underlying problem
Your friends and family likely do not know how it is you do what you do. They may know you make websites, but the process you go through will be completely alien to them. Sadly with the prevalence of WYSIWYG editors, cheap reusable themes and off the shelf “websites in a box” we are already on the back foot.
I create custom websites from the ground up. My process (in short) will lead us through many stages from first contact and idea generation, to sketches and wireframes, initial design comps and revisions, to final design sign off, front end coding, user testing, backend integration and launch. This is several weeks work, not something easily accomplished in the evenings or my free time, if you want a serious result.
There are many great tools out there to create ‘websites’ (I’m using that term loosely here), Apples iWeb and other WYSIWYG editors allow just about anybody to, temporarily, become a web designer. Sadly this is the plight of our industry.
Money – the root of all evil?
While money is not the be all and end all, this will be a decidedly touchy subject should you happen to be accosted by a family member looking for a website. How much do you charge? Full price, “mates rates”, can you even charge them at all? Do you want to tell your family and friends what your day rate is? This may back-fire come time to pay the bill on your next big night out.
If I was to take this project on I would feel inclined to lower or dismiss my hourly rate, this is akin to asking my wife to take a week off work to baby sit your children for you. Of course she would love to do it, but is it practically feasible? You’re asking me to work on a project for little or no benefit at all when I could be spending that exact time working for a proper paying client, this is unfair and unrealistic.
To charge or not to charge? Doing so will keep you honest and bring a level of prefessionality to the project, on the flip-side it could quite easily cause unnecessary strain on your relationship.
Work hours vs social hours
It doesn’t matter whether you work 9-5 or not, taking on work with a friend or family member will undoubtedly bite you in the ass if you socialise with them on a frequent basis.
I quite enjoy a quiet drink at the pub with you and coming over for sunday roast but I do not want to turn these social events into a breeding ground for project discussion that would have been ideally suited for an actual weekday meeting.
If you must, schedule all meetings during your work hours, not evenings, weekends or your free time. Make them put serious effort in just like all of your other clients.
In my experience…
Personally I avoid close friends and family members as clients at all costs. This has bitten me before and is a lesson you should perhaps try and avoid before learning the hard way. The solution to the problem is two-fold, if they are very serious about getting a site designed then perhaps you could recommend a colleague of yours, if it’s a whimsical idea with little or no budget perhaps referring them to something like iWeb may be the best option.
Have you done work for friends or family members before? Had good or bad experiences? What was your solution? Would love to hear your thoughts.