It’s lovely to be referred by friends and family, but what happens when it IS a friend or family member who wants to use your services? One can make the huge mistake of assuming that this kind of ‘client’ is the easier option as there is an emotional bond with a no strings attached underwritten rule. However, working for friends or family can come with a host of problems.
Consumption of time. The time it takes to make a single garment whether that is a wedding gown, occasion piece etc is exactly the same as making the item for a paying customer. In many instances it can take anything from 70 hours plus to months depending on complexity. However, you may be expected to a) do the job for free or b) heavily discount because that’s perks of being a friend isn’t it? With this in mind the work is going to be subjected to scrutiny. Oh yes it is. There is an obvious closeness for a friend or family member which will immediately allow them to nit pick every single opportunity they can. You’re a buddy and won’t be offended so you can suck it up cant you?
Payment for the job in hand. I will always ask for a deposit. I have materials to buy, but as it’s for a friend or family member, I can hang on until they get paid can’t I? Or, remember years back when they did that huge favour for you? You know, the one you returned which seems to now have been forgotten? Then there is the discount issue again. You’re a mate so of course there has to be mates rates which again means that the job in hand doesn’t take any less time because they are a friend. In fact, because there is an emotional involvement between you, you actually pour your emotional heart and soul into the project. I have friends however, who wouldn’t dream of asking for discounts. It’s my prerogative to give them.
If something goes wrong. This is a biggie because if something goes wrong, you’re going to be right in the firing line. There is the emotional damage to think of here and if there are going to be differences of opinion, it could cost your friendship/relationship. This could be anything from having to actually charge full price for the task you have undertaken, or in the design itself. If you are a photographer for example and you’ve shot the most awesome (your opinion being the professional) images, to then see them all over Facebook or other media platform where the images have been cropped, tinted, or ‘doctored’ is going to be a bit of a shock. They can do that cant they because you’re a mate and you wont mind. Much the same as a gown. You spent hours with the design, ordered the fabrics, constructed the gown with appropriate fittings to then find the gown has been taken elsewhere for amendments because the friend/relative didn’t quite like how it looked and just didn’t have the heart to tell you. Suddenly, the design doesn’t belong to you any longer as someone else has had their mits on it, but the friend/relation may not tell people that’s what they’ve done (of if they do that’s going to look really good for you isn’t it?)
Separating the relationship from client. Because this is the job that you do on a daily basis, it’s easy to separate the friend/relative/client relationship isn’t it? But is it from the friend/relative perspective? I’ve made a few gowns for friends/relatives and most have been perfectly successful. The first wedding gown I made was for an old school friend. You could almost say it launched me into this career. Over the years I have ‘gifted’ gowns as wedding presents and yes, have discounted the ‘mates rates’ However, time is valuable and while you are discounting you are still working just as hard. I don’t think the ‘mates’ actually get that. As a designer or photographer or cake maker or florist you really need to focus on what actually makes you money. Do you really have time to get involved with extra stuff that distracts you from what really matters. Making money to pay the bills, because that’s what they get out of bed for isn’t it? Now I say that with a good pinch of salt, because the bottom line is exposure is exposure. You could have a friend or relative that could render your project some great media attention that gives you a huge boost. I’ve made gowns for free and have had some extremely good exposure and am happy to continue to do so.