Friday, July 31, 2009

Dealing with the Dilemma of Great Work and Great Friends

There are so many times where we often hear that teaming up with a friend to create a project is a terrible idea. In most cases this is definitely true, unless your friend is also a creative professional. We've dealt with our nightmare, as well as our dream clients, and when it comes time for needing to commission someone to make something for us we can be more than empathetic.

Currently I am in progress with a site for Yaritza Colón. She is a more than fantastic photographer from my old stomping grounds of New England, more specifically Boston. I've watched her style develop from photographing musical events, portraits, and now her specialty of our most memorable moments. Soon enough her work will be able to easily accessed with the portfolio site I'm building and designing for her.

So how do we know it is a great idea or a terrible idea to work with our friends or family?

Make it clear of the process
Treat them like you would any other client, but feel free to divulge the nitty gritty details we oft leave out about process. Tell them if you are using their site as a practice run for some great new CMS you want to try, or even better, CSS3 and XHTML2. Tell them all of these things, because honesty is, indeed still, the best policy.

Set up a schedule and stick with it
Everyone wants something done yesterday, but none of us want to be rushed in our own projects. Explain that we have check points that we intend to reach, and how long each stretch will most likely be. Also impress on them that they have certain responsibilities to the project as well. Be it making sure that they get in their deposit, have the content readily available, and ABSOLUTELY approve of each step. Which brings up a great point.

Have a crystal clear understanding of what is needed
No site should be a series of happy accidents. We aren't painting a picture, we are making an interactive piece of communication. Where we often draft up proposals based on briefs we receive from more established clients, our friends and family probably don't have this down to a science. Hell, we probably don't either. Be involved in making their experience as easy and (happily) memorable as possible. Sure, your friends are probably going to recommend you anyways, but wouldn't it be better if it came as a testimonial? On this project we have had several dialogs educating each other on our relative industries, each time gaining more insight with every word. At this point, through asking the right questions and taking notes of her feelings about what makes a great web experience, I've gotten something more valuable than a brief. Although in the future, when I'm not able to keep the dialogs up for as long, I would create a questionnaire that would effectively do the same thing.

Charge accordingly

Unless this is your first site ever, it shouldn't be free. Ever. Giving our friends and family a steep price break isn't helping either of us. They aren't getting a real world example of the industry, and we are slaving away hours and hours for something that we might actually resent later for the low cost it ended up being. One of my first freelance ventures I made it clear that it was a learning project for me and that I wanted nothing more than to please the client. At the end, I think I got paid like $3.00 an hour after the nonstop changes, and you wont find it in my portfolio.

So, don't shy away from every aunt and uncle that asks you to take the time to do what you do best for them. Just be sure to approach it as a job, put in every bit of effort to make it a stand out project, and get that dollar that you deserve.