“Don’t work with friends! It will end your friendship!” We all hear this from all sorts of advisers for all sorts of professions and products from home fix-ups and repair to medicine and finance.
When I graduated with a design degree, my friends couldn't afford to buy most of what I was selling either in product or in specialties like cabinetmaking, draperies, specialty painting. As time marched on and I started my own firm, friends would sometimes call me to tell me that they had decided to do a project and specifically NOT work with me. They didn't want to risk our personal relationship for a professional one. Perhaps they feared disagreements about style or about money? Then, as always, there were those who felt they didn't need a design pro at all because and were talented and resourceful enough to do it on their own.
OK...So? First, I have friends with really ugly houses done by other design professionals. I mean really ugly. Then, I have friends who ”did” their own houses with those products made for a day and time and it’s been some years and who knows when or how they will ever update. Also, I have a few friends who had bad experiences either with poor product choices or unprofessional services. That makes me sad for them. And, happily, I have friends who have had lovely homes where I think they have continued to overpay for the results, but they look great and I am happy that THEY are content.
For me, this is what’s important: In my professional practice, I tell prospective clients that this is a relationship beginning with a personal as well as a professional connection. We begin by working together to a common end. As time goes on and we discover what they like, and by the time we watch the plans come to fruition we have met, talked and shared ideas and personal stories. And, we've probably gotten to know each other quite well. Now Client and Designer have, to an extent, become friends. And I’m always so pleased!
Since we've all grown up, I would say that almost every friend I spend time with (regularly, even if not often) has asked me for Design advice and/or work. The work has ranged from designing a new kitchen back splash to help with remodeling a whole house to adding pillows and selecting art. I have chosen fabrics to upholster dated sofas, redone lighting layouts and chosen built-in and/or decorative lighting, plus I've recommended dozens of paint colors (and combinations) and custom finishes. I’ve purchased fancy wallpaper for a powder room and helped design a window treatment for that bath. I've designed custom mirrors, fireplace surrounds and all sorts of items that should be done with proper advice. It’s been great fun to work on various professional offices, too. Some of these friend/clients are those who had wanted another Designer some time before.
My first independent project ever was for a bachelor “friend of the family”. He had known me since childhood. It was fun and I had the opportunity to do some features in that project that were custom and unusual that I haven’t had a chance to do since. He probably had more trust my custom detailing than almost anyone has since. It was fun AND successful. Some years later, when he got married, his wife’s taste was SO different from his, so we did a bit together to figure that out, too!
If you have a Designer/Friend whose work you respect and who has great contacts and a good reputation as a business person, I really don’t understand the problem in working together. In other professional transactions, I work with friends and acquaintances because I Trust Them.
(Is this where I say that, in my childhood, I remember that women I knew had their babies delivered by their—same-- OB/friend…um?)
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