How to navigate the delicate art of mixing business with family and friends.

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We’ve all worked with friends or family members in some capacity, whether it’s subcontracting a project to a pal, cleaning your cousin’s gutters or going into business together. After all, who doesn’t want to spend time with their favorite people empire building or problem solving?

I’ve been running a publishing consulting business for eight years with one of my closest friends and it’s been an absolute pleasure. But for every success story filled with easy collaboration, there’s a project that I had to pull the plug on because it was pulling focus from other lucrative work, had no end in sight or was in danger of damaging a friendship.

No matter if you’re the hiring manager, the talent or a business partner, adhere to a few rules to ensure a successful collaboration that leverages your relationship while mitigating any potential snafus.

Spell things out. You know what happens when you assume, right? Don’t make an a** out of u and me … or yourself and a loved one. Instead, overly communicate, even if something seems obvious. It’s not. Your millennial daughter might assume that her schedule is flexible while you expect her to show up during regular office hours. Or you might think a project is due in two weeks when your bestie is expecting a partial deliverable in two days. Pin down deadlines, deliverables and overall expectations right from the get-go so you don’t have to constantly course-correct with awkward conversations.

Put it in writing. Formalizing every work agreement protects both of you and makes work, payment and deliverables crystal clear. When I work for friends, I email proposals, statements of work and contracts — and ask them to sign off before I begin a project. This has the added benefit of preventing scope creep, which can happen to the best of us. Without guidelines, you’ll wind up putting in extra time and creating extra materials at no charge.

Friendship isn’t free. I’m all about trade. I’ve swapped editing services for personal stylist consulting. I’ve also offered a standard friends and family discount for my services. But gone are the days that I work for free (sorry, mom). Value your services and abilities, and your tribe will, too. Clue your friends into your going rate so they know what a screaming deal they’re getting with your discount.

Treat a friend or relative the same as you would any client or business associate. Keep it profesh, formalize your business relationship and be clear in your communications. In return, enjoy working with someone who’s fiercely loyal and is invested in your shared success.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at