The first place that creatives should look for sales when getting started or when thing slow down is their existing network.
Your friends, coworkers, past employers and acquaintances can all be great sources of freelance projects and quick wins.
Often these projects are all you need to get things going and many times one person in your existing network can start a chain of events that can lead to client after client.
But here is the thing, most creatives seem to struggle with this idea of reaching out to people they know about working together.
They feel sleazy, salesy or don't know what to say.
Others are afraid of the idea of working with friends altogether.
The truth is that if you don't handle these projects properly, it is easy to ruin a once great friendship.
My goal with this blog post is to teach you how to work with friends and acquaintances and keep those relationships strong throughout the process.
The key to making sales with people you know
Here is the thing, when you approach someone you know about a sale, you need to remember one thing.
You need to remember that these are real people on the other end.
These are real people and they want to be treated like you have always treated them before.
If you are reaching out to a friend who may be a good potential customer, you don't need to reach out with some canned sales message.
Reach out as a friend, reach out honestly and genuinely to reconnect and find out what is going on in their life.
Once you have connected, try to learn about them, their business and what is going on in their life.
Try to learn if there is anyway that you can provide value.
If you truly believe that you can provide value to them and then you need to make the sale.
If you believe in your service offering, and you believe that it will benefit them, then you are doing an injustice by not offering to help them.
When you frame your sale in the viewpoint that you are providing this friend with value which they otherwise would not get, then it makes it much much easier to handle that sales process and not feel sleazy about it.
Just always remember, those are people on the other end.
Treat them like you always have, be honest and genuine and if the sale is meant to be, then it will happen.
Why you should never work for friends for free
Another big problem that many creatives have when working with friends or colleagues is that they get nervous about payment.
Often this leads to them volunteering their work for free even when the friend offers to pay.
They are afraid of having payment for work getting in the way of their friendship.
The truth is, the exact opposite is the case.
Often when we volunteer our work for free, we can't prioritize it like our paid work. This generally leads to a lower quality output, or having to back out on the project in the future.
I learned this from experience the hard way and hurt a few friendships along the way.
As much as we like to think we can help all of our friends, here is the truth.
Paying the bills will always prioritize doing free work to help someone else.
When you don't bill your friends, you are putting their projects at the bottom of your priority list and you are disrespecting them and their business.
How to handle payment with friends
Be professional and set clear expectations up front just like you would with any other client.
Don't be afraid of the conversation. Discuss payment via e-mail if you are awkward in person or over the phone about it.
But set payment and billing expectations up front.
Collect 50% up front and then 50% upon the completion of the project.
Set clear expectations in either a proposal format or at least in documented written form like an e-mail.
Even if you are just working for trade of services, be sure to set clear expectations on what each party can expect to receive.
An ambiguous payment arrangement is a very quick way to ruin a relationship between two once great friends.
Having clear expectations about billing will keep everyone on the same page and there will be no surprises as a result of it.
Be professional, set clear expectations up front and the project will go smoothly for everyone.
The bottom line
Working with friends and acquaintances is a great way to get your freelancing career started. Often these relationships can be the catalyst that will get you early wins and move your career forward at a rapid pace.
Just remember to always treat your colleagues as humans, never work for free and to be professional in your billing practices.
If you can do these three things then you may land yourself some of the best clients you could ever imagine.