So your friend has asked you to work for them on some level (whether that is on a full-time position or simply covering their event). We have all been there. When starting out in the photography business, most of your initial clients will end up being your friends. You will be building your portfolio and it is important to utilise these relationships. Working with friends can cause quite high levels of stress on some as it may feel as though you need to walk on eggshells around said person, but never fear – contracts are here.
You may feel slightly awkward asking a friend of yours to sign a contract, but NEWS FLASH – it will save you in your time of need.
About a month ago I had a conversation with a good friend of mine about their business. He was speaking about how he was tired of shooting his friends weddings because it always made things more complex than they needed to be. “I feel bad telling them no, cause you know, we’re friends – it makes things weird.” He said. I asked him whether he had had the couple in question sign a contract stating their full agreement, and he shook his head.
The problem with this concept is that if you do not sign a contract ahead of time, nobody will understand where responsibilities lie, neither party will know what questions are allowed to be asked and neither person will be happy with the result as both will feel cheated in some way, shape or form. It means that anytime you say that you wouldn’t normally advise or allow clients to behave a certain way, they will respond with “But I figured since we were friends, you could make an exception.” Without agreeing beforehand (in writing) to certain scenarios, it risks making situations incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.
As I said, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work with friends. It simply means that you need to be a little bit of a fortune teller, covering all of your worst case scenarios before they ever come up.
If you force even your closest friends to sign contracts which state the full agreement between two parties, they will be forced to treat you as a professional and not just their peer. It will cover your butt and make it easier for you to say no as you can always just point back to the original agreement and state that what they are asking for wasn’t clearly stated in the contract, therefore you are not obliged to give anymore than previously agreed upon.
I say all of this from experience. I cannot even begin to explain to you the amount of times where I have had to politely and gently nudge my friends to refer to initial agreements that were made in order to make them understand that they will not be receiving special treatment. That may make me sound like a bit of a harsh person, but at the same time, it has saved me headache over headache about losing a friend simply because they thought I didn’t appreciate them enough to treat them on a different level than I would any of my other clients.
So… How do you ask your friend to sign a contract without deeply offending them? I’m glad you asked.
Be honest. Tell your friends that you value your relationship far too much to allow a job to interfere or get in between you. Tell them that it’s simply a policy which you’ve adopted for everyone and must therefore comply with. You cannot break the rules or else you will need to break the rules for others as well. It’s as easy as that. Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.
About the author:
Viivi here. You may see my name on a few posts around here. I’m a photographer currently based in Plymouth, UK. I travel with Viivi N. Media worldwide covering weddings, engagements, portraits and family shoots. Head over to our Facebook group and let’s have a chat!