Whether as colleagues or clients, working professionally with mates can be fun and productive – but it’s a risky business. So if you don’t want your creative collaboration to kill off your friendship, avoid these five faux pas…
1. Letting money cause a rift
Money can’t buy you love – but it can buy you beef.
In the early days of a project you might all be happily working for free but, eventually, money could become an issue. Say you and your friends run a regular live-art night, where some of you perform. After six months you start turning a profit. Where will that surplus dosh go? Back into the project? Towards paying the acts? Into the pockets of the organisers? People will have different ideas about this, and that can cause friction.
When commissioning work, don’t take the piss. Assuming your photographer friend will do those promo shots for your new band for free or at super-low mate’s rates is unfair on them. Being your bestie doesn’t mean they don’t have rent to pay.
Yeah, it’s awkward, but you’ll save yourself resentment and weirdness in the long term if you’re upfront about finances from day one.
2. Slacking off
Once upon a time, some mates and I decided to write a radio sitcom. Our working title was Squatstenders. It was essentially EastEnders set in a squat. I know – genius or what?
But a funny thing happened. Every time we sat down to our fortnightly writers meeting we ended up spending two hours swapping gossip and cracking jokes. Needless to say, we didn’t progress beyond episode two and it certainly never made the airwaves.
The lesson? Great japes don’t necessarily produce great art.
3. Cutting your friends too much slack
In work, unlike in friendship (hopefully), you assign roles, delegate tasks and give people feedback about how they’re doing.
Adapting to this set-up isn’t easy. Sometimes you’ll ask your mates to do stuff and they won’t. Are you going to nag them? What if you think their work is rubbish or that they’re being lazy – will you tell them?
Countless creative projects have flopped because friends weren’t prepared to confront each other’s failings along the way. Don't let yours be one of them.
4. Compromising your creative integrity
Picture this. You’re a painter and your dearest, oldest pals are getting hitched. They ask you to paint their portrait as a wedding gift. Your thing is intricate miniatures in muted tones. But they want big, bold and brash; fireworks in the background and their pet pug in the foreground – dressed as a pageboy.
Don't do it. You’ll hate them forever.
5. Taking the project more seriously than your friendship
Still arguing about how best to light that final scene in the pub on a Saturday night? You’re entering dangerous territory.
Is it really worth jeopardising a friendship by falling out over the finer points of filmmaking? If the answer is no, maybe you’re making a mistake by working with your mates. And if the answer is yes, then perhaps you’re not such great mates after all...
What's your experience of working with your friends? Leave a comment below!
Image: Painting by pennuja on a CC BY 2.0 license.
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