ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to be a Good Consultant When Clients are Friends

Updated on August 10, 2018
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

Source

The Toughest Consulting Gigs You'll Ever Get

One of the best things about being in a consulting business for yourself is the opportunity to create new friendships within your network. But when those "friends" decide to become clients, these relationships enter a whole new, challenging dimension.

Drawing the line between what is friendly conversation and what is "consulting" can be tricky. Brain picking or "I just have a quick question" requests can back a consultant into a corner. Answer the request, forfeit the fee and save the friendship? Or stand firm, charge and possibly jeopardize the friendship and the sales?

Why I Might Not Want Coffee With You

It's no secret that I love hanging with friends at popular coffee shops. But that's also where I can get myself into trouble when I meet with business friends.

The atmosphere is friendly and the conversation easily meanders from family and fun to business. Then a "What I should do about...?" question enters the exchange. This is a little like a brain picking bonus round. This is consultation without compensation.

Best defense is to be prepared for the "coffee consult" request. Kindly suggest that the topic would be better addressed in an official engagement.

Sign Off or Sign Out!

If a friend is amenable to officially doing business with you, you may be tempted to dispense with some of your normal procedures and paperwork. DON'T! Always get a sign off from your friend on whatever paperwork you do with non-friend clients. If things ever go awry while working together, you'll be glad you did.

Keeping Friends Accountable

Another tough aspect when clients are friends is holding them accountable for payments, performance and deadlines.

As friends, you may be aware of some financial challenges your client friend is facing. So it may be tempting to be flexible on payment due dates or forego prepayment requirements. Beware of these situations:

  • Services easily lose their value once rendered. Clients who are financially challenged can sometimes slip into "Well, I don't think it was worth that" mode when an invoice arrives. A prepayment policy can help prevent some of these situations.
  • Pay to play. If you're aware of a client friend's financial difficulties, be honest about your expectations for payment for what you are offering. Again, a prepayment policy might help your friend become both financially and emotionally invested into working with you.
  • Discounting dangers. If you feel inclined to offer a friend discount (hint: a discount is never required!), make sure that all invoicing clearly shows the regular price and that it was discounted, as well as why it was discounted. The danger in discounting is that your friend could mentally peg the value and price of your services to be at the discounted rate from here to forevermore, not to mention that she may tell her friends what she actually paid. Then your client friend's friends may be expecting that rate, too. When discounting your services, you yourself may also slip into thinking that you won't provide your standard level of service to make up for the lower payment. Don't automatically discount for friends without considering the consequences.
  • Setting boundaries. If your client has had anytime cell phone, email and texting availability with you, you may need to set some boundaries and procedures on access during your engagement. Be clear about what will and will not be allowed. If you do wish to continue to have regular "friendly" chatter while consulting, then be very careful to call out when the connection veers into consulting territory. If not, you may find that you'll be giving away hours of unpaid consulting time.

Setting expectations for performance and deadlines and, more importantly, sticking to them, can be challenging with friends. Sometimes addressing payment for services helps put client friends into work mode since they don't want to waste their investment. But you may still experience some friend backsliding in terms of meeting deadlines and accomplishing tasks. Be honest about performance and progress throughout the engagement.

Bartering Boundaries

Another difficult, but related scenario, comes up when a friend asks to "barter" for your consulting services. Sometimes this can be a win-win for both parties (I've had some very successful arrangements). On other occasions, it can be disastrous, especially if the bartered services from the friend are something you don't really need or want... or, worse, something you'd rather purchase from someone else other than your friend.

While it may be difficult to tell your friend when a barter is not an ideal fit for you, it's usually better than becoming resentful about providing services for less than you feel you're worth.

As noted for all consulting arrangements when clients are friends, don't forget to go through your usual procedures and paperwork for bartered services. As well, bartered services can carry tax ramifications. Consult with your CPA or accounting professional on bartering tax rules that will apply to you.

Don't "Friend" Out On Your Responsibilities Either!

In addition to friends expecting unpaid perks and privileges, consultants can also easily slip into thinking that "it's just a friend" mode and not provide the same high level of service that they offer to regular customers.

Just as clients can be more invested into an official business relationship when they pay, when you get properly compensated for services you offer, you'll also be more inclined to do your best.

Can Clients and Consultants Just Be Friends After Working Together?

I miss some of my past coaches and consultants. I truly enjoyed my time with them and appreciate their insight. I would love to get together with them for a friendly chat. No, I’m not looking for free coaching. I don’t even really want their input on anything that’s going on in my business. I just want to learn what they’re up to and find ways we can work together in our post-coaching relationship.

But I’m honestly afraid to connect. Why? Because I worry that they’ll think I’m trying to get a freebie or brain pick. As well, I honor the value of their time and know that they could be making money working with someone else instead of networking with me.

This situation presents itself even if I’ve never formally worked with some coaches. I feel that if I ask these folks to meet up, call on the phone, etc., they’ll also be sacrificing their time that could be more productively or profitably spent with client work. I also wonder if they’ll feel they need to turn our meeting into a sales conversation.

Yet I still would like to spend some time networking on a non-engagement basis with these people. Not only am I looking for some insight on their businesses and industries since they are my target market, I’m just interested in building our relationship as fellow resources.

How to connect and keep the relationship without crossing that professional line? I’ve tried to keep connected with them on social media so that I can follow their work, share their content, etc. It works, even if it’s a bit distanced. If I get up the nerve to ask them for a one-to-one meeting, I’ll definitely have to be clear about the boundaries that I (and I hope they) will not cross during our interaction.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks, Denise! I think we all need a reminder now and then. Thanks for visiting and have a great day!

  • profile image

    Denise H 

    2 years ago

    Great words, Heidi! Lesson learned years ago and a needed reminder for now! Thanks!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Billybuc, that tightrope of friend-into-client is a treacherous one indeed. Glad to hear you've been able to keep them as friends AND clients. Even if they ever fall away due to some tough advice you've given, they may reflect on what you said later when it all becomes crystal clear for them. That whole "When the student is ready..." philosophy applies here, too. Happy Tuesday to you, too! And thank you for stopping by!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    FlourishAnyway, keeping friends accountable is always tough, whether they're clients or not. But when the biz element is added, it really is critical. Thanks for starting out your week here! Make it great!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    This really is a great topic and timely for me. I advise friends, at times, on their writing. They pay me....and it is hard to do. There is a tightrope walked when you take on friends as clients....I'm happy to report they are all still friends...so far. LOL

    Happy Tuesday, Heidi!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    2 years ago from USA

    What a great topic with excellent advice! Keep friends accountable too!

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)