Articles - 1st October 2020

How to work succesfully with a freelance friend

Words by Elizabeth Bennett
Illustration by Will Francis

While mixing work and pleasure is often framed as a recipe for disaster, for some freelancers it’s key to professional success and one of the greatest advantages of working for yourself.

In fact, working with a friend can become the biggest asset of a collaborative project. Take Janet Oganah, the founder of Janet’s List, a platform connecting consumers with brands founded by women of colour, and Adonica Simmons, the founder of Global Style Services, who met while volunteering back in 2009.

When Oganah launched a podcast Making Money Moves, a conversation about money, mindset, diversity, she knew collaborating with Simmons was the perfect pairing. “The conversations I saw us having on the podcast would simply be an extension of conversations we were already having. Our conversation flows easily because we are friends. I know what she is thinking just by looking at her and vice versa,” Oganah said.

While Oganah and Simmons describe themselves as very different, they have found this has actually worked to their advantage when forming a professional partnership. “We compliment each other. I am great with detail and she is fantastic at asking brave questions,” Oganah explained. Seeing things differently has naturally led to challenges but they’ve found this has only pushed them to produce better work.

“We have come to learn to really listen to what the other person is saying, especially when we do not agree. Often with further discussions working through a disagreement leads to an even better outcome. We’ve learned with time to trust each other, even if we do not immediately see things the same way, because ultimately we have each other’s best interests at heart at all times,” Oganah said.

For Nalini Raman, a freelance children’s birthday party planner based in Hertfordshire, collaborating with her friend Tia Thomas was also a no brainer. “I have known her for over eight years and as soon as I decided to become a party planner, I knew I had a reliable baker on my supplier list. She now does nearly all the cakes for my parties.” The best thing about teaming up on a regular basis? The support system it provides. “We are very supportive of each other and we celebrate each other’s wins.”

With loneliness often identified as one of the biggest downsides of working for yourself, collaborating with fellow freelancers can be the tonic you’re craving. Karen Webber and Katya Willems, coaches based in the Peak District, have found this the biggest pro to teaming up to create events and workshops. “Running your own business or freelancing can be a lonely place, so to have someone who gets it and gets you is invaluable,” Webb stated.  Plus, for Webb and Williams, they love spending time together – whether that’s in a professional or social capacity. “Our best ideas and most fun times have come from going for walks in the Peak District and quite often getting lost. We share a sense of adventure and a love of nature,” Webb said.

Webb and Williams’ best advice? Find someone who shares your values. “Katya and I both really care about the people we serve, and we care about doing business in the right way – doing right by people, delivering quality work, caring about the environment,” Webb said.

Keeping work and friendship separate can help make a success of both the professional and the social too. “We keep our work and personal relationship very different,” Ramen described. “The most important thing when you work with a friend is trust. Your personal relationship has to be strong enough to overcome any differences and challenges you may face while working together,” she added.

Like all working relationships, there will always be challenges on the way but for freelancers working with friends the rewards seem to make it worthwhile.


Career Coach Alice Stapleton shares her top tips for working successfully with a friend…


Choose who you work with carefully

Consider how well you communicate as friends. Can you be open and honest with each other, without the constant fear of being misunderstood, or taking things too personally? You need to have good, clear communication in order to work together.


Outline your expectations and boundaries at the start

Be clear with each other about how you both want to handle the most common situations you think could create tension. Be honest and upfront about your insecurities or triggers when it comes to working collaboratively so you can approach each other with these in mind.


Stick to the project in hand

Set meetings like you would with colleagues where you agree to only talk about what you’re working on together. Leave time at the end to have a social catch-up.


Agree to always be honest

Promise each other to raise issues that are bothering you. Leaving niggles to fester, pretending all is fine, usually builds up until someone snaps and says or does something they regret, souring the friendship permanently – which, if you’re midway through a project, is not that helpful.


Handle conflict with kindness

Use what you know of each other to help you through the tricky times. Remind each other that you’re talking in a professional capacity, and that your friendship will always be the priority. Kindness, empathy, respect, and compassion for each other’s situation and perspective will always work wonders, whatever the conflict. If anything gets heated, just remember your friendship is always more important than what you’re working on.

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