Working with Best Friends: A Survival Guide
True story — I currently work with, and work for several of my best friends in life. The great news is that it gives me access to writers whose work and ability to deliver I trust deeply, clients who know they can count on me in the same way, and the business partner of a lifetime. As important as great work is to me (very), great friends are everything, and I’d never want to jeopardize that. So here’s how I make it work.
- Choose which friends. Working with friends can only happen with some friends. And you instinctively know which ones. Not your delightfully emotional ones. The quirkily oversensitive ones. The friends who amusingly sometimes take off for Paris without telling anyone.
- Play to your strengths. Also, choose friends whose strengths complement, rather than compete with yours. My BF/head writer can do things I simply cannot do and vice versa. I value her so deeply. She has way more experience in B2B, education, long-form writing like white papers and more. When I asked her what makes us work, she said “I don’t think there’s any weird jealousy stuff ever.” I sometimes work for a dear friend/client who is the president of an amazing, modern shoe brand that gets uber attention and evangelism. But I know at 47 that I do not want to be the president of a brand. I’d just like to buy the shoes and help her whenever I can!
3. Yes, and … When my friend is a client, I need to say yes even more easily than I do with other clients. I want them to feel it’s really easy to provide feedback, and that it’s not personal. I try to affix that in my mind. I will voice what I think, always, but I’ll readily offer alternatives.
4. Don’t hold back on the good stuff. One of the great things about having friends on your team is the same thing married actor-couples sometimes say about working together: that shared shorthand that allows you to read each others’ minds and get to what’s needed super fast. But it’s important in the rush not to skip telling your friend what she’s doing well. Every person, especially a creative person, needs to hear that!
5. Say it straight. On the flip side, keep criticism super clear, actionable, and about the work. Don’t waver because it’s your friend. It’s much more useful for her if you are straightforward.
6. Admit when you’re wrong. In some ways, what works in work life is what works in friend life. If your notes about the work stem from lack of clear direction in the first place, say so.
7. Check, check. Do a periodic check-in, and look to your Spidey senses, too. How do things feel between you? From time to time, give her an opening to give you feedback, like “How do you think things are going with this stuff? Is it weird working with me? Is there stuff I can be doing better? I know it’s hard to say, but I’d love to know.”
8. Celebrate successes. And don’t forget the best part of working with a friend: how much fun it is to celebrate the wins together. My business partner was a cherished friend first, and I think that what brings so much added joy to building Honor Code. Doing it with her. Even Mondays feel like Fridays. That goes a long way.