You know when you make a mistake and you know better? I had that experience this week. The mistake I made? I started working with someone who I have known for around five years and who I considered to know very well. This is a person who is a professional and who I considered trustworthy. That wasn't the mistake, though.
The error I made was bending the rules because of my relationship to this person. I discounted my great work. Developed a custom payment plan that was out of whack with my payment terms. Picked up the pen before I received payment.
In fact, I completed a full week of work with the promise that payment was on the way. The worst part? I allowed this person to "pick my brains" (and yes, I did write about that recently) over the course of several months while we were waiting for the summer to hit, as this person's services are seasonal. Again, I'll reiterate how well I knew this person and to what extent I could -- at that time -- vouch for their trustworthiness.
But making these concessions didn't exactly elicit respect for the work that I do. This is why I was pissed -- but not shocked -- when I received an email where this person suddenly decided to back out of our agreement. True to form, I did have a contract in place, and of course this does offer some protection. But I know in my gut this is a reminder from the universe to never discount my worth or bend the rules for friends in business. And neither should you.
Now. I use the term "friends" loosely. Terms that also apply -- colleagues, former colleagues, lukewarm networking contacts and friends-of-friends. In other words, people you kinda-sorta know.
I've become adept at sticking to my guns in business, but I found it much tougher when this scenario applied to someone I knew very well. It's akin to navigating much choppier waters. To help you through this delicate situation, here's what you need to know about standing firm when you are approached to work for people in your inner circle.
Payment terms are concrete
You absolutely have to stand firm when it comes to payment. If your policy is to receive payment upfront and your prospect is asking for a special payment plan "just for them" -- politely decline. Likewise, if you do have a reasonable and fair payment plan in place and they want you to "do a deal," this isn't a good sign.
Anyone asking for a discount or quibbling over the cost is not going to cough up the dough to work with you, especially if they feel entitled to a special rate because they know you from way-back-when. And for the love of all things holy, don't start working for them until they pay their first installment.
Sign a contract
It pains me to say this -- but a gentleman's agreement doesn't mean shit, whether you know the person or not. When it really comes down to it, many people are simply not as good as their word and if they need to back out and you don't have a contract in place, you're hooped. Have a contract and explain it in layperson's terms if need be. State your terms and don't change them for anyone. Stay firm.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries
It can be tough to maintain boundaries in business when you know someone from another area of your life. It can feel weird and a little awkward if you suddenly need to be all boss lady with a friend-of-a-friend. But you don't need be aggressive, just assertive. To gauge this, ask yourself, is this person able to see me differently? Or will they see me as so-and-so's-friend, thus not respecting or appreciating my skill set as a professional? This gives you an idea of the work involved in asserting your rules with this particular prospect.
I run my business with house rules and boundaries in place, and I made the error of bending many of those policies to accommodate one person. Unfortunately, it resulted in them assuming all of our rules and agreements held no ground, and I take full responsibility for lapsing my own boundaries and allowing this person to think the rules didn't apply to them. Business is business, and the rules are what they are. You should be treated with respect no matter who you are working with.
If you're anything like me, you work closely with your clients and give them 100 per cent of your commitment and energy. You should expect -- and you deserve -- the same in return, regardless of your relationship to your client.
In short, a collaboration will never work if the other party is unable or unwilling to stick to their side of the deal.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
MORE ON HUFFPOST:
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana may have split in 2005 after 23 years together, but their status as business partners at Dolce & Gabbana remained the same. Well, except for one thing: "We thought about splitting up, but no," Gabbana told the Financial Times earlier this year. "The truth is, everything is exactly the same. But no sex!"
Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced their split in July 2011, but the duo continued to work together as judges and producers on the reality show "Q'Viva! The Chosen" on Fox.
Married since 1999, these "Scream" costars and parents of daughter Coco split in 2010. Even though there were some very public overshares right after they separated (Arquette's appearance on Howard Stern was a low point), the two continue to co-parent and maintain a business relationship as partners of their company, Coquette Productions. The former couple serve as executive producers on Cox's TV show, "Cougar Town" and the actress has even been quoted saying that Arquette is her "best friend."
Fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons filed to divorce hip-hop heavyweight Russell Simmons in 2008 after co-creating a popular fashion line, Baby Phat, and raising two daughters together. After the split, the pair remained partners in "various businesses," a spokesperson for Lee Simmons' said.
Ball and Arnaz met and married in 1940, and their marriage lasted through 20 years, two children, 194 episodes of "I Love Lucy" and their formation of Desilu Productions. Shortly after filming their final episode of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour," the couple divorced, but they remained friends -- even after Ball remarried and bought out Arnaz's shares of Desilu.
Fran Drescher and her ex-husband Peter Marc Jacobson were married for 21 years and worked together on "The Nanny." Though the couple split in 1999 -- and Jacobson subsequently came out of the closet -- the duo co-produce "Happily Divorced," the TV Land sitcom inspired by their marriage.
In the 1970s, Sonny Bono and Cher were bonafide phenomenons with two top 10 TV shows in the US, "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour" and "The Sonny & Cher Show." During the third season of "The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour," the singing duo's marriage fell apart and, soon after, so did the TV show, which ended its run in 1974. Still, the divorced couple made two impromptu reunion performances: the first on "The Mike Douglas Show" in 1979, singing a medley of "United We Stand" and "Without You", and the second in 1987 on "Late Night with David Letterman," performing their hit song "I Got You Babe."
The CW's teen soap "One Tree Hill" turned into a real-life soap opera when married co-stars Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush -- who played onscreen lovers Lucas Scott and Brooke Davis -- separated after five months of marriage in 2005. But even though the couple filed for divorce, their onscreen personalities remained in a relationship. That is, until Lucas Scott finally professed his love for Peyton Sawyer (Hilarie Burton) in Season 4. The two maintained a professional relationship on the show until Murray made his exit in 2009.
Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter play half-siblings with sexual tension on "Dexter," and their off-screen relationship has been just as complicated. The co-stars eloped in December of 2008 and got divorced two years later. But despite the split, they both remain on the show and were even recently spotted by the paparazzi getting close on the beach while taking in the sunset.
The Gosselins split in June 2009, but they still had eight kids and a highly-rated reality show to tie them together. Jon's name would eventually be dropped from the show's title, but before things really unraveled, the couple endured an awkward final season of "Jon And Kate" together, splitting time in their family home in an unconventional joint-custody arrangement.
Follow Cheryl Muir on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cheryljmuir