Should You Work With Friends and Family?

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In this image, Shannon Mattern is discussing the pros and cons of working with friends and family in their podcast episode titled "Should You Work With Friends and Family?".

This week I’m talking all about whether or not you should work with friends and family in your web design business.

My top 3:

  • It’s crucial to set boundaries and maintain professionalism when working with friends and family to foster a positive experience for both of you.
  • You should never compromise your business for the sake of personal relationships.
  • It’s okay to say no if it means maintaining a positive working experience for you. Every decision you make, including working with friends and family, has a cost in terms of future time, money, and capacity, and sometimes, the emotional isn’t worth it.

I also share:

  • How to navigate pricing challenges when working with friends and family.
  • The importance of effective communication to maintain professionalism and boundaries.
  • Power dynamics that pop up and how to handle them in a professional manner.

Episode Transcript


Shannon Mattern: Welcome to the Profitable Web Designer, a podcast for web designers who want to work less and make more money. I'm your host Shannon Mattern, founder of the Web Designer Academy, where we've helped hundreds of web designers stop under charging, overworking, and create profitable sustainable web design businesses.

Shannon Mattern: Hey there and welcome back to the Profitable Web Designer Podcast. Today I wanna talk about a topic that has been coming up a lot recently inside the Web Designer Academy, and that is working with friends and family. There is a lot that can be wrapped up in it. Relationship dynamics, power dynamics, money dynamics. It is a whole different animal than working with people you don't have a personal relationship with. So much stuff can come up. Maybe we feel like we have to give friends and family a discount. Maybe the person is expecting to get a friends and family discount. Maybe the arrangement is really informal because you first chatted about their project at a birthday party instead of through your normal consultation process. And it stayed informal, which means there's really no parameters around it or end to it. The communication's all over the place in text messages, in dms, in just conversations in person.

Shannon Mattern: There's no timelines or deadlines and it feels really messy and unorganized and just taking up a lot of space in your brain. Maybe you worried that your friends or family will be insulted by your prices. Maybe you end up doing way more work than you're being asked to do or getting paid to do because you love the person and you really want to see them succeed. Or maybe you've decided that this person is expense minded because of how you hear them talk about money in other areas of their life. Maybe you've heard stories about them being ripped off before or hear them talk about how expensive things are, the economy or inflation or how they're struggling. Maybe on the flip side, you're resentful because you know, they just got back from like, let's say a four week long European vacation, but they're talking about how they can't afford to spend a lot on their website and how they don't think it's worth that much.

Shannon Mattern: Maybe the power dynamic in the relationship is one where you're normally the one doing what you're told. Maybe that's a parent child relationship, a boss employee relationship, even former boss, employee, teacher, student, even just elder and younger. And you just don't feel like you can set boundaries or say no. Or maybe you as the web designer don't prioritize the project because it's not a quote unquote real client. So those are so many of the dynamics that we deal with when people come into the Web Designer Academy, when they've been working with friends and family or when they're considering working with friends and family. And there's probably so many more that I haven't, didn't even cover there, but one of the first things we do with our students when they come into the Web Designer Academy is figure out like what shifts can you make in your business that will have have the impact, impact on your time, money, and capacity.

Shannon Mattern: And it's not a one size fits all thing, right? Every person comes in with a different business, different clients, different experience, different length and business and all of their different mindset stuff. Everybody's business D is different. So we don't start everyone at the same spot because we want you to shift the things in your business that are gonna have the biggest impact on you. And very often when we start, we start with like getting stalled projects moving. For people that are coming in to our program and they've been working with clients for a while, we start with like, how do we get these stalled projects moving? We start putting some boundaries around projects that have gone off the rails. And it's tough because there's usually a lot of mine trash that we have to clean up. Like, what if the client gets mad at me?

Shannon Mattern: What if they leave me a bad review? What if they don't pay me? What if, what if, what if? And that's just with like strangers. That's just with like normal clients. But when it is a family member or a friend, oof, there is a whole nother layer of what ifs. What if this damages our relationship? What if they don't respect me anymore? What if this causes problems in other areas of my life in addition to all the other stuff around our business, right? So what most people do is either just endure it or avoid it. They'll come into the Web Designer Academy program, they'll like conveniently not tell us about . These working with friends and family situations. They'll start implementing all of our strategies, create a package matrix, update their pricing, start using marketing strategies, book some consultations, use our scripts, make new offers, and use our whole process to book a new client with new prices.

Shannon Mattern: And that's awesome. That is so fine with new people. We love that we help you clean up the mine trash along the way that needs to be be cleaned up to do that. You know, we help the sell themselves on their value. All those things that need to happen. And that stuff's generally pretty easy with strangers. But then it's like they have this dirty little secret , and I'm kind of joking when I say this, but I'm kind of not. It's like that episode of friends in Monica's, Monica's closet. You know that episode where there's the door in the hallway like no one's ever noticed. And it's like later on in the lens with, you know, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th season. And it turns out that Monica, who's like the organized neurotic mom of the group of friends has this secret closet that is like a hot mess express that she's been hiding for years and she's so ashamed of it and just doesn't wanna deal with it, right?

Shannon Mattern: And like that closet was like no big deal to everybody else. It's just like a messy closet. Who cares? We all have messy closets. But to Monica, it was like this huge deal. It bothers her. She's ashamed of it, but she doesn't wanna deal with it. So she like keeps it hidden. She swears everybody to secrecy about it. And if it doesn't come out on the discovery call that you have with me , that you have some friends and family drama to clean up or in your application or in your orientation and onboarding, it'll usually come up about two to three months into working with us. And I get it because most people don't want to deal with it. You either endure it or avoid it because the discomfort of enduring it or avoiding it is known. It's like when you stay in a bad relationship or at a job that you hate or like when you know you need to eat better or exercise because you don't feel great, but you don't do anything about it.

Shannon Mattern: This discomfort of the known that you're currently experiencing is easier than the discomfort of the unknown of change, right? And the unknown part is how other humans will react if you change things and are wired to assume, assume the worst , right? It's like, oh, the worst possible thing will happen if I try to change this relationship. Like that's where our mind goes. And so it makes sense then that you would just endure or avoid instead of dealing with it until that is the discomfort of enduring or avoiding becomes greater than the discomfort of changing it. The thought process becomes, well if I can just get enough new clients at my new prices, then these other people, these friends and family clients who aren't really paying me enough and are very demanding and take up all of my time and like just are always living rent free in my brain, will just quietly fade away on their own.

Shannon Mattern: Or I'll be able to hire someone else to deal with them. That's another thing that I see. It's like, oh, I wanna make a bunch of money over here with my new clients so I can afford to pay a VA to handle them for me. Like let me just pretend that this isn't happening and maybe it will all go away on its own. And if it's , I just wanna say before I move on, I've done all of these things. I have been there in every single one of these situations. I have had all these thoughts, I've done all the things to try to avoid dealing with it. I have outsource when I couldn't afford to outsource to have other people deal with this stuff. I can tell you from my own personal experience and from how I see my clients struggle with this, when they try to endure or avoid, it almost never works.

Shannon Mattern: It almost never works. So here's the thing, first, it is always your decision how you want to handle working with friends and family. If you want to avoid or endure or ban it completely you do, you boo. Like I am not here to judge or tell you what to do. I don't have to see these people at Thanksgiving or at soccer practice like you do. It's your business, it's your choice. I have been there. I have avoided and endured and just hoped people would go away. I have people pleased. I have outsourced , I've done, I've done it all. But what I do wanna offer to you is that there is a ton of business and personal growth that comes from facing it head on. The things that you are avoiding when it comes to your friends and family aren't just limited to your friends and family.

Shannon Mattern: The same things that come up with friends and family likely come up with your other clients. You just don't feel like there's as much at stake with them as you do with people that you have a personal relationship with. Sometimes if you feel like you have to offer a discount to your friends and family because they might be insulted by your price or think that they deserve it somehow because they have a personal relationship with you, you may also feel like with brand new clients who you've never met before or maybe who were referred to you by someone you know, you may feel like you have to offer a discount because you might be worried that people will be insulted by your price. You may feel like you have to let the client decide how and when the communication happens, you might not have project timelines, milestones or deadlines that that you let projects drag on.

Shannon Mattern: And when your client drags the project on, then you as the web designer decide, well I don't have to take this project too seriously either 'cause they're not taking it that seriously. So I'm just gonna like let that hang out there and wait on them. Or judging people as expense minded or thinking that they should be investment minded because of how much money you see that they have or operating in whatever power dynamic you're used to operating in. Like for instance, if you have been conditioned to be an employee or a good student your whole life, typically you're, you go into operating your business in an employee mindset where you're taking orders from people and you're taking commands from them instead of leading them, right? Or worrying that your client will be mad at you and might damage your reputation with others. It's the same stuff that comes up with your friends and family with different people.

Shannon Mattern: And then you avoid leveraging your personal network to connect with potential new clients because you don't want anyone in your personal network to wanna work with you because you ugh. And you don't want them to refer anyone to you because you don't wanna feel beholden to them and it gets all twisted up, right? So sometimes it feels like there's so much mine trash to clean up, but sometimes all you gotta do is knock down that first domino to knock down all the other ones. And sometimes that domino is solving these issues with your friends and family head on. Other times it's solving it with your clients first to build the confidence to solve it with friends and family. It totally depends on your situation and I don't know the details of your situation unless we're working together. But what I do know is that your web design business will make you more money than you ever thought possible when you clean this stuff up.

Shannon Mattern: Seriously. I mean, when you get through the discomfort of presenting your mom's best friend with your highest prices ever, your mom's best friend who probably like changed your diapers when you were a kid, , do you think you'll balk at presenting those prices to a stranger in the future? When you allow your old boss to tell you that you're way too expensive and you don't make it mean that he's right and that you need to lower your prices, but you make it mean that he can decide whether or not he wants to pay it to work with you. Do you think it'll be easier for you to hold that line with a stranger in the future when your dad's business partner texts you at 8:00 PM on a Friday night again asking you to call him right away because he has urgent changes that he needs you to make to his website and you don't respond because you have already told him from the very beginning of this project that your business hours are this, this, and this. And then instead you email him during your normal business hours and you let him know that you got his text and ask him if he'd like you to give you a quote for that extra work. Do you think it will be easier for you to set those boundaries with a stranger?

Shannon Mattern: So while I'm not your coach and I don't know the specifics of your situation, here are some general things to consider when thinking about working with friends or family. Because like I said, when you clean this stuff up, you will stop holding yourself back. You will stop delaying communication, you will stop dealing with BSS and you'll make so much more money and it'll be so much easier and you'll have so much more time, money, and capacity and you will love your web design business better. Okay, . So here are some things to consider when you are thinking about working with friends and family. Thing. One, always assume the best instead of thinking that this person just wants to work with you because they know you and they think that you'll give them a deal. Just assume that this person wants to work with you because they trust you.

Shannon Mattern: Assume that if they knew your boundaries in the first place, they'd be happy to respect them. Assume that they want to pay you that much until they say so. Otherwise, assume that they think that you're really good at what you do and that you're worth it. Okay? Assume the best. Don't assume the worst thing. Two, stay out of their wallet. We talk about this all the time in the Web Designer Academy in so many different situations. Their financial situation is none of your business. Even if you have access to their bank account, , it's literally none of your business. Whether they just got back from a four week European vacation or they talk about how they have a mountain of student loan debt. It does not matter. None of your business, your prices are your prices. You present your prices to them. They get to decide if they want to pay that much to work with you or not stay out of their wallet.

Shannon Mattern: Thing three, remember they're a business owner too. If they are asking you to work on their website, it's likely for a business, I'm guessing nine times outta 10, maybe. You know there's something for like a hobby or whatever, that's something different. But remember, they're likely a business owner too. They have prices, they have customers. They charge what they charge. They're making a living off of this or they're, they're working towards making a living off of this. They run their business how they wanna run their business. You're allowed to run your business how you run it too. And most people understand and respect that and you get to model that for them. Maybe you get to set the example that you get to run your business how you want to run your business. And by them seeing how you are navigating this situation will help them like have an epiphany.

Shannon Mattern: Oh yeah, I do get to control all of this, right? You get to control all of it. Thing four, know the real cost. I see so many web designers lowering their price at their own expense without even being asked to because they think it will help their loved. One side note, they do it with people who they don't know because they think it will get them the yes. But let me ask you this. Would you just like go to the bank and pull out the cash that you're discounting and hand it over to that person even if it's your loved one? Because that is effectively what you're doing when you lower your price to quote unquote help them out. If you can afford to do that and it makes you happy and you would totally do that, go for it. I'm not here to judge, but you are also allowed to charge what you charge and take care of yourself and your business first.

Shannon Mattern: You are allowed to have a profitable, sustainable business. Just because you have the skill of web design does not mean someone else is entitled to it without paying for it. Just because they know you and they don't need you to save them, they don't need you to. And if they can't afford to work with you, that's okay. You can let them go find someone else. They are a brilliant, bright, responsible, empowered human being. They don't need you to save them. Let them make their own decision on how much money they want to spend on this. And you are allowed to have a profitable, sustainable web design business. Okay? Thing five, do what feels right to you, to you. Maybe you have a creative arrangement with a person that is mutually beneficial, like you maintain their website and they maintain your highlights. Like as long as you feel good about it, there's no need to change it.

Shannon Mattern: No judgment here. My only thing about those creative arrangements and doing what feels good to you is covered in the next step. Things six. Do not abandon your systems and processes for our friends, family creative arrangements put everybody through the same systems and processes. For example, if you're ever in a social situation and it comes up that you're a web designer, when someone's like, Hey, what do you do? And you're like, oh, I'm a freelance web designer. Don't be surprised if you end up talking to someone about a potential project or they know someone who needs someone. However, the key here is no matter how in depth your discussion was on the sideline of the soccer game or at happy hour or whatever, always invite that person to take the very first step with you, which is in our process at the Web Designer Academy.

Shannon Mattern: Book a consultation. If you're following our consultation and offer process, you don't wanna miss out on all of the nuances of that strategy. The opportunity to set boundaries, to pre-frame the value of working with you, to hit all of the tangible and intangible steps of the sales and consultation process that lead up to making the offer in a way that makes them understand the value, even when your prices are five times higher than everybody else. Okay? Don't abandon your systems and processes. Start everybody in the same place. Make everybody go through the processes regardless of whether they're your highest paying client or your mom's best friend. Okay? This is so important to make sure that you're able to have a sustainable web design business. Even if you have a creative arrangement, some with someone, if you don't take calls or texts from clients, don't take 'em from your hairstylist.

Shannon Mattern: If she gives you a list of stuff she wants done to your website while trimming your hair, ask her to submit it to you through all the proper channels. Be like, awesome. Cool. When you're done here, make sure you send that to me through whatever, whatever, whatever, so that I can make sure it gets into my queue and that I take care of all of that for you. You are a professional. This is what you do for a living. Yes, you're super chill and you're super fun, but you take it seriously. You have systems and processes because you actually run a business and your friends and family who love you, who respect you, who think you are the best, are going to be delighted to see that side of you and are gonna be like, yeah, sure, no problem. Like thanks for telling me how you want that done.

Shannon Mattern: You know, it's not the big deal that we make it out to be. And if it is, then come work with us. We'll coach you on it. We'll coach you on how to navigate those difficult relationships with unreasonable people, whether they are your friends and family or just random clients. thing seven. Let people make their own decisions. Your price is your price. It's what's profitable and sustainable for you. And if it's not for them, that's cool too. They can go find someone else that is the right fit for them. It does not have to be you. So that leads me to thing eight, which is the final thing in this list of advice for working with friends and family and making that decision. You can say, no, I get it. Sometimes the relationship dynamic with certain people just isn't worth dealing with. Meaning it's not you, it's them.

Shannon Mattern: , like maybe your side of the street's clean, your mindset's clean, you're sold on your value, you're out of their wallet and you're allowing them to make choices and they're still just like a problematic person for you for whatever reason. Or maybe the dynamic with this person is shining a light on opportunities for you to like clean this stuff up on your web design business, but for whatever reason it's just not worth cleaning it up with them or through them. That's cool too, because when I, you hear me talk about opportunity cost on this podcast or in some of the presentations that I've done, that means like how the future time, money and capacity that you're missing out on when you take certain opportunities, there's a cost to every opportunity, every opportunity, every path you choose costs you something. It costs you future time, costs you future money, costs you future capacity.

Shannon Mattern: Hopefully the decisions that you make are creating time, creating money, creating capacity. But there are decisions that we make that take away our future time, money, and capacity. So when I talk about the opportunity cost or how the future time, money and capacity, you're missing out on compounds. When you undercharge and overdeliver, sometimes there can also be an emotional opportunity cost that's just not worth it. So working with friends and family, undercharging and overdelivering it, there is an opportunity cost that compounds that takes away your future time and money. And that's undercharging and over-delivering with anybody, whether it's friends, family, strangers, whatever. But sometimes with friends and family, there's that emotional opportunity cost that is just not worth it. So you can say no to working with anyone, but also notice and notice why you're saying no and see if there are any opportunities there to clean up mine trash so that it doesn't spill over into other areas of your business, right?

Shannon Mattern: Not to clean up the mind trash so that you can say yes to working with that person. It's okay that you've already decided this is not worth it. But what I noticed was the reason I wanted to say no to them is something that is that I see come up in other areas of my business, and I'd like to get some support with that because I see where that's holding me back. Okay? So let me recap those eight things. Assume the best, stay out of their wallet. Remember that they have a business too. There are business owner two. Know the real cost of lowering your price to work with anyone, friends and family as well. Do what feels right to you. Don't abandon your systems and processes for anyone. Let people make their own decisions. And you can say no, but notice why you're saying no.

Shannon Mattern: So to wrap this up, when you are so sold on you and your self-concept as a web designer and a business owner, when you're so sold on those things, you might be really excited to lead your friends and family through the web design process because you know what's possible for them when they work with you. Because you know that what they'll be able to create in their business and life as a result of working with you, you know what they are capable of. And you wouldn't want them to go anywhere else because you know that they're in the best hands with you and that they will make way more money, time, capacity, their life will be better by working with you than with anyone else if that's the place that you can get to. And all of this like that is the ultimate, we want you to think that about yourself when it comes to not only your friends and family, but also anyone, any client, stranger or known to you, right?

Shannon Mattern: That is where you get to be. And sometimes a friend and family dynamic shines light on some of the things that you get to clean up in order to create that in order to sell yourself. Okay? So we want you to be so sold on you that it doesn't matter what that person's relationship is to you. You're sold on your value. You can confidently lead the person through the process of making the decision to work with you or not work with you. You don't feel like you have to discount your price at all. You can manage the project, you can set boundaries. You can let humans be humans and do all of the random crazy things that they do and not let it throw you off and still be able to set and hold boundaries and have uncomfortable money conversations that feel totally normal to you over time.

Shannon Mattern: And by doing all of those things, you'll make so much more money than if you just say, I just don't work with friends and family. You may come to the place where you're like, I don't work with friends and family, but I know why and I see opportunities there for me to clean some of that stuff up to grow my web design business on the other side. Okay? So if you've got some friends and family stuff to clean up, or even just some long-term client stuff to clean up, we would love to help you with that inside of the Web Designer Academy. Just go to to request a discovery call with me. And if it looks like we can help you, we'll approve that. We'll talk about what's going on, and I'll share all of the details about what it looks like to work with us, what that plan would be, and we can walk you through not only dealing with those situations and getting them cleaned up, but like how to leverage our whole program to help you create a profitable, sustainable web design business.

Shannon Mattern: So I can't wait to see your discovery call booking or your application. If our time zones don't align, we're we love to see applications too, and let's help you make more time, more money, more capacity than you ever thought possible with your web design business. So that's all I got for you this week. I'll see you right back here next week. Bye. If you are ready to finally stop undercharging and overdelivering, if you're ready to take back control of your time and book more high paying clients you love and make more money as a web designer than you ever thought possible, then book a zero pressure discovery call with me today. All you gotta do is go to, choose one of the available time slots, fill out the intake form, and we'll meet on Zoom to talk about your goals and what's really in the way of you reaching them.

Shannon Mattern: And if it looks like I can help you inside the Web Designer Academy, we can talk more about what that looks like. It is super chill. There's zero obligation to say yes to working with us. If you book a call with me, it is simply a chance for you to learn more about how we can specifically help you, you personally, with your unique skills, personality, and experience to create a highly profitable, sustainable web design business and create the freedom, flexibility, financial independence, and fulfillment that you started this business for in the first place. So just go to, and I can't wait to talk to you more about your web design business.

Speaker 2: This podcast is part of the sound advice FM network. Sound advice, FM Women's Voices amplified.

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Hi, I'm Shannon!

I help ambitious women web designers reclaim their time, book profitable web design projects they love, and make more as a freelance web designer than they ever thought possible inside the Web Designer Academy.

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