I firmly believe in the benefits of skill sharing. If I have a skill that is useful to you, and you have one that I need, why should we not exchange services? Even better if I am able to use such an arrangement to help out friends, right?
Unfortunately, in the last year, I have had a number of experiences which have made me less than eager to bring friends into a business related endeavour. All those experiences have culminated in this post and in me becoming a big ball of frustration and disappointment when I think about it.
Part of it comes down to delivering what you have promised when you have promised it. Be there when you say. Do what you have promised. For some reason, there seems to be a lack of understanding that deadlines don't change just because it is a friend doing the work. And even if there isn't a hard deadline, you want things done in good time. By agreeing to do something for someone else, you have to acknowledge that they are then dependant on you to further their business in whatever way you have promised to help. And if you delay, you are hurting their efforts and plans - in essence, their business.
The other part is the strain that is placed on a friendship in these situations. When one person is unhappy but doesn't feel that they can say anything, it is the friendship that suffers. And what started out as a strong and happy connection turns into a muddy mess. Of course, allowances have to be made for circumstances that change and more leeway is given to a friend that is essentially doing you a favour.
But when is enough enough? And how do you deal with it when it all gets out of hand? Is it worth sacrificing a friendship to stand up for your business? Do you cut your losses and find someone unconnected to do it? Is the friendship irrevocably changed no matter what you do?
I don't have answers to these questions. I wish I did. But I know that I am far more wary now than I used to be about counting on friends for professional help. I have seen too many things change this year to be the entirely trusting friend I once was. Or maybe I just expect too much of people. Either way...