When Friends Turn into Business Partners . . . Sometimes it doesn’t work out

friends to business parnters blog post

I’ve never met a community so full of people willing to help. I’ve met authors who will share anything and everything. How they use ads, how they write blurbs and the resources that taught them how. They share their favorite blogs, podcasts, promo sites, non-fiction books. There are even authors who will share how much they make in sales.

So many authors are helpful and generous. (And if you run into one who won’t share anything, well, keep an eye out. I’ve found those people are users, and you won’t get anything in return for the information you share with them.)

I’ve made a few friends on Twitter. Some are better friends than anyone I’ve met in real life. Some have come and gone. Some needed so much hand-holding it was physically draining to be friends with them. Some acted like their work was the only thing worth discussing, and I’ve faded away because I believe friendship should work both ways.

I’ve had some small successes as an author, and I like to share, too. It’s a horrible feeling to be snubbed when sharing something you’re proud of.

friends or enemies

But there are those who stick around–you feel a kinship, support goes both ways, and you settle into an online routine of touching base, reading each other’s blogs, retweeting news and book cover reveals, and helping with book launches.

Inevitably this will lead to your friendship moving more into a business relationship.

You’ll be asked to edit for someone or do a cover. Maybe she needs a critique partner or he needs a beta reader. It could even be as simple as doing an author interview for a blog.

Friendships can easily blur into business and while the transition feels easy and breezy, if you don’t treat that relationship with the respect it deserves, not only are you risking your business relationship with that person, your friendship will be broken as well.

The culprit of all this is the nonchalance and the cavalier attitude of writers. They aren’t treating their business with the respect it deserves, so they see no harm in treating you the same way.

I treat my books as a business. I always have and I always will. When I do something for you, I do it in a decent amount of time, and to the best of my ability. And that’s always what I’ve done.

business peers

But I haven’t always been treated with the same courtesy.

I paid someone to edit for me, and one day she told me she was editing my book while she was having her hair done at the salon. I guess it was too much to ask that she edit my book in a quiet place where she could focus. I paid another, and she waited months before even starting to edit my book. I have patience–I have two children, three cats, and an ex-husband. I have patience. But when you pay someone for a service, even if she’s a friend, you expect them to treat you with professionalism.

Those people were my friends. Circumstances being what they were at the time . . . they aren’t anymore.

What’s funny is recently one of them asked me for a favor. I guess it wasn’t so funny when I didn’t respond.

Most of the time I can separate friendship from business. (I treat my Twitter account as part of my business, and I rarely unfollow anyone for crappy behavior. Most times the only thing that will earn you an unfollow is if you do it to me first.) And I can stay in touch with someone friendship-wise even if we don’t/didn’t work together so well in the business aspect of things.

I edited for someone, and that didn’t work out like I had expected. We’re still friends because I expressed how I felt, and she apologized. I don’t hold grudges, but just like anyone else, I remember how people treat me.

When you treat someone like crap, you’re burning bridges, plain and simple. The author so quick to help you? They may not be so quick to pull through for you next time.

So what can you do to keep your friendships intact if it moves into business territory?

  1. Set boundaries and expectations.
    Before work exchanges hands, hammer out what expectations are. Does she expect to get paid? Is she doing it for free? Are you sure? Is there an expectation you’re going to help her down the road? Is there a deadline? Can your friend meet it? If she can’t, can you change it? If you’re too rigid with what you need, it’s better for your friend to pass. Which brings me to:
  2. Don’t be angry if your friend can’t meet your needs.
    A lot of indie business is trade and favors. Money doesn’t always exchange hands. That’s common when indies operate in the red–especially when just starting out. You may feel desperate because if this particular friend can’t help you, who will? People who know what they are doing, and willing to do it for free or on the cheap are few. If you need her, it’s YOUR job to bend, not hers. If you can’t, understand where she’s coming from, take a deep breath, and move on. While writing is a business, it will always come in secondary to children, jobs that pay the bills, and maybe even an evening of self-care if she’s had a bad day. If your needs are more important than that, hire out and pay for the priority. Your friend helping you isn’t a right–it’s a privilege.
  3. Keep communication open.
    Maybe you think she’s not working fast enough. Or you haven’t heard from her in a couple of days. Or worse yet, you haven’t heard from her, yet she’s posting on social media. It’s easy to go from simmering to boiling if you expect her to be working on your project but she’s posting a new blog post every day. It’s easy to get annoyed–trust me, I know. Maybe she already had them scheduled, and she IS working on your stuff. You won’t know unless you ask. If you need constant reassurance like daily updates, request it before you give her the project. That way you can remind her you asked.
  4. Keep social media in mind.
    When I edited for my friend, she never stopped posting her publication date. She was building buzz–I get that. But her manuscript needed work, and the more she posted and the more I edited, the angrier I became until eventually I felt like I was doing it for nothing. So remember–you are friends and she can see what you tweet, post on your Facebook author page, blog, and anything snarky by way of a bitchy meme on Instagram. But the same goes for her. If she’s tweeting she’s editing a pile of garbage, or the person she’s editing for is dumber than a box of rocks . . . you may need to rethink if you want her working on your project. A good friend doesn’t necessarily translate into a good business partner. (I would rethink my friendship with anyone who would put something like that out into the world, anyway.)
  5. Know when to quit.
    Ideally, you want to work things out before this step. If you can’t, the next best thing is to back out before your business relationship destroys your friendship. Be clear why you don’t want to work with him anymore. Try not to let hurt feelings muddy the water. He may have hurt your feelings, but that is only as a bi-product of unprofessional behavior that may not have been intentional. And don’t flip out if he has to back out on you. Maybe it has nothing to do with professionalism. His private issues are none of your business unless he wants to divulge them. That depends on how good of friends you are. But if it is due to not being able to work together, learn from the experience and move on. Having a truthful “We make better friends than business partners” talk can salvage a friendship. Don’t be defensive.

Not all friendships cum business relationships are going to fail. I’ve heard of several people who have worked together for years. There relationships are based on respect and a mutual admiration of each other’s work.

It’s up to you how much you can take–and it’s up to your friend what her limits are if you’re the one behaving badly. Publishing is scary and stressful, but alienating people who want to help you makes it more so. And it won’t do your career any good if someone labels you as difficult to work with. You may be passed up for opportunities and you won’t even realize it.

stressed out

If you’re the one slighted, do your best to move on. If that means you’re no longer talking to that person, so be it. Publishing IS stressful, writing, emotionally draining. You need to protect your mental health, too.

Friendships can come and go, but it’s difficult to repair a business connection.

Don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll have to circle back.


To be clear, I didn’t mention any of my experiences to throw my friends and acquaintances under the bus. I mentioned them to demonstrate I know how it feels to be treated in a manner that is hurtful and unprofessional. I have other examples of people using my generous nature against me–to the point of a friend of mine saying I should stop helping people.

I couldn’t do that, though. For every one person who ignores what I offer, five people appreciate any information I can give them. Be it my favorite stock photo sites, or a reminder that KDP Print offers templates to format the interiors of paperback books.

For every one person who ignores my edits, another person’s writing is brought to the next level.

I’ll probably never stop helping people. I enjoy it too much. But neither am I a doormat, and if you treat me poorly, that’s on you, not me.

If you treat anyone without respect and kindness, you need to look inside yourself and figure out why. But the secret is no one has to be friends with you, no one has to do business with you, and one day you may very well find yourself alone.

being helpful

If you enjoy helping and being part of the writing community, don’t let one bad apple ruin the whole barrel. There are lots of people out there who need help–and one day you’ll find yourself in a group of friends you can trust to help you in return.

That’s what the writing community is all about.

photos taken from pixabay or canva. graphics made in canva.com

jared and leah for end of blog posts

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