“I love the way you design, look at space, understand it, understand requirements and incorporate them into the design. Will you please be my interior designer? We are friends, don’t refuse, please?”
Did that sound familiar? It’s a common occurrence in ever designer’s lives. You don’t have to be an interior designer, it is common to all of the designing fraternity. We are all taken for a ride, by the so-called friends. There’s nothing wrong with taking up projects that mean dealing with friends. In fact, that’s how you start your own practice; go from being a slave to a boss to a free bird, who later turns into a boss. But make sure you clarify the terms and conditions well in hand. It is your profession, your bread and butter and there’s no reason why you should feel bad about asking for fees for your consultations.
Here I’d like to share one of the several incidences that have damaged my perception on taking up work for a friend. I’m always wary now of doing anything for “friends”.
One of my friends brought new property and wanted me to do up the interiors of the apartment. Knowing the kind of person he was (or so I thought), I only clarified my consultation charges and scope of services over text messages (which, by the way are not considered proof in case you wish to take Legal action). I never thought for a moment that the same loving, caring, brilliant guy would make my life hell 8 months later when it was time to pay up. Thinking he would not trouble me when it came to payments, I put in every last bit of effort in beautifying his home. Right down from meeting his finicky parents on every minute detail to selecting the accessories for his home, I did it all, without complaints, in spite of being employed full time, running for meetings before and after office hours in every weather. On one occasion even risking an important exam I had to appear for when the project was on going. The norm is to extract payments with every stage of work, but that’s something I did not do in this case because of the close friendship we shared.
Anyway, at my parent’s behest, I did broach the subject of payment in stages once, but was reproached with, “Don’t you trust me?” Well, I did and I paid for it dearly with my mental and financial peace. So 6 months down the line, his project was complete, with a few glitches as is normal for anything that involves a mixed bag of people.
Now came the time for fruitation, to get paid for the endless hard work I had put in to make a beautiful home. 6 months, it was my baby. I nurtured it. Conveniently, at the same time, he had his company auditing. He promised to pay as soon as that ended. I trusted. Waited. Then, he had some serious “financial crisis”. I trusted. Waited. Then he had to go abroad for urgent meetings and apparently lost his passport. 2 months, no news. I waited. But of course patience ran out.
He got back and I pounced. The situation had reached a stage where I could not extract money from him without involving my parents. His parents had suddenly turned deaf and dumb to my existence, behaving as though they did not know me. And my darling friend had gotten abusive to a level that still makes my skin crawl. Then there were fights on the project cost, following which a consensus was reached and an amount was fixed. I was called (I went with my mother, for moral support and also cause the person in question showed violent tendencies, suddenly). He was shamed into giving me two cheques, dated a month from the day of issue. I thought this was the end of my worries.
Just how wrong has been amply proven in the last two month. The cheques bounced. Mails were exchanged. Fake apologies on his part. Fake reassurances. I sat through it all hoping he would come to his senses. In the meanwhile, while he made claims of going through a difficult time financially, I saw facebook status updates about his new blackberry bold 4 which costs 30 thousand INR. That was the end of my patience. He had money for his whims and fancies, but when it came to paying someone for their work, he was broke. It spoke of his character in loud and simple words. That’s I threatened legal action when nothing else seemed to work. Life had fast turned into a travesty, revolving around getting him to pay up. Drunken scenes, abusive scenes, hate mail, I saw it all.
It’s been 9 months; I have got only 40% of the payment that was due to me. I see no end to this trauma. And why did I deserve this? Because, I trusted a friend. This was not the first time I was cheated of money that was rightfully mine, but only now did I realize that Money can break the strongest bonds.
Moral of the story: Never mix friendship with business. They are parallels. When they intersect, there’s unwanted fire. If you still must, be very clear on the terms and conditions of payment. Be adamant. If they don’t agree, they won’t pay and they are definitely not your friends.