“Never interfere with your child’s social life.” This was a line I read in an advice column in a magazine this month. And while I agreed with this advice, I still felt there were times a mom (or dad!) may need to step in to handle things. This is especially true if friends decide to start doing business together.
And in this case, since what happened today between my daughter and her friend concerned business they were doing together, I felt I definitely had to step in and have a little chat with the friend’s guardian (in this case, her grandmother, since this is who the friend lives with).
Jennifer and her friend are both artists and because Jen wanted a book cover, she decided to enlist her friend’s help. Because I have done the same with Jennifer for my own books (she is creating a cover for a new children’s book I am going to self-publish and she did the front cover design for Dogs Forever), she has been aware of how this works. So she decided to work that out with her friend, as well.
The problem was, Jennifer promised to pay her friend money she didn’t have, thinking that I was going to pick up the tab. Because this is Jen’s book and the only involvement I had with it was editing, I explained to her that the cover situation had to be worked out between her and her friend and that I was not going to be responsible for paying for it.
And as a side note, yes, Jennifer does earn her own money. However, she recently spent all she had at the Gem Faire we went to last weekend, and she’s currently earning her allowance for the week. Jennifer also earns money for her art, but she has not had any commissions as of late.
Well, back to my story. Once I learned about this, I told Jennifer she should not have made a promise she wasn’t sure she could keep. I was tempted to throw in one of my favorite sayings – “don’t let your mouth write a check your butt can’t cash” – but now was not the time.
I got on my cell and started texting the friend’s grandmother. I explained to her about the misunderstanding and, at the same time, told her how much I loved the work the girl had done so far. (She was sending a picture of her artwork to Jennifer as she worked on it.) I suggested we work out an arrangement since, #1, Jen did not yet have the money and #2, Jen had already promised to pay for the work. I felt it was important to honor that, because I did not want to teach Jennifer that it was okay to promise one thing to a client then turn around and break that promise. (One person I worked for did that recently and you can bet I won't work with her ever again.) The grandmother texted back that she was not mad about this, that she explained to the friend she shouldn’t expect payment and that we could definitely work something out in the event we did still want to pay for it. (We both thought it was cool that Jen’s friend would have her first commission at age 11. I do like that idea, to be honest, but it has to be doable all the same.)
My personal policy when beginning a new line of work is to always do the first one free. That’s what I did with writing, editing and ghostwriting (both for articles and books). That’s just the way I work. My feeling is, if you do well enough with the first client, you could earn more business when you start charging, try your hand at it without anyone feeling stiffed and even gain some testimonials. That is how I felt and I was wondering if Jen could work that out with her friend, as well. But then I decided that it would be better for the friend to be paid for her work. I DO think it’s good work and deserving of some kind of payment. Just maybe not at the original quote, because right now, we cannot afford it and won't be able to for a few weeks.
I am just glad I kept the peace between the two friends as well as with the girl’s grandmother. There’s no anger or anything. The two of them are still friends and they are still working together. There are no hard feelings and it was just a simple misunderstanding about everything. Still, Jennifer did learn some lessons in business today, including that she should not pay for something unless it is done first and everybody’s happy. I also told Jennifer next time she should consult with her parents first – and wait until she actually had a little money in her bank.