The hardest lesson—(no literally the hardest lesson), I ever had to learn over the past 3 years is that my friends are not necessarily my clients. When I started out, I was like a lot of new entrepreneurs, I wanted (expected) my friends to come to all of my stuff and when they didn’t I was surprised (pissed).
It hurt, because I felt like they didn’t take my business serious. After 3 years, however, I understand how unfair I was being to them and myself. First, businesses can only be successful if they have the ability evolve, and that’s difficult to do when you are always comfortable. And for most of us, our friends represent the ultimate comfort. They are proud of us simply because we did something, so in some ways they make it easy for us to rest on our laurels, so to speak.
New customers, on the other hand are oftentimes far more honest with you about your offerings than your friends will be. You never have to worry if your stranger customers are simply being nice to you or supporting you just “for the love,” instead you know that if someone buys from you they are doing it, because they sincerely value what you offer. Moreover, your friends are not experts in your area of practice…but your clients are. They know exactly what they want and need, so listening/observing their behavior will almost always result in more success for you. But even more than that, your clients are interested in what you offer. They need your service or program. They want you. They don’t feel obligated to support you. Now, I am not saying that your friends don’t want to support you. Of course they do, but they may or may not be as interested in what you offer as your clients are (and that’s ok).
Ok but enough of the warm fuzzy stuff, having friends as clients can also be challenging because the more people that become intimately involved in your business, the smaller and smaller your personal life gets. Which can become incredibly problematic. Because where is your safe space if not with your friends? Where can you be yourself if you are at work all day and all night and even when you are supposed to be in leisure? Over the years, I have learned to value the quiet time that I get with my friends. Like most entrepreneurs my free time is few and far between…so when I am off work, I want to be off. I value the spaces, places, and faces that allow me to be just me if even for a short time. So yes, I still expect my friends to support my dream…but I don’t expect them to pay my bills. Instead I ask that they provide a safe space for me land when I fall and loud voice to cheer when I celebrate. Having a place to unwind makes me better for everyone I serve.
So how do we nurture both relationships?
FOR FRIENDS |COMMUNICATE|
DO: Make sure you have open communication with your friends about not only your business goals, but also your personal goals. Ask for specific support when you need it. For example, if you have an important event coming up, you may ask a friend to help you set up, or breakdown your display. Or you may involve them by asking them to listen to your speech before you present it. Sometimes the best way to get what you need…is to ask instead of expecting.
DON’T: Make every interaction that you have with your friends about your business. I know this is a tough one, because for most of us our business is the only thing we think about. However, I assure you its possible. Ask about their lives, their families etc. and make sure that you share non “work” related happenings with them as well.
FOR CLIENTS |INVITE IN|
DO: Allow your clients to know the real you. Your clients are interested in you, they want to know what makes you tick, so don’t be afraid to invite them into your life (appropriately of course). It’s totally ok, to post a few non styled pictures on your Instagram and Facebook page from time to time. Let them know you as a real person with a real life outside of your business. Show pets, family members hobbies, and yes even a friend or two.
DON’T: Assume you know it all. I know, I know you have done the research, you know what your “community” wants right? Lol. But the thing about your community is that they, like you are constantly changing and growing. Which means you have to change and grow right along with them. Beyond that, sometimes the easiest way to find out what someone wants….is to ask them.
So in closing, remember this…
Clients help your business grow. They challenge you to evolve professionally and allow you to gauge the effectiveness of your business.
Friends help you grow personally, they help keep you accountable to personal goals and keep you grounded throughout your success.
'Tis all for now!