Imagine this... you've just got engaged (ok, so maybe you don't have to imagine this wonderful part) and have shared the good news with everyone. The wedding planning season (or should I rather say madness?) has officially started.
Now imagine being approached, out of the blue, by a close friend or acquaintance who offers to design your wedding invitation suite for free or very cheap.
The conversation might go something like this...
"Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Have you thought about your invitations yet? I've recently started my stationery business and I'm looking for work to build my name and portfolio. It would be so helpful if I can do your invitations. I'll even do it for free/cheap."
Does this sound more like a dream or a nightmare to you?
I get it, it's a really sweet and generous offer. Weddings are expensive and it's oh so tempting to say "Yes" without giving it another thought, especially if the offer comes from someone close to you. But (there's always a but, isn't there?) you really should be giving it more thought and be confident you are a great fit for each other.
You've come to the right place, my friend because I can help you navigate this tricky situation with grace. And why can I help you? Because I've been there... I have offered my services to friends and acquaintances and have received both, positive and negative replies. I think that totally qualifies me to dish out some great advise, don't you agree?
First I'd like to tell you about the situations when I offered my services and how that worked out for me.
I offered to create a fully bespoke wedding invitation suite to two of my best friends when they told me about their engagement and I knew I wouldn't be able to attend. One of my friends said yes, the other declined my offer.
I made the same offer to a lovely couple who worked with my partner Paul. They did say "Yes" and their invitation suite is still one of my all time favourites.
When his brothers got married, Paul offered my services as well as paying for the printing to both of them as our wedding gift. His little brother declined the offer, but his middle brother happily accepted. I was so stoked about this because they had impeccable taste and I got to work with letterpress and gold foil, which might not mean anything to you, but I was in heaven. Paul's bank balance not so much :-)
Now you're probably wondering why I'm telling you all of this and how it can help you, right? Perfect timing. Because that's exactly what I'm digging into next. Ready?
As you now know I've been in the position where my services have been declined twice. And you know what else? I'm not upset with anyone. My good friend is still my good friend and I'm also on good terms with Paul's little brother. I know their decision to say "No" to me wasn't a reflection on my skills as a wedding stationery designer or my worth as a human being.
I wasn't the right fit for them and that's perfectly fine. Why? Because it was about them, not me.
Let's face it... saying "No" sucks (even more so when you have to say it to a friend) and being said "No" to sucks too. But a true professional will understand and always put your wishes first.
So if you really don't want your friend to design your wedding stationery or you have your heart set on another designer whose work you've admired for years (Me? You're so sweet, thank you.), then take a deep breath and just say "No". You have every right to decline the offer, no matter who it came from.
Believe me, the people who truly love you will support you in your efforts to plan your perfect wedding. This is a celebration of your love for each other after all, not a springboard for someone's career. No one will be upset with you (maybe a little bit disappointed at first, but never upset).
The only thing a true professional gets very upset about is if you string them along, not making a decision and saying "Maybe" when you actually mean "No". That's not cool.
So, if you want to decline someone's services, be kind and don't drag it out. Then move on. Easy-peasy, right?
Now let's say you're actually intrigued by the offer and decided to give it more thought, the biggest hurdle is to figure out whether your friend is an up-and-coming professional or an amateur. No one likes to think of their friends as amateurs, but if you're at all interested in how your invitations look like and how they can add more personality and excitement to your wedding, you want the up-and-coming professional.
We all have to start somewhere and many self-employed creatives do so by offering their services to friends and family first, usually for free or at a reduced rate. Please know that this doesn't say anything about their skills, it's just a way to get a foot in the door.
Your friend's portfolio might be very small or made up of self-initiated projects only, but if you like their style and aesthetic you're off to a good start.
Some other things to keep in mind: How do they make you feel? Do they take your questions seriously and answer openly and honestly? (Being good friends or related to each other isn't enough at this stage. Both of you need to be able to set your relationship aside for a while and look at this from an objective, more business-like side.)
If you have any hesitations about your friend's skills or lack of experience, go ahead and ask. You're not trying to point out failures, you just want to ensure you are the right fit for each other.
It's a bit more tricky if your friend is so green that there's no portfolio to speak of. I fully understand how this situation can make you feel a bit uncomfortable. If you have the time, go for a test drive.
For example, you could ask them to create an engagement announcement or Save the Date invitation for you. This way you get a first-hand experience of working together, which should give you a lot more insights and make your final decision even easier.
If I can leave you with only one piece of advise today, it would be this: As tempting as it is to outright accept any offer to work for free, especially when it comes from a friend, don't make money (or your friendship) the only deciding factor. Only accept when you know you're dealing with a professional, who just happens to be a good friend as well.
Did you like this blog post? If the answer is "Yes. This was mind blowing advise." it would mean the world to me if you'd share it with a friend who will find it as helpful as you did.
This is the first post in a new blog series. Have you ever been in a tricky situation when planning your wedding not quite knowing how to react? Yes? Let me know in the comments. And while I am a bit biased towards all things stationery (who would have thought, eh?) your dilemma doesn't have to revolve around print and paper. If I can't answer your question, I'll bring on an expert who can.
Follow me on Bloglovin for fast and easy access to the next installment in this series and other blog posts.
Thank you for reading.