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How to Hire Friends or Family (& Whether or Not You Should)

Your bff is newly unemployed, your business is growing, and you have a thought: What if I hired them? It’s super tempting to hire a friend or family member, especially one you truly enjoy spending time with. But it’s true what they say about mixing business and pleasure, and you have to be sure of your decision before you say, “You’re hired!”

Here’s how to hire a friend or family member and (more importantly) how to determine if you should.

Should You Hire Friends or Family Members?

The decision of whether or not to hire friends and family members is entirely up to you. Some of my business friends swear they’ll never work with anyone in their personal lives (even their spouses!), while others have been happily working with friends for years.

If you’re on the fence, consider these questions:

Are they genuinely a good fit for your business?

I know it’s tempting to hire an unemployed friend to help them get off their feet. But in order to look out for your business, you have to look at the situation with an impartial eye.

If this person were a total stranger, would you hire them? Are you at the stage in your business where you want to grow your team? Do this person’s experience and skills benefit your business? Will they be able to fill a necessary role in the daily operations of your business? Think long and hard about whether you’re hiring this person because you want to as a business owner or as a friend. If you’re only hiring them to help them out financially or boost their career, they might not be a good fit from a business perspective.

If you determine that this person isn’t a good fit for your business, there are still ways you can help them out! Offer to mentor them, help them develop a resume or portfolio, and be available to listen when they need to vent. The job search is demanding, and we all need support as we develop our careers.

How will this person respond to constructive criticism?

It’s hard telling a colleague that they messed up. It’s sometimes even harder to provide constructive criticism to someone you love. Before you hire a friend or family member, think about how they’ve responded to criticism in the past. If you don’t think the two of you can engage in a respectful, constructive conversation when things go wrong, they might not be a good fit.

Also, be sure you are comfortable delivering feedback to this person. As a business owner, you have to look out for your business first. If you’re afraid you’ll end up putting off those uncomfortable conversations or beating around the bush, you might want to reconsider hiring this person.

How will you communicate with them, and when?

Just like you set boundaries with your clients, you should set boundaries with your team. Let them know when you’re available for work-related conversations and questions, and also let them know how they should contact you (via Slack, email, etc.). That way, both you and your employees maintain a strong work-life balance.

These boundaries are even more important when you work with friends or family members. For me, my personal time is sacred. I don’t want to be out to brunch with friends and get sucked into a business conversation or be texting a cousin and get surprised by a work question. Whatever boundaries you set with the rest of the world should also apply to friends and family members you might hire.

What happens if you have to fire them?

I know it’s not fun to think about, but letting go of contractors and employees is part of being a business owner. If you have to fire this friend or family member, what happens? Are they going to take it personally? Do you think it will end your friendship with them? Is hiring them even worth taking that risk?

On the other hand, consider whether or not you’ll be able to handle that tough conversation. Often, I see business owners keep friends or family members on their team long after they realize they no longer want to work with them. But that’s not a good situation for you, your business, or your friend; you’re just postponing the inevitable and keeping your friend from finding the right career for them.

Before you hire a friend or family member, you should feel confident that you can let them go should the time come.

How to Hire a Friend or Family Member

Once you’ve made the decision to hire a friend or family member, make sure you go about it the right way. Here’s how I recommend you move forward.

Have an honest conversation.

Invite this friend for a coffee date to hammer out the details of your business relationship. Let them know exactly how you’re feeling about hiring them–whether or not you’re apprehensive, what you want to come of the relationship, how you feel about working with them–and allow them to do the same. This is a conversation you should approach as their friend, not just their potential employer. Be open and honest.

If both of you are on the same page and excited to work together, great! Now, it’s time to get down to business.

Set clear expectations.

Next, it’s time to get clear on the expectations for both parties. Chances are, you already have an idea of the role this person can fill in your business. But before you get started, you need to get specific.

What do you expect of this new hire? How much work do you expect them to do, and when do you expect them to do that work? How do you want them to communicate with you, and how often? If they have a question or concern, where should they take it? What happens if they don’t complete their work?

Also, consider what they should expect from you. How much training will you provide? When will you be available for questions and training? How much will you pay them, and how often? Get clear on these details before you start working together.

Get it all in writing.

As with any other business relationship, this one needs a contract. If you’re hiring your friend as an employee, write up a job description and offer letter. If you’re hiring them as a contractor, either of you can present a contract. Just be sure to read through it just as carefully as you would with any other contract.

During this part of the process, I recommend scheduling a check-in meeting in one to three months. During this meeting, you’ll both sit down, go over your progress, and reassess the business relationship. This acts as an opportunity for either of you to bring up questions or concerns without pressure.

Keep communicating.

It’s time to work! Treat your friend or family member just like any other employee, and maintain open lines of communication. Your friend might be embarrassed to ask questions or seek help, especially if you’re someone they look up to. Don’t be afraid to check in on them!

If you want to simplify your to-do list, increase your time-freedom, and improve your work-life balance…

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