The Friend Zone No One Talks About

We’ve all heard of, prescription been in, mind or sentenced someone to the “friend zone.”

According to Google, it is defined as, “a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other.” But what about the friend zone in business? I would define it as, “ a situation which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom would like an unreciprocated complimentary or discounted service from the other.”

Confused? Let me give you an example.

“Hey Becca! Long time no see! How are things? I hear business is going well!
I really like what you’re doing with ___ and that ___ you posted about looked awesome!
I know you must be crazy busy, but when you have time, can we grab a coffee?
I’d really like to pick your brain about social media for ___.
Let me know when works for you. Looking forward to catching up!”

If you’re self-employed or running your own business, you’ve probably received similar messages. At first you think it’s great, people you know want to work with you & your company. But then you realize that there is something missing.  

Can you send me a price list?
I need ____, what would you charge to make that happen?
This is my budget, can you work within that, or recommend someone who can?

Unfortunately, because the message failed to bring up compensation, I can only assume that you want me to help you with your social media, for coffee. Now, just to be clear, I love coffee. I’m fairly sure my body is 90% water & 10% caffeine. But at the end of the day, buying me a coffee doesn’t pay my mortgage, running my business does.

Ultimately, there are two types of friends when you’re self-employed.

  1. The friends that are amazing. They carry around your cards like it’s their job, they recommend you to anyone & their dog that even hint at needing something you offer. They rule. If you are one of those friends, take a moment to high-five yourself.
    I love you. Thank you.
  2. The friends that give you emotional support, kind of. They didn’t bother to support your business when it was growing because, whatever. They hit “like” on most of the stuff you post online, but they’re not actually checked in to what you’re doing. To be clear, that’s totally fine. You’re busy, I get it.
    To be honest, I probably don’t hand out your business cards either.

When it comes to working with friends, one is relationship worthy, the other one is probably stuck in the friend zone. Why? Ultimately, one of these friends truly values our friendship, & will offer to pay me for my services. The other one probably expects me to do it for free, or at a discount & subsequently makes me want to throw my laptop at the wall. There are exceptions of course, it’s just a trend I’ve noticed by talking to other people who are self-employed.

So before you ask a hair dresser, a musician or real estate agent to do their job for free, consider the following. They’ve invested in education & coaching, as well as countless hours perfecting their craft. They’ve spent money on everything from hardware to printer paper, bus passes to bus bench advertising, just to be able to do their job. They pay for the chair you’re sitting in at the salon & the product they used in your hair. They have to put gas in their vehicle to get to the gig & probably the rest of the band (that isn’t friends with you), for playing it. They’re paying for the “For Sale” signs & the brokerage fees required to sell your house. Did you realize that by asking them to do it for free, you’re actually asking them to pay to help you?

How is that fair?

I’m all for coffee when it’s a discussion about what I can do for you, I’m just not down to meet you at Tim Hortons for a $2 coffee & walk you through your entire social strategy. I  will show up, listen to you & give you a quote (or recommend someone else better suited). I’m not writing your tweet for you. I’m not filtering your Instagram pic. Until I’m on the clock, this is an introductory meeting. Please treat it as such.

At the end of the day, I do help some of my friends & family for free, or at a discount. You don’t need to ask or imply, I promise I will offer if I can. Money talk can be an awkward, I don’t care whether your budget is zero or a few thousand, just be straight up about it. We can’t take over the world from the friend zone, even Pinky & the Brain had a relationship that was mutually beneficial.

P.S. Does anyone know how to add an additional definition to a Google Search?

*Asking for a friend*

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