The Infrastructure of Friends

Friends help you move. Real friends help you build businesses.

I had the occasion to hang out with a lot of my friends from college over the Labor Day weekend. We’d all come together for a wedding and there were multiple get-togethers over the course of three days. As it happens, after about three beers, I consistently want to talk business — and I’m not the only one in that group.

There have been quite a few studies about how the people who you hang out with influence you: if your friends exercise a lot, chances are good that you do to. While I can’t cite you a study, the chances that you’re an entrepreneur of some sort really do go up when you’re friends with a bunch of other people who also are entrepreneurs.

Your Friends Are Your Support

My friends tend to be on the geeky side of things — programmers were particularly well represented at our table during the reception. But it’s not an exclusive group. There’s a museum programs director, a freelance researcher and all sorts of other folks. I think that’s one of the reasons that we’re all still good friends a couple of years after graduation. We get together for more than just weddings. While we live all over the country, we’d actually all seen most of the group within the last year in our personal travels.

So we didn’t have that much catching up to do on the personal side of things. That makes it easier to wind up in conversations about our particular projects. One friend is at the idea stage of a new startup: you had better believe that she wound up in plenty of conversations over the weekend about the particular bumps she was running into, whether any of us had seen similar ideas out in the wild and all the rest. While we don’t see her every day, we’re a part of her support network for getting this project off the ground.

And every freelancer, business owner and entrepreneur needs that kind of support. The simple truth is that not everyone will support you in a new business, but the more of your friends who do, the easier the process will seem.

Your Friends Are Your Infrastructure

Who do you go to if you need computer help? I’m willing to bet that you’ve got a friend marked in your mental Rolodex as ‘tech support.’ Well, in my head, I’ve got friends marked as ‘graphic design help,’ ‘research guru’ and a whole list of topic experts. I’m happily at a point that paying my friends’ freelance rates isn’t a problem, but when you’re first starting out, you’re friends really can be your most basic infrastructure.

It can be the little stuff: They’re the ones you can bounce ideas off of for free. They’re the ones that will be guinea pigs for your projects. They’re the ones that will refer you to their own connections.

But it can also be the big stuff. If you’re operating on a shoe string budget, your friends are probably your best bet for bartering for services or convincing someone to help you on an extended payment schedule. Personally, I don’t ever ask friends to work for free (it’s a fast way to lose those friends), but I have asked a friend to take payment on the back end of a project — after it was launched and sold.

Looking At Your Friends and Where They’re Going

Your friends are your friends. There doesn’t need to be anything else to the matter. I would never tell you to change friends just to help your business.

But I spend time thinking about how I can help my friends with their projects. I spend time asking them about what they’re up to in terms of work and where they want it to go.

When people know that they have support if they have a big idea or want to take a big jump, they’re better able to do it. And they’re more likely to be supportive when their friends have a few crazy ideas, too.

Image by Flickr user Linzi-Maia Clark

3 Comments

  1. Nathalie Lussier   •  

    I love that you default to business talk after a few. 😉 I think I default to it too, if I’m with the right people. I totally agree here about friends being your support network. I see it as barn raising. When someone’s barn burns down everyone pitches in to get it built back up quickly and cheaply.

    This doesn’t mean friends are always there to work for you for free, but rather that they’re the ones you can turn to when you need an extra push. It works both ways too!

    • thursday   •     Author

      I really like the barn raising metaphor! I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept as an ecosphere, as well — there’s a lot each of us can do to make the ecosphere healthier that doesn’t obviously benefit us right off the bat. Eventually, though, we all flourish.

  2. Pingback: What’s Up Wednesdays: Friends « Beyond the Rhetoric

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