I think (I hope!) most of us, self-employed or not, try to project a professional image when we’re on the clock.  We return phone calls and emails promptly, are dressed and groomed appropriately when meeting clients, watch our language, our alcohol intake, and our manners, keep our Facebook profiles private… the list goes on and on.

But what about when we’re with family and friends?  Isn’t that when you get to relax and let your guard down?

I had an interesting meeting a few weeks ago.  One that opened my eyes and made me think “huh… never looked at it that way before…”  I was speaking to somebody – let’s call them ‘J’ –  who works in a creative field and was looking for help on a specific project.  I knew that J had a couple of friends who worked in the right field and wondered why J didn’t use them?

There were a number of reasons, but two stood out: too much partying and… the inability to come up with a Halloween costume year after year.

say what??

Odd reasons?  Well the first one is a no-brainer:

If you needed a job done, you want a professional to do it.  You want to know they’re good at what they do, they’re reliable and you want their actions to instill confidence in you.  I’d be very reluctant to hire a friend, even if they’re good at what they do, if I know for a fact that they’re never on time, they spend too much time out on the town, they’re hungover on a regular basis, and they’re just flat out unreliable.  And I also wouldn’t recommend them to somebody else.

The second reason made me do a double take. No Halloween costume?  What does that have to do with anything?  And so I asked J.  Their reply?  “I need somebody creative to do this job.  How can a person, who comes to the same Halloween party year after year, but never manages to come up with a costume, or at the most, comes up with a really lame one, possibly be considered creative?”

J has a point…

The friend in question may have one of the most brilliant creative minds of our generation, I really don’t know, but J doesn’t see the evidence of it.

time to stop and think

I guess what made me stop and think was that it’s never really occurred to me to consider the image your friends have of you.  Yes, it’s true, your friends are the people you should be able to let loose with and not worry so much about the consequences.  But on the other hand, your friends can be one of your best sources of referrals – is the day to day image they have of you one that they’d recommend to somebody else?  Would they hire you?  If you work in a creative field, do your friends see evidence that you are creative?

When I mentioned this conversation to a colleague, he laughed and then said “I think that might just be an interview question I ask the next time I’m hiring a designer – what were your last 3 Halloween costumes?”

Hehe, it’s definitely something to think about…