When I started my own business there is one thing I didn’t consider deeply: Working with friends. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with friends in every aspect of my business (co-collaborators, suppliers, and clients.) I’ve also had more control over my mental space and schedule, which—I think—has helped me be a better friend outside of any business considerations.

This month I launched two new collaborative projects through my business Kenny Consulting Group, LLC: Hello Blink Show and OSHdata. Working on my own created free space for me to start these projects with people who I’ve enjoyed working with in the past, whose work I respect, and who I always hoped to work with in the future.

These are both modest projects. It’s fun to be able to come up with an idea and say “yes” when the threshold for success is lower. Because we have other income streams, projects, and ways to pay the bills, we can go for it. We also have time and schedule availability for conversations, not being stuck in a full time job schedule with the typical office requirements, meetings, etc.

Hello Blink Show is a practical business growth podcast for technical people who want to start their own business. It’s co-hosted by Shawn Hymel and I, two people who have done this ourselves. Our technical background is in sales and marketing, which is the focus of the show. Sign up for Hello Blink Show updates here.

OSHdata is a market intelligence serve for the Open Source Hardware (OSH) community. Created by Steven Abadie and I, people who have built open hardware companies, we’ll dig into pricing trends, market size, and more. Sign up for OSHdata updates here.

Friends have helped me grow my business in so many ways: graphic design, legal advice, accounting services, videography and photography, and more. If I’m going to pay someone for help anyway, it’s nice to be able to pay someone I already know who has the expertise, who I trust to do the right thing, and who does high quality work. Starting my own business unlocked this whole support network that I wasn’t able to lean on before. Hidden in plain sight.

I’ve had the rewarding experience of working with friends to grow their businesses. I’ve seen them in a new light, understood much better what they are building, what they are good at, and realized that the things I’ve learned helping grow businesses are often applicable to what they are building.

Tangentially, I have more of a peer relationship with my clients. I am more freely able to provide feedback than with employer-employee dynamics. When all of your income comes from one source, it can feel like you are maintaining a fragile and delicate balance. By having options (i.e. multiple income streams), neither party has excessive leverage over the other. It allows for a greater working relationship of co-equals. In time, client relationships can grow into friendships too.

Of course, all work and no play makes for a dull life. Working on my own has encouraged many positive changes in my life, including improved exercise, nutrition, and sleep. It has also made me a better friend. I’m more available to answer messages, stop by and say hi, and be available when visitors are in town. I feel closer to my friends. Friendship is more integrated into my life, rather than something to “fit in” outside of work.

Prioritizing these things is a choice. But it’s nice to have the choice.

N.B. There are risks to working with friends. You want to be careful to not jeopardize the relationships. So far, we have successfully mitigated these risks by setting expectations ahead of time and maintaining a degree of formality with contracts and communications to make sure we’re always on the same page.

Feature image captured by Jordan Whitt and shared through Unsplash.