Ask Athena: Not Very Neighborly

Business and neighbors don’t always mix

Dear Athena,
Recently I hired a neighbor who was out of work to assist me on various projects at my office. He’s a very talented designer, so I appreciated his help.

Anyway, this year he offered to put together a social media package for my freelance consulting business – and I guess I had raved so much about his skills that a good friend (also a freelancer) wanted in on the deal.

Unfortunately, this time my neighbor did not deliver. Though his graphics were tight, the posts he sent out were not his usual professional caliber. On top of that, he told both of us he needed an extra day to update our logos, and then we never heard from him. Still haven’t.

Neither my friend nor I have had the guts to ask him if we’re getting our logos, and by now it seems silly to bring it up.

I feel disappointed in the project of course and also in myself for not handling this better. Where did I go wrong, Athena? What should I have done instead?

And how should I make this up to my friend? I feel like I steered her wrong.
~ Socially Challenged

Dear Social,
I am fully in support of hiring people you know and giving recommendations.

Especially in this time of employment uncertainty, it is great to go local instead of hiring someone anonymously over the internet.

But here you got burned.

It can happen in any contract. One thing you did not mention however, is the payment. Have you or your friend paid him already? If not, that is always a way to get your package back. It is not silly to bring it up with him. He is a professional and needs to called to task.

We have no idea what happened, so it is up to you to ask him. Drop over to his house or leave him a note. What happened? Listen to what he says. Maybe he has a good excuse or maybe he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, tell him how disappointed you were and closed the book on it. It is much better to deal with this now than having awkward interactions as a neighbor for years to come.

In the future, it is really helpful to detail out the deliverables. What is the contractor supposed to do and by when. Make the payments based on successful completion of specific activities. I am a little puzzled about why you would need guts to ask him. You are a business person and so is your friend. Asking a contractor for deliverables is part of doing business. It doesn’t have to be a signed contract if it is small and you don’t have the desire or capacity to do that, but the details must be spelled out in an email or a written document.

You are not responsible for the failure of the neighbor to complete the project for your friend. Just because you recommended someone does not mean you guaranteed that the work would be done. You didn’t talk your friend into hiring your neighbor, btw. They jumped in and are responsible for it.

Talk with your friend about what you both should do next time to protect your businesses. Get your logos somewhere else. Commiserate. Move on.

Agree or Disagree? Please comment below.
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Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

About Athena 46 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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