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When my friend and I graduated college we decided to go into freelance software development as a way to earn money until we both get jobs. We were fortunate enough to have signed on clients fairly quickly and started to get money coming into our business.

We've been doing freelancing as our full-time gig, until recently when I was hired on by a software development company full-time. Part of my employment at this company means I am not able to do any freelance work that will compete against the company's services. Around the same time I was transitioning from freelancing to being employed full-time, we met with investors interested in financing some of our non-freelancing projects and bringing them to the market.

After speaking with the company, and my business partner, we have come to a decision that I will still be involved with our software business, but I will be completely uninvolved in freelance work and instead work strictly with our investors on our non-freelancing projects.

The problem, though, is that despite mentioning multiple times that I wish to not be involved in the freelancing side of our business, he insists on involving me with freelancing work. We have agreed I'll be available to answer any software related questions for client projects we have both worked on, but he has often shifted or scheduled our business meetings to be primarily about freelancing. Whenever he does this, I make it clear to him that I am not going to be working on any freelancing work and I have him make the final decisions on any freelance related questions.

However, this behavior is still continuing and I would like for it to stop. I feel like I have very little time to work on projects now that I'm full-time and when he wants to have these meetings it feels like my time is being taken away to focus on work I do not want to be involved in. How do I tell my friend that I feel that he is not respecting our agreement for me to no longer be involved in freelancing and get him to stop?

Extra Notes:

  • I have told him before that not only am I not allowed to do freelancing work, but I also do not want to work on it due to time constraints and lack of interest
  • He is also going to be working with the investors on the projects. He wants to do freelancing work as a source of additional income
  • He wants to put any money made from freelancing into our shared business account. I have informed him he is free to just take whatever he has made from freelancing for personal use and I will not touch anything he has made through freelancing unless it's a mutually agreed upon business expense
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    What's wrong with just telling him what you told us "I feel that he is not respecting our agreement for me to no longer be involved in freelancing"? – sphennings Jun 8 '18 at 15:08
  • Can you edit in clarifications who "we" and "our" refers to in each case (you and your friend or you and your new employer? or somebody else?). Also, can you mention how you and in particular your new employer differentiates between freelancing and non-freelancing? I don't quite understand why they're OK with one thing but not the other. – AllTheKingsHorses Jun 10 '18 at 15:23
  • Can you explain how your friend reacted when you first established this boundary? In your title you say "mutually agreed" but in your description it sounds as though they have not been thrilled with this decision from the start. – Jesse Jun 11 '18 at 3:34
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I talked with my friend about this following something similar to what @sphenning suggested. I brought up that the situation was becoming stressful for me and explained why it was important for me to stop freelancing. He informed me he didn't realize he was doing this. We decided to discuss what work would fall under the kind I want to refrain from doing to clarify where the boundary lies.

I know there were questions asked about this so I thought I'd give some answers here:

  1. Also, can you mention how you and in particular your new employer differentiates between freelancing and non-freelancing?

They(The company who hired me, whom I'll call Company A) are fine with me free-lancing if I am not doing freelance work similar to what Company A provides to their clients. For example, if Company A is a company specializing in making websites for other businesses, I would be able to do anything besides that. If I wanted to make a web applications or mobile applications for businesses, it would be allowed.

The non-freelancing work I mentioned are not for clients. They're software we have created for ourselves originally just out of our personal interest. Since we aren't creating them for a client, rather we'll be just getting financed from investors for exchanged partial ownership, it would not go against the company's non-compete agreement.

  1. Can you explain how your friend reacted when you first established this boundary?

When I mentioned to him about Company A's non-compete agreement upon getting a job offer, he suggested I step away from free-lancing so I can work for Company A. He and I discussed what this change in focus for our software business would mean, and modified our goals and plan to accommodate my new job.

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You and your friend are obviously intelligent and good communicators. You both graduated from college and moved forward swiftly and successfully on your entrepreneurial partnership. Plus, you call your partner "friend" and obviously have no issues with working together in some capacity.

So the problem isn't that you don't understand each other. The problem isn't that one of you is trying to get out of a deal. The problem isn't that you don't care about each other as friends.

The problem is that your partner has a habit of depending on you to come through no matter what. You are a dependable person. You are his friend. You want to help. You get a reward from being the dependable one. You developed a "partnership" for a reason. It is a business relationship ... but the relationship part is what made it work so well.

You have to decide if you want to keep your new job. If so, then you have to maintain your boundaries. To maintain YOUR boundaries, you don't wait for someone else to respect them. People respect them when you defend them.

You have to go out for coffee or find some other uninterrupted time to talk. You are obviously friends, so informal language might get the point across. Be clear, say it, and ... don't say it anymore. The rest is up to you, not him. Again, it is up to you to maintain your boundaries.

I don't know how you talk with your close friends, but I might imagine one of these:

"You are #%&ing my %&#* up! I'm going to get %&#*#ing fired from my job if they think I am going against the non-competition clause of my contract. Do you get what this means to me? This has been my goal since I started college!! I can't let this happen so ..."

Ok, maybe that is a bit over the top. But you have to be CLEAR and then YOU have to maintain that boundary. Your friend cannot possibly MAKE you do work or attend meetings regarding your previous freelancing projects ...

  • if he invites you to a meeting and the subject of freelance projects comes up, stand up and walk out, leave the building, head to a coffee shop or something, and go relax.
  • if a phone conversation leads to freelance work, interrupt and say, "It sounds like you are busy with your work. I don't want to distract you from getting done what you need done. Give me a call when you have more time."
  • if a conversation in person leads to freelance work, take a look at your phone and say, "wow, you sound busy. I have work of my own to do. I'll call you later."

You get the idea ... you are friends. I get it. It would be easy to suggest that you just have your freelance conversations in private and keep it a secret, but integrity is a valuable commodity and I wouldn't trade it away for a bit of money. It can be hard to break habits, especially from college, of depending on each other for certain things. Do it even if it is hard ...

Just my 2 cents ...

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