Consulting for family?

My sister wanted her boyfriend to hire DH to do some part-time consulting for his business (basically he needed two of his machines to talk to each other, if I understand correctly).  Ultimately DH didn’t because the rate offered was low and would have just been taking out of unemployment AND DH wanted to spend his time upgrading his machine learning and [something directly related to his specific skillset that is easier to do remotely than are his other specializations] skills before tapping his job application networks.

But we thought maybe it wouldn’t be such a great idea anyway and could lead to hurt feelings.

What do you think?  Should family members hire each other for projects?  Have you seen it go well or poorly?  Do you mix business and family?

12 Responses to “Consulting for family?”

  1. Steph Says:

    I haven’t mixed business and actual family, but I did hire my sister’s best friend (an honorary member of the family) to redo my website a couple years ago. In this case, freelancing those types of projects is part of her job, and I tried to act like a normal client – spelled out what I was looking for in my initial request, and accepted her standard rate and terms. I think it’s one of those things where if the person with the skills offers a lower rate or special items, then that’s OK to take, but otherwise you should act like a standard client. And if DH wasn’t sure they could have a normal client relationship, then it makes sense to decline that job.

  2. delagar Says:

    Dr. Skull’s brother hired him to write copy and install programs on industry machines back when we were first married. It was an absolute nightmare, but then the brother and his wife (who ran the office) were not good people.

  3. Alice Says:

    I have some friends where the husband is periodically employed by her father to do web design, and I get the impression that it creates a bit of a strain. Not so much that they don’t do it, but enough that it’s a source of complaining all around. Her dad also fully employs a couple of his other kids– not her, but her siblings. I feel like it’s sort of a mix of parental control and protection extending well into adulthood… and not really good for any of them… but I’m not close enough to her family as a whole to have more than a vague impression of things.

    I do know of one woman who hired her brother as her assistant for a few years. She said that she was always bossing him around as kids and he was okay with it back then, so– it was just a continuation of that pattern. No idea what her brother thought of it, but she didn’t have any issues that I ever heard about.

    I guess it can work out? Or at least not be an absolute disaster. But it’s not something I would invite into my life without a really compelling reason. Not as the employer, not as the employee, not as a spouse or parent. I wouldn’t want to muddy the relationships by mixing work and family unless there was a major situation involved.

  4. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    Family, friend, or stranger, my policy is I would only hire someone if I know I can fire them. I’ve hired people who were like family and they knew the score: I had high expectations, I would be clear about the standards and their performance just like for anyone else, treat them with respect and empathy, and do my best to set them up for success. Their end of the bargain is they had to deliver. If they failed to or were unable to perform to standard, I would indeed fire them. If I couldn’t have that conversation with them before hiring them, then I sure couldn’t hire / fire them normally like I would any other employed person. There are lots of relatives would who be appalled by that conversation and so I know I’d never work with them, traditional or freelance type of employment.

    I’ve hired friends for work on a small scale like photography and tutoring and it works because we try our best to be very clear about communication and expectations and reasonable requests. It can get sticky if one of the two parties is uncomfortable discussing rates, though. I’ve had that come up and we had to figure out how to navigate it so both sides were ok.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      How about the other way around, with working for someone?

      • revanchegsl Says:

        I’m not sure. I would only even consider it if they were as transparent about things as I am, and if I could be super honest with them too. And I would need to really trust them as people. I have become quite friendly with my boss over the years on a personal level, our families have spent time together, but still I hold back quite a lot of myself because I need some separation – we started out as professionals first and became friendly second so for me there may always be some tension because he SHOULD be able to fire me and I don’t want to be in a place where I’d take that really personally.

  5. xykademiqz Says:

    Mixing personal and professional is always, always a bad idea. DH shouldn’t do it.

  6. mnitabach Says:

    My direct observations of mixing business & family were that it led to marital infidelity, divorce, emotional & physical violence, intergenerational estrangement, and pissing away millions of dollars on legal fees to battle out business & family disputes in the courts to the nasty bitter end.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      Well… I don’t think either of us have millions of dollars to piss away on anything, but we will keep that in mind(!) (And I don’t *think* my sister’s boyfriend is DH’s type, but we did only meet him for a few hours at thanksgiving with masks on more than 6 feet apart, so who knows.)

  7. EB Says:

    Several people in my husband’s family started a business that ended in disaster. I also had a sister in law who cleaned house for another sister in law (they are not sisters, but married to brothers). Yikes, you would have thought that was a recipe for unhappiness, but it worked. But let’s be real, there are millions of family businesses in this country that seem to have worked it out. Do they succeed in keeping every family member who works there on board? Probably not. But it seems to be a common business pattern.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If one of my SIL had a cleaning company I wouldn’t have a problem hiring them if I needed a cleaner (and DH would probably be expected to even if we didn’t, though maybe less so now that his grandmas who would have pushed that kind of thing are both gone). But I think I have less of a problem hiring than working for because I can choose to just not worry about it if they do a crappy job, or if it’s something like a cleaning company we can just say we’re cutting back (like revanche says, can we fire them).

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