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Am I screwing my friend over?

Tagged as: Big Questions, Friends, Trust issues<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (29 May 2020) 6 Answers - (Newest, 31 May 2020)
A male United Kingdom age 36-40, anonymous writes:

I had a message from an old friend asking if I had ideas to pitch to a company he has just signed up to as a freelancer. They are a production company looking for show ideas and pay commission if an idea is chosen.

My friend said if any ideas I came up with were chosen he'd share the commission. So I came up with an idea which he sent off with some if his own and the feedback was that my idea was "by far the favourite" and my friend asked me to expand on it for them. So I spent a bit of time doing this and sent it over to him to pass on.

I said to him it seemed like a fun way to make some potential money and did they have any more positions available. He replied saying "I've already sent you the brief" which I took to mean he wished the dynamic to stay this way.

However I decided to send them an email just to ask about what they require and if they are in need of further ideas and putting myself forward as a candidate. The reply was positive and a call has been set up but I haven't told my friend yet. I have this feeling he won't be too happy about it but don't know if that will be the case or not.

I can't figure out if it is immoral to directly pitch my ideas to the company rather than give them to him to pass on as his own. I think it's seems a little pointless to not be able to have my name to the ideas when it could potentially look good for me on a CV or for future prospects. On the other hand I don't want to upset my friend or jepordise our relationship. If I go ahead with it I am going to tell him but figured I would wait until after the call (as it may be fruitless anyway) and if things were to work out and my ideas were commissioned then I could reversely split the commission with him for alerting me to the opportunity.

So should I continue to talk the company with the idea of working for them myself even though my friend has only just started with them and has asked me to give him ideas or should I just continue to pass on my thoughts and concepts to him to use as his own in the hope I get a split of the commission?

Is it screwing him over or going behind his back if I go ahead with the interview and tell him after if they are wanting me to work with them?

View related questions: money

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A reader, anonymous, writes (31 May 2020):

You've fulfilled your obligation as a friend. You've been transparent about your ambitions; and this has only been a successful endeavor for both of you, due to the collaboration between you and your friend. He has received his recognition; but it was inclusive of, and due to, your contribution.

Don't over-think this. There might be a little hesitation and envy posed on his part; but you took our advice to let him know what you are doing, and to offer him a cut or the earnings. He introduced you to an opportunity; and you have the drive and ambition to pursue it, and make it happen. You also mentioned him as a part of the deal.

Don't try to read your friend's mind, or anticipate any problems without evidence. His hesitation might be surprise that you took such interest; and that you got such immediate feedback from the company. You gave him a boost, and he gave you a chance to use the talents you have. If you are both true-friends, you will see this in the proper light; and not become adversaries or competitors. Did he hesitate to come to you, knowing that you would somehow be a benefit and good source?

Stay positive, and take this as far as you can take it.

You may want to consult with a lawyer; before you sign any kind of written contracts or agreements. If you are promised anything, make sure it appears in writing.

I wish you both the very best.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (30 May 2020):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Hi all, thanks for your responses. So I had a call with the company director who essentially told me about the brief and asked me to work on and send some initial ideas across for their consideration over the next week. We casually chatted and it seemed to go quite well. I told him that I knew a recent collaborator they had just taken on (my friend) and it turns out the director knows him quite well. One thing that I established was that if pitches to the production company are successful then we get to keep our name attached to the project which is more important than the financial gain and why I felt a bit uncomfortable keeping the dynamic as it was long term; giving my ideas away for split commission but no future recognition. I of course didn't mention that the previous successful idea was mine and will be happy to let my friend keep that one.

So I immediately messaged my friend. I had previously sent him a revamp of my initial idea bulked out and amended but hadn't had any response from him since. I told him that I was interested in the company and had messaged them to say so and that it would be good for me to have a direct attachment to any projects and to have my name out there. I explained that we had a chat and they want me to send them some initial ideas and we can go from there. I also suggested that I am happy to potentially collaborate on further ideas if he was interested in doing so (on a mutual level where we fire ideas off of each other).

His response was short but affirmative so I'm not quite sure how to take it. He simply said, 'yes sounds great'. I didn't talk about potential payments or split commission as I felt that was jumping the gun (I may well send over further ideas and they won't like them. The idea I gave to him may well be the only decent one I possess and the while thing could come to an abrupt end) but that would be something I would bring up with him if it went to the next stage.

I realised that I am not taking anything away from him as the production companies are in need of unlimited ideas so I am not competing with him for the spaces just adding my concepts separately on the pile. It won't make his ideas less likely to be commissioned so I don't feel bad about that. My only concern about his feelings would be that he will be upset I am not using him as the middle man for my ideas as he initially wanted. I think that as I am being open with him that I contacted them and I will keep him updated on how things go I am hopefully being morally sound. But to make sure that we are ok I am going to give him a call in a few days and explain that I'm excited about the opportunity, thank him for bringing it to my attention and reiterate that it will be good to work alongside and with him, not competing against him.

I feel right now I have done the right thing as long as I keep in communication with him. I think to have kept the dynamic as it was wouldn't have been a fair balance in the long run so we have mutually helped each other out to start. There's a bit more to do to equalise the situation but I'm hoping we can enjoy being potential colleagues from this!

Comments and thoughts are appreciated as always otherwise thank you for your time and contribution!

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A reader, anonymous, writes (29 May 2020):

This is what networking is all about. Your friend sought your input and ideas; and offered to split the reward. It would have been better had you told your friend you'd like to try your own hand at it; and see what comes of it. If it bears fruit; you will split whatever reward comes of that. Your friend saw you as a resource, and you gained him some success through your participation.

Your friend owns no stock in the company, and recruitment is open to anyone. When someone does you a favor, and you in-turn receive a benefit; that person should be given some sort of recognition and compensation for offering you an opportunity. It's up them to decline any compensation or payback; but in the interest of fair play to a friend, they should be offered that choice.

Going behind their back, with intent to steal an opportunity is a matter of character, loyalty to your friendship, and conscience; but you have no restrictions on pursuing your own ambitions. Just remember who provided the initial opportunity; if and when you gain any success. Let your friend know that if you succeed at this, you owe him a big favor.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (29 May 2020):

Honeypie agony auntTo me that all depends, are you getting that interview BASED on the idea your friend worked on WITH you or another idea?

Is this the ONLY company that you could work with in that capacity?

To be honest I get why you did what you did, but I think it's not really being a good friend to go behind his back and promote yourself on his coattails. I don't think you NEED to ask "permission" to apply to the same company but I think it would have been a decent gesture.

The thing is, if you are both in the same field you are competitors to a degree, and he knows that.

He might still GET the job based on YOUR idea. Either at this place or another.

You might get work based on YOUR own ideas, your "intellectual property" so to speak. I would just (had I been in your shoes) went to (if possible) another company. Could be a similar one but not the same he is trying to get hired at.

What it might teach him... is to NOT involve you in work projects in the future. And maybe that is for the better.

And I think YOUR ideas are YOURS and YOU should work on them, not hand them off to friends. He has to get work BASED on HIS own merit, just as you will have to do.

I both understand your boldness and I also dislike it. It seems underhanded. Especially if you had never consider that company before or on your own.

And yes, I would tell him. But really ONLY if you get the job. It would seem shady if he had to find out for himself.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (29 May 2020):


I don't see why you shouldn't work for this company off your own back. Maybe thank him for the idea of making money this way, but as it's something you really enjoy and seem to be good at, then you'd like to have a shot at making part (or all) of your living this way.

Your friend has set himself up as your 'kind of' agent and is happy to make money off your ideas, but now you've got a taste for it, you want to go freelance without him acting as your agent. I think you're perfectly entitled to do this.

Tricky though if he's going to take offence, but if any of the above that I've put across to you, could be used in putting across to him, then feel free to use it. I'd like a commission though. Joke!

You could up pitching ideas that are accepted and used and your friend may never pitch an idea that is used, so this could work out as a situation where your ideas are the only ones that are ever used and your friend gets half the money for basically doing nothing.

If you've got the talent for this, then I think you should go for it. If this situation were reversed, in that you went to him first and his idea was accepted, you can bet your bottom dollar that he would be thinking the same way as you are.

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A female reader, Aunty BimBim Australia +, writes (29 May 2020):

Aunty BimBim agony auntYou friend was prepared to use your ideas and work to make money (the commission).

So if you get the work recompense the amount he would have got in commission for pitching YOUR idea.

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