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Freelancing – 8 Things That No One Has Told You About Some of Your Clients
I’ve been freelancing for over 5 years and have had the good fortune (and sometimes misfortune) of working with a variety of unusual clients. Although all customers are unique individuals, there are several characteristics and behaviors that occur from one customer to another.
Most of the requests for my work are for web design from small business owners, mainly outside the UK. These unfortunate beliefs and behaviors seem to cross borders of country, race, and language, and I’ve witnessed many of these traits even in polar opposite industries.
With that in mind, you never know when you might run into a customer who exhibits one of these behaviors.
I hope that this article may help some aspiring freelancers to be better prepared for any occasion when they find themselves in situations similar to the ones you hear below.
1. Aren’t you a mind reader?
You are a designer. They are the directors of a packaging company. They have no idea how they want their web layout to look, but they tell you, “If you write something, I’ll know if I like it.”
Great. So, on the off chance that I manage to read your mind and deliver something that meets your unspoken expectations, shall we continue to work together? Besides, if I manage to pull this off, my psychic powers won’t be recognized.
This type of design is called “conceptual design” and is very different from the standard design; it should also be handled and billed very differently.
Design is a two-way street. As a designer, you will have to convince the client that they also play an active role in the success of the project.
I usually ask for examples of their existing brand that they want to keep. For example, an existing logo, color palette or any other material. If that’s not available (for example, if it’s a new startup), then asking questions about their target customers, demographics, and any culture or message they want to convey to their customers often helps me determine at least whether a comic is necessary. is it corporate, web 2.0 or other style.
2. I don’t really have much money, or I tell you that I don’t really have much money
The two are not the same.
Some clients have really tight budgets for their projects. Others have more funds available but want to give the impression that they don’t in order to secure a good price.
In the past I have come across clients who claimed the work was for a charity and when the project got going it became abundantly clear that the work was for a commercial company with 10 UK offices and 4 overseas branches!
As a sole trader, it is your responsibility to find out which of these are your customers actually it is.
Personally, I have found that the best way to do this is to discuss the rough requirements of the project over the phone or by email. before you meet them. If your work is 100% online, ask for details about their current website or business and check it out. I wish I could do that with my “charity“the example above…
3. Free advice and wasted time are just the price of doing business
If you think prospects are going to come out and tell you they won’t hire you the moment it crosses their mind, think again.
This could of course be moral, but many customers are of the opinion that “Hey, designers get paid to provide free information and advice. Sometimes they get paid, sometimes they don’t. It’s just the cost of doing business.”
Some prospects do this to fill their own gaps in knowledge about the process or price and test the water before proceeding with the project. While I’m sure we can all understand and even appreciate the importance of this type of legwork, the impact on your workload can be huge.
I offer a completely free web design production service, which many would say is a potential waste of time and risk – in fact, I’m inviting clients to eat my availability.
In fact, I’ve found that many clients will want to see some form of work before engaging you, so I’d probably still provide this service.
By offering an open service, I take the pressure off my clients and, if they decide not to continue with the design, I offer the design as a tutorial or add it to my shop for other clients to benefit from.
4. I hired you 3 years ago and you are still employed
One of the biggest annoyances I feel is when clients believe that because you’ve completed and handed over a project, you’re their new “go to guy” whenever they have any technical issues – in some cases even unrelated to the project , which you have completed.
I took 10 days off last year. No computer. No email. A total IT blackout while I enjoyed some well-earned time away from the monitor. When I came back I had over 20 emails from a client I built a website for in 2005 – over 4 years ago.
Apparently they moved server hosts and their PHP contact form now works. They were not receiving emails and as the site was for a holiday villa they felt they were losing bookings and money as a result.
Although the tone of the unanswered emails gradually became more aggressive, the first contact email was not exactly full of praise:
“Your programming has stopped working and you need to fix it for us ASAP”
After I replied and apologized that I was on vacation, I asked if they had changed anything on the site. They replied that they had moved hosts and I told them that their new host was causing the problem and they might not have PHP support with their new host. They upgraded their host and continued to bombard me with emails asking me to look at the code.
I finally gave in and looked. After about 15 minutes, I realized that when they changed hosts, they also changed their email address.
There was no offer to pay for the service – not even a thank you email. In fact, I only received one other reply that simply said they would “try it and contact me in case of problems”.
In retrospect, I could have avoided this if I had just explained that it was a separate project and treated it as such; provided an offer and a time that I could fit into my work schedule. Oh good. Once bitten, twice shy.
5. I am as smart as you
The vast majority of clients are completely unskilled in designing – that’s why they came to a specialist. However, not all customers will admit this to themselves, let alone to you.
On the rare occasion they do, empathize and guide. In other cases, it is imperative that the client understands that you are an expert. Your confidence will affect whether you are able to work efficiently or every action will be questioned and guided by a newbie, which will increase the time of your project exponentially.
As for clients: just because you’re an accounting, manufacturing or healthcare expert doesn’t mean you’re a design expert – so let us be the designers here – we’re the experts.
6. Can you add my content?
This is another big issue for designers that is easily overlooked in your project requirements.
We offer and plan the creation of a website. We cut and code a template page (or three) ready for the client to add their own content. Then we get the files; “Here is the content for the home page. I will send you the other pages in a few minutes.”
How did this happen? You receive the files as Word documents, so you can’t copy and paste them directly onto the page – and you never signed up for it. You are a designer and you have designed.
Unfortunately, customers don’t always understand the difference. They want a website design and expect the end result to be a finished, ready-to-go website, including content. It is our responsibility to ensure that this assumption is corrected before you start working.
If not, just leave yourself open to any questions that come with publishing content; spelling errors, font placement and content delays (see #7).
7. I haven’t written the content yet. I will provide it as I am
I warned you!
As skilled designers and developers, we understand that content is king. It keeps your customers coming back, the search engines happy, and your website looking professional and interesting.
Clients don’t always understand this, in which case you’ll end up with word documents with low comments and no instructions on what to put where.
If they understand the concept, it can be worse. Each page is optimized for keywords and positioning, which takes time. They send you one page at a time, with one day between pages – and you have 50 pages to complete!
As with content upload consent, this process should be agreed upon with the writer/client at the beginning of the project. The client does not need a designed and coded site to write content. Get them to start building the content right away, or have them prepare the content later and provide it everything content at once.
There is nothing worse than copying and pasting a page of text and then waiting 2 days for the next one!
8. Can you add these pictures?
This is another assumption we need to correct at the beginning of the project: What happens to the images provided by the client?
I once agreed to upload 10 images to a client’s site as part of their content. It’s only 10 pictures; how hard can it be? Big mistake.
The images were obtained from a digital camera with a resolution of more than 2000 square pixels. Image holders were 150x150px. The pictures were also of poor quality; poor lighting and exposure meant that they had to be reworked even for use at such low resolutions.
The 10 images took me about 2 hours to process, transform and upload to the site. Thank you? nothing. Hope. Zip.
And that was just a few pictures. Imagine you agreed to upload all the content and there were 50. Or 100 of them.
In summary, keep in mind that, like any other profession, you will work with some great people and some less so.
Most customers are not intentionally greedy or mean, but without a doubt they want as much as possible for as little as possible. If you don’t meet these requirements and expectations at the start of the project, your experience won’t be as enjoyable as we all know freelancing can and should be.
Your goal as a designer should be to provide good service to your clients and get paid fairly in return. Since these goals don’t align, it’s important to learn how to protect yourself and your rights as a designer, because your clients won’t do it for you.
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