Lately, I’ve been pulled into many directions in the work / life balance while maintaining a freelance business. I had two awful freelance projects from hell this week.. excuse the language but my stress level was so high; I didnt even want to open my email.
When you allow business owners to constantly take advantage of your skills, it gets a bit depressing. Okay, maybe not just a bit – it definetly hurts emotionally because my value is not taken serious. Any other webdesigner would have completely dropped the projects but I am a firm believer in finishing what you start. So although, it may not be in the best interest for my time — I am willing to find another person to replace me – maybe not as advanced but definitely in their boot strap marketing budget.
I am only relaying these experiences in my blog to benefit other freelancers who may experience during their careers. I wish I had a mentor in niche areas so I could reach out to for advice but instead I contact my lawyer. This blog post is in no way going to mention the business owners name or company. I am a person of morals – and that would be against my best interest. So let’s get started on these two experiences… and I am sort of happy that they both happened this week. I wanted to take charge, be aggressive, stick to my word and find a solution that we can agree on. When you’re a boss, you gotta stay boss status. #BossLady.
If the services were provided – the client needs to compensate (on time).
Freelance Hell Project#1: In the freelance world, whew. YOu may be one talented cookie — I mean you could be the best tasting cookie in the jar with the most chocolate chips – but you have to be careful when someone takes more than one cookie without asking. Strange metaphor, but if you knew me – this would make perfect sense. Clients tend to try to take advantage of all my resources. I am 100% okay with taking advantage of what I have to offer but I would prefer to be compensated for providing my time and efforts on creating a beautiful masterpiece.
It should absolutely not take over a month to chase down cash that was invoiced before the project was even off the ground. I start the process the same for every client — present a proposal, provide an hour consultation on needs, develop strategies for the business and invoice 50% down before starting any work. The client must provide everything beforehand: images, content and brand creative.. the logos and all of that good stuff. I’ve been extremely patient with all of my clients by providing additional time to assist with locating passwords.. actually resetting passwords because they cant remember. Adding my information to admin priveledges and so forth. These are items that the client is required to provide but for some reason, cant figure it out or just wants me to do everything. Teamwork is dreamwork — if you work together, the outcome is flawless.
So, when I requested the past due payment and remainder of deposit during the end of the phone conversation – the client was still unwilling to pay for the services that are completed. This person rudely turns the conversation into “Is this your first time designing a website?” You wish it was that easy. — first of all, I only charged this small business owner $150 for a complete redesign of their website, which would normally range between $400 – $1,200. This was even an eCommerce website – thankfully only 3 products. Simply put, I was contracted to take the same content, images and develop into a new WordPress template that would be search friendly and responsive. A set 15 hour project turned into 80 hour development work load that stretched over 3 months… I was beginning to fall out of the passion for it. I had to research templates that were similiar to hair influencers like Paul Mitchell and Oribe. May I ask, do you think Paul Mitchell or Oribe paid $150 for their website? Please do not try to compete with nationally recognized industry influencers if you are unwilling to compensate.
In this business, I track everything… down to the wire. So I presented my spreadsheets of changes, time and a new invoice to this client 31 days ago. This unorganized business owner knew this invoice would be required to be paid in full before more production changes.
If You Don’t Understand, Ask More Questions
Now this project — this project is the worst experience I’ve had in freelance. I don’t want to defer freelancers from taking positions but maybe this situation can help for future planning. Having a contract in place – with all of the terms, I mean everything — the price, the site map, the amount of changes, what is required to start, how much time it will take, if the changes cap a certain amount – what is the hourly rate.
Unfortunately this client is acting like they dont understand what goes into production. When I originally met this business owner, 3 years ago at a printing dinner in Livonia – I was really excited – someone in my field, someone that would relay my great job to other industry friends. We met 3 years ago – and he emailed me about 6 months ago to come in for a consultation on getting a website going for the company. During this consultation – this client presented a thick manilla folder. Inside this folder was a dozen websites printed on paper to utilize for ideas on the website design. #1 – I love when clients do this.. I’m able to visually see what they like / dont like and work from it. I mean, it doesnt have to be printed but since the industry that the business is in — is very, very old. I mean over 100 years+ — of existence in business.
So we are off to a great start — I have a lot of ideas on what they like and I can take that into consideration. Well, I graphically designed a Photoshop PSD, actually 3 of them.. which took 14 hours together because I had to test to make sure they could be developed within WordPress. I kindly did not compensate the design mockups as a nice gesture to build the relationship between us. These are nice things to do, but like I said — clients can take advantage. I basically left the door wide open by allowing this to happen and not compensating in the first place. Which is yet – another learning experience. Lay it out.. all of it. Create a template and just reuse it over & over by changing the site map and client info.
Okay, it’s been about a month – we are not underway yet, but that;s alright we are getting there. So 50% deposit has been paid to me, and content is SLOWING coming.. I mean – this business owner WROTE the content ON PAPER and provided it to me that way…. no no no nonononononn NO!. There is NO way that I will rewrite that content – BUT in my terms I did not say DIGITALLY.. what is wrong with me.. no what is wrong with them . LOL old school.
So let’s fast forward 6 months, production is still dragging – they are slow to responding to emails. Sometimes I send friendly, cute reminders like hey what is the website status? And they will go 9 – 13 days without responding .. so I can’t plan my client load ahead of time because I dont know the status. I am ultimately throwing money away, turning business down because I cant get the planning together. Should I write these terms in the contract? Not sure, that’s why I really want to get out of the freelance game for websites – they pay well but they are a pain in the ass.
This client has never had a website but they do know how the internet works. I’ve been patient with consulting – hand holding and really trying to provide the best road map to get this project off the ground. During that 2 hour meeting this week, I was scolded for not explaining enough. How many consultations and phone conferences do I need to have to help them out? Im really spreading myself thin.. the client should look over the contract and highlight anything that sticks out where they have a question.
The website is looking gorgeous — I mean this thing is up and running.. all of the webpages with content, images, custom photoshop work, font changes.. all the nit picky things were created-THEY are ready! So now, the client comes back to change things around – move this here, add that.. I dont like that anymore – can we see what it looks like? I calmly explained (in person) over a 2 hour meeting – the agreement in terms with additional changes. If you are going to request massive amount of changes, we need to come into an agreement on hours and payment. When I looked at this client’s spreadsheet on time, value and what was done — my hourly rate dwindled to $2.50hr. Ouch! That doesnt even count the meetings, the graphic designs and consulting — none of that was added to the spreadsheet. I have to be VERY careful.. I would honestly rather not have accepted this project – they money is clearly not worth my time. I’d rather do nothing than make $2.50 hour.
Things are not coming together so nicely – as the client does not want to compensate for the next round of changes. I had my legal counselor take a look at the documents.. to provide some guidance. I cant repeat what was said, just in case this is somehow used against me. Which in the past, my blog was used against me for something that I wrote… right out of the horse;s mouth. So I havent started the changes yet. I really need to get the remainder of payment before I start on anything. I can just see them turn this into a thing where they wont pay at all.
I thought it over for a day, and allowed to have 6 hours of development to get whatever I can get into the production. That sounds fair and than an agreement on the hourly rate moving forward. I always try to turn any negative into a positive.
Just Go With It
So what to do now, right? What are the next steps to make this work out? Well — take it day by day. Try to come into a positive arrangement where both parties are happy so you can feel good about all of the hardwork that was put into the project. I do not burn bridges – you never know when you may have to cross that bridge again especially if they are in the same circle of industry friends.
If I can provide any type of advice from this blog — have a paper trail for everything. Contracts, proposals, terms, down to the numbers and time for whatever the project may be. Get those signatures. Get Paid on time. Ultimately, I could shut all projects down and flush these experiences down the toilet – I know some people developers that would. But I won’t do that, it wouldnt be fair and karma is a b**ch.
I’m still accepting short term freelance projects for my services, but I am cutting out website development completely.