September 4, 2008
So, true story: I’m in the middle of cooking dinner (8pm-ish) and preparing for an early night as I need to get up at 4am when the office phone goes. Might be urgent so answer it to a client who just reels off a very brief spec for a website and asks for a quote on the spot. Slightly flustered I am quite rude, explain my dinner is burning and tell him he needs to call back next week (I’m off on holiday) during sensible working hours.
Instantly feel bad. This was someone offering me work and I came close to telling him to fuck off. I’m a grumpy fucker at the best of times but particularly ratty when I’m interrupted in my personal time. I don’t like pissing people off, clients or not, but when hassled well outside of working hours for something I don’t really deem as urgent I tend to react badly. My fault? Client’s fault? Probably a bit of both.
Now many people have advised I have two sets of phones, one for work and one for personal, but I’ve never quite got round to it. Firstly, there’s the cost, no explanation needed there. The main problem is that SOMETIMES, admittedly rarely, it’s valid for clients to need to get hold of me at silly hours. The problem is that by allowing this I also allow them to hassle me at silly hours completely unnecessarily.
It’s a difficult choice for me. I chose to be a freelancer/business owner and I have to take responsibility for that decision. I’m always happy for new work, but at some point I need a break. If I allow my entire life to be run at the whim of clients I’ll have a breakdown. My job can be pretty full on at times and without the downtime I’m not going to be effective in my work. This isn’t the client’s fault. They don’t realise that it’s not just them that’s on my case 48 hours a day. I need to find a balance and I need to be firm but polite with those that overstep the mark. Generally I am, tonight I failed as I was caught completely off guard.
There’s also the question of which clients should be allowed to interrupt you at will. While it would be lovely to treat everyone completely equally that just doesn’t make good business sense. I have some clients who will regularly throw me well paid, well organised jobs, most of the quotes they ask me for go ahead and all is nice. But then there are clients who call me on a regular basis and ask for budget quotes for jobs that rarely (if ever) happen.
I hate the idea of telling a client to cease and desist from being a client and as yet have not gone that far but in reality it may well make sense. I’ve dealt with a couple of businesses (who I no longer deal with), who used to call me up and drag me out to meetings about new projects a couple of times a month. None of these projects ever happened.
This was time utterly wasted, and I quickly worked out they would do this until the end of time but I kept thinking that maybe they would eventually come up with a project they could go ahead with (and actually pay for), never happened, eventually they just drifted off and stopped calling (before I had to ask them to thankfully).
These days I need to be harder, it can be more of a risk to let someone eat your time than to just politely ask them to stop calling. Yes, they may one day come up with that big contract you need to pay your mortgage with, but it’s very unlikely. My Dad, who also has worked for himself most of his life, told me a story about a client who just kept wasting his time, turning up with stupidly last minute jobs and generally being a pain in the arse. Dad eventually got sick of him and told him to sod off. Explained to him that he was no longer Dad’s client and that he could no longer order from him. Six month’s later the guy shows up again a reformed client, no more time wasting a (nearly) model client. Take from that what you will. I believe if you do a damn fine job and show pride in your work you can, to some extent, have some control over your clients, oh, and no-one but an arsehole likes a yes-man.
So when is it appropriate to hassle your freelancer/small creative agency about a possible new contract (ongoing jobs and URGENT!11! server errors are another matter entirely)?
BONUS ADVICE on getting quotes!!!!
If you require a quote for a new project we need a bit of time to think about it. 10 seconds is not enough time. It’s really not advisable to wait until you are in a meeting with your director/client before you let us know you were even considering a new project. We need to think about these things a bit, do a bit of research, etc.
Take this question:
How much for a 5 page website, with some photos of producsts on?
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well it’s not that complicated but that’s not enough information to give an accurate quote on, yes there are some agencies that will quote on a per-page basis. We don’t. We prefer to build something appropriate for the client and this can be a little more involved. Here are some questions we may need to ask you before we can give you a rough price on the above query (these are just examples):
Will we be dealing with the entire project or working with another agency?
Will we be creating all graphics?
Is there existing branding we can use, will we need to create branding?
Will we need to supply copy-writing or is the copy already written?
What’s the deadline?
Will we be supply SEO?
Is this a static brochure site or will we be doing any sort of CMS system?
Will we need to source a server?
What can we do that makes this site a bit special? Will the budget/deadline allow us to do any research or give us a chance to try some new technologies out.
… and it can go on.
So give us a bit of notice, a few hours can be enough but for best results give us a day. The more information you can supply up-front the more accurate we can be. I personally prefer to take a client out for a coffee and chat through what they want to achieve with the project and get an idea of their expectations and requirements before I even think about a price. This doesn’t suit everyone but I think it gets the best results.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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