So. You are a freelancer, or working for your own small company.
My posts recently on working in the creative industries and keeping a creative workflow have been really popular, so I thought why not introduce you to some clients you are bound to meet in your self-employed life? Here's who they are, how to spot them, what they do, and how to deal with them.
*disclaimer – none of the mentioned below are my current, valued, and precious clients with whom I have a longstanding and respected relationship. The characters are real, but the names have been changed to protect the irrititating.
Firstly, my old favourite the Basement Jaxx Man. This chap will want work done NOW. He will ask for pitches for jobs depite you working with him for years. He will shout and scream down the ‘phone. He works for a big company and because everyone working there is very stressed thinks YOU SHOULD BE TOO. How to spot him – sweating profusely, carrying all his gadgets and files of busy business around, drinking espressos.
How to deal with it – choose if you want to continue pitching. Big names clients often still do this because they can. Pitching demands a lot of time, energy and resource, and is a constant debate in the design industry. If you are pitching for project after project despite a good history of work, question it. Also, if this client is too stressful and demands a lot of attention ask him where his head is at. It’s not worth losing yours, ultimately.
The Notorious B.I.G. This guys has a swagger. He LOVES what you do, and talks to you all about what you can do together. You go to meetings, you plan work and estimate it. He talks you up, he paints a picture of a bright future. You say great, but with new clients I always take 50% upfront as in my t’s and c’s I sent over and you agreed to. He wants you to commence work, promises 50% upfront and retainer ongoing, no problem, lets get working. The smell of food on the table draws you in. You imagine paying rent on time, the look on your landlords face. You work. No payment. You get asked to go to more meetings, do more work. You mention you need payment before doing any more. No payment. He goes awol. He has your first or maybe second drafts of creative work and is winning. How to spot him: portly, charming, shiny suit, affluent. This guy can smell your early days fear of not eating again. He picks up on how easy it can be to make you do stuff and compromise your own rules for the chance of a bigger project.
How to deal with him; trust your gut instinct. It’s usually right. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.If your policy is 50% upfront with new clients, stick to it. Don’t be made to do more than you want to at this time, and make sure your meeting time and expenses are paid too, or this guy has a willing slave who visits and works for free.
Lady Gaga – this one is all about her Telephone. She is an older client, and expects, like in the 70′s, that if she rings you answer and that if not, she will ring back incessantly. You gently remind her that you have other clients to work with, you are sometimes in meetings, feel free to leave a message and you will call back ASAP. She won’t email you because your email hasn’t been “configured” properly. You assure her all is fine and also give alternative ways of communication but she insists on calling, often from a withheld number without leaving a message and wonders why you don’t call back straight away. How to spot her: well you won’t miss her I assure you. How to deal with it; set boundaries and remind her that you value her as a client and will call back as soon as possible.
Eric Prydz - Eric will call on you. Oh, he will call on you early in the morning, all day, evenings, weekends. If he is working, you are working, and that’s that. He leaves numerous messages if you are out of an evening, and requires work to be done for the next morning. How to spot him; he will usually be arrogant, talk in a lot of business jargon, and, well, you will know it when he calls.
How to deal with him. Set boundaries regarding your working hours, or at least hours in which it’s ok to be called. Consider a separate work mobile. Ask him to email you on weekends rather than calling and also manage deadline expectations. Failing that, leave the country.
Katie Price - Katie is a frustrated designer. This client knows what she wants, and want you to do it despite your advice to the contrary. Because they know what they want, it should cost less because they have “done the work for you”. Right?
How to spot them: larger than life, ill informed and self important. How to deal with them – decide if you want to work for someone like this and how it reflects on you that the work put out is not what you are proud of.
Cruella de Vil – Cruella also works for a big name company. She eats designers like you for breakfast, has done for years, and sees no reason why anyone should be treated with any human kindness or courtesy whatsoever. She will bark, and her bite is usually as bad. How to spot her: think Devil Wears Prada. Yip. How to deal with her: take as much as you can stand, and when you have had enough, walk away.
Mark Knopfler - he is harmless enough, seems quite nice, but will soon have you in Dire Straights with his money for nothing. He is doing really well, wants you to be part of it, but has no intention of paying you at all. How to spot: often you can’t, it becomes apparent over time. How to deal with him; decide if it benefits you in any way to be working for free – sometimes it does. If so, do it until you feel it’s tome to either ask for money now, or walk away.
This motley crew above are an amalgamation of characters I have met over the years of my career. The key thing is to remember that this lot will take 80% of your time in stress, hassle and demands.
The lovely clients, the other 20%, need nurturing so you grow more like them. Look after them, remind yourself how refreshing they are compared to the above gang of headache inducers, and make the choice to work for people who respect your time, skills and can build a relationship with you. The best clients pay on time, are not only polite but people you build a relationship and friendship with over time. You understand their needs, react accordingly, and everyone is happy.
Now, as freelancers we have responsibilities too, to work on time and on brief for clients, to charge correctly, be clear about terms and behave professionally. That’s a whole other post coming up, but in the meantime here are some points to remember for yourself:
• Beware of auto email addresses. Yip, that thing of sending the wrong email to the SO wrong person
• If you make a mistake be honest, upfront, make amends and apologise.
• Do your very best and you can be proud of yourself.
• Arrogance and professionalism aren’t good partners
• Loyalty counts for so much and that goes both ways.
• Be open to, and encourage feedback. It’s a healthy thing, and if a client complains to you it’s WAAAAY better than saying nothing and going somewhere else.
I would like to thank my lovely long term clients for working with me, and the above mentioned for being part of my learning curve. It’s all a journey.
Have you met any of the guys and gals above? How have you dealt with them?