It is completely reasonable to write off a bad experience as a bad experience — and often it really was just a fluke. But if you keep having bad experiences, or find it hard to get a Designer to work on your projects, there may be more to the story. Here are three possibilities to consider.
Reconsider Your Budget
One issue I see repeated throughout the freelance world is clients don’t realize how much our services are worth. For example, a good branding package could easily cost $10k. The problem seems to be that, for an ‘intangible’ service, clients don’t appreciate the cost of time and expertise. I’ve seen this undervaluing happen with Website Designers and App Developers, too.
Our services cost what they do because of years of study, honing our craft, and expertise. If you had a bad experience, it may be that you were only able to afford someone still in school or new to the game (or, dare I say, someone who didn’t know what they were doing). Consider re-evaluating your budgetary priorities — especially when it comes to brand design because that’s the first thing your customers experience and it leaves a lasting impression.
Freelancers hold all of the responsibility of lead acquisition and networking for their business, which means they are often out and about, bumping shoulders with other freelancers in their field. For Graphic Designers, that includes events put on by the AIGA, Tuesdays Together, Creative Mornings, and local design-oriented organizations (like the D-Schools and Universities). I see the same people over and over again — which means we talk.
What is the first thing you ask someone you haven’t seen in a while? You ask how things are going. And when the one thing you know you have in common with the person in front of you is your freelance work, the gut response is typically to do with business. If there is a client that’s being a pain the ass, it’s on my mind and will come up first in conversation.
I know what you’re thinking — it’s unprofessional to name names. And I definitely agree. But references are made and sometimes names are named, usually not to slander but to protect each other and share advice for future experience. I would never post to Social Media or my Design Blog about a bad client, and I don’t think any of my peers would either. But the fact remains that sometimes, one just needs to vent to another who understands.
You’ve Been Blacklisted
When a potential client requests my time and proceeds to be rude, talks down to me or my employees, alters my contract, or asks me to sit in for a few hours as their secretary, that’s an automatic ‘no’ for working with them.
These offenses, however, are so great that declining to work with that client isn’t enough. You see, I don’t want any of my peers to waste their valuable time or be treated that way, either. In this case, I may actually go out of my way to name names. This means your business has been blacklisted in the Design community to some extent, leaving you with few quality options.
So be courteous — just because we’re freelancers doesn’t mean we’re not running a business with margins and standards, just like you.