My first nightmare client!

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Philalbe, Mar 20, 2011.

  1. Philalbe macrumors 6502

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    Jun 11, 2010
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    Greater Boston Area
    #1
    Hi,

    Just to give a quick backstory; I spent years going back to school for design and at last I've finally acquired my degree. I now have a budding freelance business with a handful of small clients, all of whom are relatively civil, good natured and appreciative of my work.

    Recently a long distance client I really get along with referred me to someone. He hired me to do a logo for his marketing startup. He was pleased with the end result and asked me to take on a second project, designing a mockup for a website that he could then turn over to a developer. He set a time limit of 3 hours, because that's all he could afford. Everything was going fine till about 2 hours in. He liked the direction I was going in, so while I was waiting to hear back I did some small revisions (off the clock), just to satisfy my own design sensibilities. I sent them to him to see what he thought. He suddenly calls me saturday afternoon and from the get go, seems to have an attitude. He wants to go over all the revisions I sent him. So I scramble for my macbook. As I'm going through my folders in search of the files he starts getting flustered and belittling. I offer to call him back in an hour after I've gathered everything and before one of us says something we'll regret, but he wants to stay on the phone and takes an even more offensive tone. I'm a laid back guy, but I had enough and firmly reminded him that I was trying to design a site for him within a 3 hour limit and had been good enough to not bill him for all the phone time he insisted on and had even stopped the clock a couple of times. He then startled to backpedal and complimented me on my work and how fair my pricing was ($25.00 an hour). The conversation went on for about another half hour as in the aftermath we awkwardly discussed the project. I think I did a pretty good job of remaining diplomatic. I've now just about completed the project and now he's talking about having me design a business card:rolleyes: The whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth. I know there can always be an element of stress with any type of work is, but that was a bit much.

    Sorry for the rant, but I felt like I needed to vent to fellow designers. Anyone else have any horror stories?:)
     
  2. SandboxGeneral Moderator

    SandboxGeneral

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    #2
    I don't have any horror stories, but at the end of this year I am going to drop two of the sites I maintain because of an extremely annoying woman. I do a site for her, and an association she is involved with plus many other sites for local governments, like townships.

    All of my clients are easy to work with and give me periodic things to update, fix or add. That's never a problem for me since they're paying for it. But this woman sends me things nearly everyday to do, wanting to change font sizes, add giant gaudy stars and attention grabbers and the like. She's one of those people who uses 15 question marks or other punctuation in her emails to express her tone or meaning. Oftentimes she want the exact same information that is on one page to be on another page, "just in case people don't click on the first page." I keep telling her that it is redundant to do so and people aren't as dumb as you think they are. Essentially she is a micromanager of her site and she also has authority over the association site I maintain too. So I get the same stuff from her for that one too.

    But wait! There's more! She also feels the need to send things to me for another site she has no business giving input towards (it's an association site her husband belongs to!) and offers her opinion to change things there too. This one really drives me nuts. She sent some changes to me a few months ago and CC'd the person with authority over this site. I ignored her request and subsequently so did the other guy. Then last week she FW's it to me again with giant font and multiple question marks wanting to know why I didn't do anything with it. I replied back saying that I was waiting for "Hank" to authorize it. So she fires an email off to him and I demanding that he authorize me to make the changes. Wouldn't you know it, he ignored her again! ;) I told the associations president and he is going to put a stop to her trying to mess with his site.

    But as I said, I am dropping her site and her association site at the end of the year. I don't need her money that bad. Living headache free and a bit lighter in the wallet is OK with me.
     
  3. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jun 11, 2010
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    Greater Boston Area
    #3
    I don't need her money that bad. Living headache free and a bit lighter in the wallet is OK with me.[/QUOTE]

    I agree. I think keeping your dignity and sanity intact are more important than a little extra money. I'll probably do the business card for this guy, but if he approaches me with any larger projects, I'll most likely turn him down. :)
     
  4. kalsta macrumors 68000

    kalsta

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Location:
    Australia
    #4
    Philalbe, based on what you've said, he sounds like someone you really don't want to be doing business with. In the end, the pay would have to be a lot better than that for it to be worth all the stress.

    If I can offer you just a little bit of advice, having run my own business for quite a number of years, it would be this… Firstly, you're charging WAY too little. I did too when I started out. That's why this guy back-pedalled IMO, not because he's a nice guy, but because he realises that no one else will do the quality of work you're doing at this price. I could be wrong, but he sounds like some people I've seen before. He knows you're a bit green in business, and he'll take advantage of it to save every penny he can, hence the line that 3 hours is all he can afford. You have to be confident in your service and your prices and set them accordingly. If he values the service you offer, he will pay the price. If not, he'll go in search of the next person gullible enough to pay what he's offering, and he will. This kind of person places no value in establishing long-term business relationships and he offers very little value to you and your business.

    I know you're only starting out and you're keen to get any work you can, but in the long term it's going to bite you because a lot of the customers you're establishing now at this price are going to start taking it for granted. I don't know what the going rates are in your area, but you need to find out. I'll bet you people are charging upwards of 4 or 5 times that amount.

    Good luck! :)
     
  5. kalsta macrumors 68000

    kalsta

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    Australia
    #5
    The larger projects are the ones you make your money on. Little jobs sometimes hardly warrant all the time in initial consultation, doing quotes, invoices, possibly banking cheques and other admin. So don't necessarily turn down good work, but just make sure you're setting your prices, not him. Charge him for every minute of author's corrections too, and make sure that's written on the quote that he signs to accept the job.

    Oh, and I forgot to say before, if you do decide to take on any more work from him, make sure you get paid for these jobs first! He could be a non-payer, and then you'll really know what a nightmare client is all about!
     
  6. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    Hi. Thanks for the kind advice. I really appreciate it. I know you're right about my pricing. I need to get an organized pricing plan together. I don't know if I'm shooting myself in the foot by charging hourly? I know some designers charge by the type of job and the type of labor it entails (conceptual vs. layout, etc.). If it's not being too intrusive, could I ask if you prefer to charge hourly or by the job? Thanks again. :)

    Sincerely,

    Phil
     
  7. Hawkeye411 macrumors 68000

    Hawkeye411

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    Location:
    Canada EH!!!
    #7
    $75 for a website template?? Doesn't sound like your charging nearly enough money. That should be closer to $400 IMO.

    When I pay for logo design or a website, I pay by the job. I usually get a quote before we begin. I paid $100 for a logo design.

    Sounds like you dealt with the situation very well!
     
  8. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Hi. Thanks for the advice. I definitely won't lift a finger towards another job until he pays for this one. I made sure he paid up for the logo before I started the site concept. Overall the guy gives me bad vibes. My other clients are always happy with the end result and we interact civilly. If this guy talks down to me one more, I'll politely cut him loose. Who needs the headache. :) Thanks again!
     
  9. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #9
    Man! I've got a lot to learn :eek: Thanks for sharing those figures. The frustrating thing is the pricing spectrum for design is so wide, it's hard for a beginner to get a decent idea of what to charge. I guess I have to look at as many pricing sources as possible and and try to distill some figures? I have the "Graphic Artist Guild" handbook, but those prices are through the roof. I imagine they're for seasoned professionals working for major clients. Thanks again!
     
  10. Hawkeye411 macrumors 68000

    Hawkeye411

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    Location:
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    #10
    I was quite happy paying $100 and $400. I believe that I got a great deal!!

    Hope your business does very well!!

    Cheers.
     
  11. SandboxGeneral Moderator

    SandboxGeneral

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    #11
    Yes you are certainly charging way too little. My basic sites start at $500 and go up from there depending on what the client wants. Usually I charge it by the job and in some cases, there will be add on's and I usually charge $50-$75 per hour for that work. I have a few NPO's and for them I start my quotes to them at $300 for the job.

    From the sounds of this guy you're dealing with, I would just move on and forget him. Finish whatever you've started and end it there.
     
  12. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Thanks again for the reply and the pricing advice. The MacRumors Design Forum is a very welcoming and supportive community. :)
     
  13. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    #13
    Besides pricing yourself too low and underestimating the time needed to pull-off a project, I picked up on this (your quote).

    If you're going to be a professional graphic designer, it's time you got your filing/archiving system down. As you saw on that phone call, a little fumbling around and disorganization doesn't reflect wel and gives your nightmare clients the opportunity to belittle you. Don't give them that opportunity. Be organized.

    One final thing. Phone time is meeting time. Meeting time is billable. Especially when the phone calls are over 1/3 of your billable time.

    And good luck with the career. :)
     
  14. kalsta macrumors 68000

    kalsta

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    #14
    $100 for an original logo design is absurdly cheap. If you got a good design for that price, you got really lucky.
     
  15. nonameowns macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2010
    #15
    here is a idea, don't do LD clients. and charge by the hours? cmon that is silly


    get a quote and get client pay a third before working. call that a unrefundable deposit. so that way throughout the process, if for any reasons the client drop out, you still have some money for your time.


    brand identify, website, etc are always least a grand. Professional, even more!
     
  16. kalsta macrumors 68000

    kalsta

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    Australia
    #16
    Most clients are going to want a quote, so that's what you need to give them. However, if a particular client is happy to pay by the hour, you can choose to do it that way too. Whichever way you do it, communication needs to be clear, so the client doesn't get a nasty shock at the end of the job.

    When doing a quote, you're really estimating the number of hours it's going to take you anyway. Estimating accurately is hard when you start, but like anything you get better at it the more you do. I actually created a program to help do estimates eventually, because I hated doing it so much, and it saves me a lot of time.

    Am I right in saying you've not worked for another design company before? That makes a lot of things hard for you I think, because in working for someone else you get to learn an awful lot that they won't have taught you at the school. Perhaps you're really set on sticking to the plan of going straight into business, but if it were me, I'd want to do at least a year in another design studio before going out on my own. You see how they do things and can adopt the good, and learn from the not-so-good.

    Anyway, whichever way you decide to go, I certainly wish you all the best. :)
     
  17. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #17
    Hi. Thanks for the reply. I do have a pretty good archiving system. I have a folder untitled "freelance" and therein is a folder named after each client and then each project. The guy kind of threw me with the sudden weekend call. You're right about the phone time too. No more mister nice guy; there's no reason to cheat myself for billable meeting time when I'm already lowballing myself.:)
     
  18. Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Jun 11, 2010
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    Greater Boston Area
    #18
    Hi. Thanks for the advice and kind words. I would actually love to work for a firm or design company. I would prefer the steady check and the opportunity to learn the ropes. I need to network more. I send out a lot of resumes but no real nibbles yet. I think networking and knocking on doors will probably get my farther than the monster.com approach I've been using :)
     
  19. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    Mar 22, 2010
    #19
    Don't send out resumes. Put together a portfolio and arrange a meeting.

    Tell them you're the best thing since sliced bread, and you'll do anything (almost ;)) to prove it to them. I wouldn't give a resume a second glance, but could easily spend 15 minutes looking over an aspiring designer's work.

    If your work is good and you present it and yourself well, it should be enough to get your foot in the door somewhere. Be prepared to discuss your decision making process in detail.
     
  20. kalsta macrumors 68000

    kalsta

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    #20
    Okay… Firstly, you need a great portfolio. Above all else, you're a designer, so they're going to want to see that you can design. If you're confident in the quality of your portfolio, great. Next step… Find out the name of the person or the owner or manager if you can, and send them out something creative that also demonstrates your design skills — not just a standard resume and letter; anyone could do that, and you need to show them that you're not just anyone. Let them know that you would like an opportunity to meet and show them your portfolio, and you could even say when you'll call them — that way you're not waiting for them to call, but you're showing initiative and following up. If they say they don't have any available positions right now, say that's okay, you'd still love to meet with them and show them your work in case a future position becomes available. Once you have a meeting, the rest is up to you and your portfolio! :)
     
  21. kalsta macrumors 68000

    kalsta

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    #21
    Ah, you beat me to it citizenzen. At least we have similar ideas on this topic!
     
  22. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

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    Oct 12, 2005
    #22
    You mentioned the magic word "Company Start", I have a rule of no work of friends of friends and anyone who mentions the "startup" in the breif.

    True email...

    Can't argue with the logic :rolleyes:

    You charge peanuts you get greedy monkey IMHO. Pushing the price ups generally discourages the crappy clients in my experience, clients will generally pay what they think the service is worth (not just design here).
     
  23. Philalbe, Mar 20, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011

    Philalbe thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #23
    Hi Thanks for the advice. That email about the literal interpretation of "freelance" is insane! I hope you didn't have to deal with that person for very long :)

    P.S. - love the peanuts/greedy monkey analogy. I think I'm learning the hard way, that there are indeed a lot of them out there. Someone needs to make an "Attack of the Greedy Monkey's" iphone app :)
     
  24. ezekielrage_99, Mar 20, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011

    ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

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    #24
    Thankfully I cut my ties with that person very quickly and ensure all of my work was NEVER used by them. It was when I was much greener so it was a good thing to learn and enable me to set some very good boundaries

    1) Never work with a friend of a friend.
    2) Never work for free.
    3) Never work for a start up business UNLESS it has a larger group behind it (Public/private equity group, blue chip client with a new business, etc.. is ok).
    4) Never do work for a religious organisation (seriously not a good idea). Or for that matter a union...
    5) If you lie with dogs you'll get flees. Never work on a project you wouldn't want other clients seeing as a client of yours on your Portfolio.
    6) Never work with a company where they can't speak your native language... Cheque time comes and "miso soli me no undastandy".
    7) Be choosy about who you want to work with. Talented designers will always find work while talentless designers wont.

    I found in experience if you price yourself a certain way you tend to loose the "bottom feeding clients" as I like to call them. It also means the people who take up the service generally understand the price positioning thus have an idea of intrinsic value assigned to it.

    Here's a links I've found rather amusing/helpful:
    10 Client Personalities
    Bad Clients and How to Avoid Them


    I also forgot about this gem of a client

     
  25. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #25
    Not worth it.

    Charge more so you won't have these type of "clients."

    Not sure about design, but for photography, when you charge over $1000 (I charge more) per day, you only deal with professionals. ;)
     

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