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Freelance Trial and Error: The DIY Guy

I had a month long freelance job working for a business entrepreneur who wanted to start his own company. He paid me to work freelance out of his office and help develope his product and website.

The first few weeks were great; I had flexible hours and got a chance to make a huge impact on how the company’s identity was formed.

He, being the creative “do-it-yourself” type, was struggling with relinquishing creative control and ended up working alongside me as a designer rather than acting as a business owner. The only problem was that he had very little experience working with the programs and often felt frustrated that he couldn’t achieve what he wanted (especially after seeing me do it). Pretty soon I was teaching him tricks on how to work faster and accomplish basic effects in Photoshop. By the end of the month he had weaseled several video tutorials of Photoshop and illustrator out of me, and he felt so empowered that he abruptly decided he no longer needed me. I left feeling very used, but it was my own fault.

 Lesson learned:

Get the scope of the project and length in writing: I was under the impression that I was to be the in-house designer for this start-up company, and that it would be a lasting job. Because we didn’t write any formal licensing agreement, he was able to use me and send me packing once he had what he wanted, all the while leaving me without a steady paycheck.

Don’t teach your way out of a job: It’s a really tricky area to be in when working so closely with a client and they ask you to teach them how to do your job. If you feel uneasy about being asked to essentially train them, kindly and firmly decline saying that it is not part of the scope of your contract/project and that if they want lessons, you can discuss a different rate for that (which should be much higher)

If they want video lessons: Set a reasonable price for either an infinite amount of views or for a limited time. Make them sign an agreement saying they will NOT make copies of or distribute your video. After all, knowledge is never free. We paid a pretty penny for our degrees, and should not be exploited for it. Then you can give them a password protected video (easily done through hosting your video through youtube or vimeo and changing the settings to private).

As Yoda would say: “A few tricks a master does not make”. There’s a reason why your client hired you: you are the experienced professional with a college degree. Be sure to remind them of that when they say they’ll “take it from here” or mention going to a crowdsourcing site.

1 Comment
  • That really sucks. I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience. It really bugs me when people think that just learning the adobe programs is all they need to be a great designer. The adobe programs area tool to help execute the creativity and idea of the designer.
    How could this guy expect to do all the design work and be a business owner at the same time? That sounds like too much work on one persons plate to me.

    4 August, 2013 at 2:39 pm