Freelance Trial and Error: The Assumer
One of the most crucial stages of working with the client is the questioning phases. If you don’t ask enough questions or the right ones, you may end up assuming the wrong information which will lead you down the wrong path.
This is exactly what happened when I was approached by a potential client who asked for a logo. I discussed with them my process and hourly rate and they offered to pay me for 10 hours up front. I was happy to accept, assuming they were being proactive about payment and understood the value of design. They had so many different directions they wanted to go explore, with 4 pages of “creative suggestions” that It took me a while just to sort out the good ideas from the bad. I ended up doing a lot of competitor research, to back up my suggestions which put me over the 10 hour mark. I thought nothing of it and figured I would just bill them for the extra hours later. That is after all, how hourly rates work.
When I turned in my brief with initial concepts, I always try to put in how many hours have been put into the project to date. When they saw I had gone over 10 hours, they were angry. I got myself in trouble because I assumed they were just paying me up front, when in reality, they had a very tight budget and were trying to tell me how many hours to work on the project. When I realized what they were trying to do, I too became very angry. I was upset because I felt like the client shouldn’t be telling me how much time I should be spending doing my job.
But then I looked at it another way. Every client is going to have a budget, or at least a set amount of what they think the service should cost. It was my job to discuss with them budgets and make sure they have the correct expectations. It was my fault for assuming they understood that an estimate is not always 100% accurate.
In the end, they offered to pay me 50% of my rate for the hours I went over, but from then on they proceeded to pay me in 5 hour increments telling me to turn in whatever I had finished in that amount of time. It was a really uncomfortable way to work and I know now to take charge and ask the difficult questions.
And so concludes this story on my quest of being a better freelancer.
Be thorough in your initial discussions with your client. Discuss the scope of the project in detail, discuss the budget in detail. Get it all down in the brief and make them look the document over and approve it before moving on.
If they are unwilling to talk about their budget, then that probably means they didn’t put any money aside for design, and therefore are unfamiliar with how much it truly is worth. They might be expecting that a logo costs less than $500. It is your job to educate your clients on the true value of design, as well as be accommodating to their budget.
One way to do this is to offer a payment plan. Allow them to pay you a fixed amount every month until it is paid off. Make sure the method of payment is thoroughly discussed in the licensing agreement.
You can also go with a flat rate and adapt the rate to their budget. If they have a small budget offer fewer services, fewer rounds of edits, or fewer initial concepts to choose from. There are plenty of different ways you can be accommodating and still land the job.
Don’t make an ASS out of U and ME. If something is unclear, repeat it back to your client and make sure you are on the same page. It is ok to be confused, or not understand your clients direction. But not double checking and making sure you have the correct facts will only bring you trouble.