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Freelance Trial and Error: The Disappearing Act

Design school taught me the basics on how to use the right software, how to mock projects up, and the best practices of being a designer. They teach you to forget your style and try to be a blank canvas, as clean as possible to fit in with the corporate world, but they failed to mention what working as a freelancer would be like. The following are true client stories about how I learned through trial and error the best and worst practices of being a freelancer

The disappearing Act

This client was a start-up video game company who needed a logo. The co-founder told me he was overseas serving in either the navy or the marines (I forget), so he didn’t have a lot of money to spend. I really wanted to work on the project, so I quoted him lower than I had been previously. He seemed hesitant, thinking I was still too pricey. I tried to put it in perspective by telling him the going rates for the services he wanted, which I thought would show him that I was actually doing him a favor.

He agreed to the price, and I sent over my contract. Next he told me he had no printer or scanner on the ship, so the contract would have to wait. Against my better judgement, I waived the contract for the time being because I really wanted to work on the project. I got really into the research phase, spending a week immersing myself in all his competitors styles. I put together a finely tuned brief with several different directions we could go in. I sent it to him and waited, assuming it would take him a few days to get through it. A week went by with no word. I emailed him asking if he’d received it. Nothing. I emailed him again a week later, concerned and still no reply. I had been stood up. Unfortunately the website he gave me had zero contact info. I emailed the client referer asking for help, but she also had no idea where he went.

I even tried to contact his business partner on twitter, with no response. He was a houdini and there was nothing I could do about it. I was very disappointed after the hours I’d spent putting together this beautiful brief. It wasn’t even about the money to me, it was the portfolio piece I wanted. But alas, it was not meant to be. It might have been that he lost internet privileges on his ship, or even service. I’ll never know.

And so concludes this story on my quest of being a better freelancer.

Lesson learned:

Get clients FULL contact info before continuing. This includes a second in command if possible. Also ask them how they want to be contacted and when is the best time to contact them.

Make them sign a contract, regardless of situation. If they bail on you after you submit work, they should have to pay a kill fee. A contract binds both sides to their promises and will show them that you are a professional and serious about their project.

For a great resource on pricing and writing contracts, visit the Guild Of Graphic Artists’s website and purchase their book.

Be graceful about explaining your pricing. Outwardly saying “well this is what everyone else charges” may rub your client the wrong way. Besides, they probably already know what everyone else is charging because they are most likely comparing your rates to other offers as well. Instead, explain to them what work they are paying for. Break it down to each phase of the project and roughly how long it takes you to do that phase. I have a process page on my website (that I plan on updating with pictures and examples) and that takes the mystery away from it. This way they feel comfortable because they will begin to understand the value of design.

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