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What to Do When A Web Project Goes to Hell in a Handbasket. Advice to Prevent You Losing Your Mind
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What to Do When A Web Project Goes to Hell in a Handbasket. Advice to Prevent You Losing Your Mind

Freelance SEO Consultant, Web Designer and Internet Marketer.

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Video Transcription

Hey guys, John here for another edition of Freelancing Friday.

Okay guys, I've got a really good one today – it's going to be a little bit longer than usual, so please bear with me.

I've received a fairly lengthy email from one of my subscribers who has gone through hell with a client, and she is asking me for some advice. Infact she actually gave me permission to use this email within Freelancing Friday. I think what I'll do is run through this email as quickly as I can and go over some key points. I'm sure that what I'll cover in this video today will be really useful for a lot of us.

So Lauren writes, …

“Hi John I hope it is okay to email you, I have a little issue that well - doesn't seem so little right now. I have a client that wanted me to design a "logo" for her. After hearing what she wanted and asking questions I made 4 different designs for her in Illustrator. She didn't like ANY of them. Now this is not because they were bad designs... she just couldn't make up her mind what she wanted. She would say one thing and then "get a new idea" or "talked to her husband and he said..."

Well, mistake number 1. Infact I've shot a video about this just recently and I was talking about web design projects that are negatively influenced by 3rd parties, and that's a perfect example. It's obvious that she's been influenced by her husband, which ….I mean, you've only got to ask yourself, “Is he really qualified?”

Okay, Lauren goes on to say...

“She kept pushing for more and I tried to tell her that we could do separate "designs" for her Facebook page/ Twitter etc. So out of frustration, I consulted a graphic design friend. He agreed to contribute to the project for a small fee WAY less than he normally makes.”

Okay this is another mistake, don't ever – when things go pear shaped, don't get into the habit of drawing other people and sucking them into the vortex. And especially don't ask people to change their rates, simply because you've got a grumpy client.

“Fast forward... she is now doing the same thing to him! He has created hand drawn and graphics images for her to the tune of 6 or 7 designs. I feel awful for my friend who did this only to help me out. At the last submission I was trying to figure out some way to stop the madness...”

Well, I'll get to some suggestions at the end of this video, but you can that this has just gone from bad to worse.

Lauren then goes on to say....

”Well I get an email from her after she saw the most recent proofs and she says, I want to terminate the relationship with your designer AND I want my money back! At this point she has had 10+ designs created for her. What do I do? All my hours and his combined are worth 3 times what she has paid ($325) I split the money with him after she took at least TWO months to pay! John, please help me.”

Mistake number 1 – No contract.

Lauren didn't use a contract. I see so many people, still, to this day, continuing on and getting involved in projects where they're not using a contract. It doesn't matter if you're doing a $25,000 web job, or a $900 logo – always use contracts. And if you have a client that refuses to sign a contract, or take part in a contract, don't work with them.

Another thing I want to point out, are refunds, and clients that request refunds. I'm not a believer in offering refunds when working with clients, unless I decide to fire them. I'd rather just give them their money back and get rid of them, than go through this type of madness.

But when it comes to the services we all provide as web developers, they're non tangible items. These are simply things that you can't “undo”, and return the persons money. It's not like you can sit at your desk and “undo” the 10 hours you've just invested.

Why didn't you use a contract???

Mistake number 2 – Not getting paid first.

Okay another mistake that Lauren made was not getting paid first. Now, I'm a big believer in getting paid first. This completely eliminates this whole risk of non payment. If you have a client that ...and I've got to say, I've worked with a lot of clients where, they'll have this sense of urgency, “We need it, we need it now!”, and then once it's all said and done and delivered, there's no sense of urgency when it comes to payment.

Now I know the “get paid first” model may not sit with everyone, but I'm adopting it big time. I'm not interested in working with someone unless they pay me first. I get paid first, I deliver the services. It's that simple. And again, if you have a client that doesn't like the way that you run your business, well that's their problem, that's not your problem. You shouldn't be bending the rules and buckling and just agreeing and nodding and smiling to everything just in order to keep one person happy.

If a client isn't interested in paying you first for your services, then you've got to ask yourself, “Is this someone I really want to work with?”

Mistake number 3 – Scope creep.

There was no limitations set on the number of revisions provided. It seems as if Lauren just agreed to the project, and then ...y'know the Ferris Wheel just started and things just went around and around and around, in this never ending loop. So in order to prevent that, you've got to set revisions, and this is where selling services as products is really beneficial. If you sell a package, you know, “For x amount of dollars, we'll design you a logo”, and in the clause, or the conditions within that package, specify, up to 3 revisions only. This sets a limitation before you even get started.

Now clients will always push you, or test the limits, but you've got to be firm. I find myself saying this a lot lately. You've really got to be firm with clients, because if you just give them that little bit of leeway, they'll just continue to push and push and push, and you'll find yourself in this position – just like Lauren has.

Mistake number 4 – Not saying "No".

Okay the last mistake Lauren made was agreeing to design logos, because I asked her in the email, I said “Lauren, do you normally design logos? If not, then why did you agree to this?”

Her response was “I don't normally design logos, but I had read that it would be in my best interest to try and be as full service as you can, or you will lose business. So when she asked, I said, yes we can do that”.

Now this is a massive mistake that I made when I first started. I would say yes to everything, and man did it hurt me bad.

When I say it hurt me, its because I found myself taking on a lot of jobs, where I just didn't have the skillsets. I'd think, “Man, I just agreed in this client meeting to do all this Javascript stuff – I don't even know how to do Javascript. Now what am I going to do?” So then I'd have to go about outsourcing it, and in most cases the profit margins, either weren't there, or they were so minimal it wasn't even worth my time.

Now I know for people just getting started as freelancers, and starting their own web design businesses, you'll be tempted to say yes to everything, because you'll probably be desperate for the work, you'll probably need the money, you don't want to offend anyone, you want to look qualified, like you're capable of taking on any sort of jobs, but my advice in this case to Lauren – was just to say no.

No. Piss off.

One of the best things I ever did within my own freelance web design business, was learning to say “no”. If you find yourself saying, “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes”, well then you're going to find yourself in a position just like this. If you don't design logos, just say no. If you don't do Javascript, just say no – or, structure your business in a way that you can push that to someone else, or even make a referral. Say, “Hey, I don't do that, but this person here may be able to help you”.

To finish up, Lauren unfortunately, and this is something that I advised her to do, I said “Lauren look, this is such a mess, I think the best thing for you to do is just to give this woman her money back”. Consider it a loss, it's $325 – actually no, I shouldn't say consider it a loss. I said “Give her her money back, and consider the $325 a learning opportunity”. Now even though that sucks and having go give the money back and losing out on the project, and perhaps even looking like a goose, that's a very small price to pay, for the lesson that Lauren has just now learnt. I'm absolutely positive that Lauren certainly won't let this happen again.

Okay, so just to recap....

  • always use a contract
  • get paid first
  • limit the amount of revisions, and
  • learn to say no

Okay that's it for today's Freelancing Friday. As I said it's a little bit longer than usual so thanks so much for taking the time out to watch this one, I really appreciate it. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below. If you haven't yet already please subscribe. If you've found this video useful please share it with your friends, and if you'd like to see me cover anything, send me an email, just like Lauren has and I'll go about answering your question for you.

Thanks so much for watching, take care.

John Romaine
Freelance SEO Consultant, Web Designer and Internet Marketer.

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