Why you (the client) should stick around once you start a project

posted by Lauren Rauseo on: 02/14/11 in category: working with a freelancer | tags: ,

Let’s say you decide you’re ready to take your business to the next level with a great website. You’re totally gungho about this project, ready to dive into action! You hire a designer, take a professional headshot photo, maybe even write content for the about us page. You tell the designer that getting this website up and running is your main priority, and you won’t sleep until you see your first Google Analytics report.

Then, right before your designer shows you the first comp, your business unexpectedly takes off and you don’t see the outside of your office for weeks. Dozens of new orders come in, every missing-in-action prospect you’ve talked to since 2009 suddenly returns your emails, and, to top it off, your daughter just scored the lead role in her school play, requiring you to rehearse lines with her every night for the next two months.

So now it’s been exactly 87 days since you responded to your web designer’s phone calls and emails. She is wondering where you’ve been, whether you hated the first draft, if you hired someone else for the project, if you suffered a serious injury and are comatose, or, if you fell into the proverbial black hole of lost clients.

Once your busy season is over, your daughter has taken her final curtsey, and you stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you decide it’s time to refocus. You call your designer, insisting on a meeting to regroup since you’ve completely lost track of where you were with the website. Plus, in the three months since you’ve been in touch, you vaguely remember hearing about a cool, new feature on a competitor’s website that you now have to include on your site, too.

Maybe your designer is happy to hear from you. Maybe she has been sitting by the phone with nothing else going on, just waiting for your feedback on that first draft. If that is the case, good for you! But more likely, that isn’t the real-life scenario. So even if it means not sleeping (or making similar sacrifices, like not watching Thursday night TV), here is why you should stick around once you begin working on a project with your designer.

Designers get busy, too!

You had your busy season, and that is well and good. But guess what? Now it’s your designer’s turn! While you were off putting out your own fires, she was busy getting new clients and taking on new projects. Now she has made committments to others. That isn’t to say that the agreement between the two of you doesn’t mean anything now that some time has gone by, but if you just took an entire football season to give her your reaction to a first comp, let’s just say she might not get revisions back to you in the three business days it would normally take.

Designers (time-effective ones, anyway) often schedule their tasks and projects on their calendar. Using a system like this not only keeps the designer on track, but it also protects her clients. It ensures that she doesn’t overbook with too many projects, which would force her to ignore or put off whatever ends up seeming like the least important one (maybe yours!). If your project’s scheduled time is in November, and you’re just getting back to her in February, then she may not be able to squeeze your project back in until March or even April.

You could lose money

You may have paid 25% or 50% of the project’s estimated costs up front when you signed a contract. Be sure to read the fine print on that contract. Does it say you can leave your designer hanging endlessly? Or does it say the project must be completed in a set period of time?

Freelance designers don’t want to be roped in to working on a project with an apathetic client until they are ready to retire. If she’s smart (or had the experience of a client who came back after two years of dead silence, like I did), she will put a provision in the contract that says how long the project may go on, and what happens if the client is the responsible party for holding things up. Maybe you lose your deposit. Maybe you lose your deposit and the designer will no longer work on it after a certain date. If enough time has passed, maybe the designer’s fees have increased and now you owe more money for the same work.

Things change

Don’t think I didn’t notice how you sneakily tried to change the scope of the project back there, adding in a feature to your website that you just found out about. Over time, things change. This is especially true with ever-evolving technologies, such as websites and social media. But just because a year and a half has gone by, and in that time period, hundreds of new trends have been developed, it doesn’t mean that your designer will now be able to include those in the original contract.

It also doesn’t mean you have to live with a website that is stale before it even goes online. It just means that you may have to revisit the terms of your contract. Ask your designer if she would be doing anything differently if she were just starting this project now (she has probably learned a few new tricks since you first got in touch!). Then have a conversation about how doing things this way would change the estimated cost of the project, and decide how to proceed.

Obviously, as mentioned in the above example, people get busy. Maybe it truly is impossible for you to focus your attention on the project you started. But practice common courtesy and communicate that fact with your designer. She’ll be more eager to pick the project back up in six months if you let her know that would be the case.

Be honest, have you ever started a project and then jumped into the black hole of lost clients? How long before you started it back up again? Or, if you are a freelancer, have you experienced an MIA client? How do you handle it? Comment below.

About the Author

Lauren Rauseo is your one-stop shop for print design, websites, HTML email, and more. When she's not busy working on client projects, Lauren enjoys running, doing yoga, drinking a soy white mocha, and having a dance party in the living room with her kids. Shake it off, people, just shake it off.

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