October 15, 2014

My client went Missing In Action



I knew it had to happen eventually: bad client experience....

I'm following some designer blogs and what they all have in common is that there is at least one post written on bad experiences with clients. I guess no one who works with clients is immune to it. And last week it appeared that I wasn't either.

While the rest of my experiences with my clients so far have been really good, they were nice people, we had nice collaborations etc. this one was rather disappointing. And the thing I was warned for by what the other designers wrote on their blogs started to happen to me as well: I began questioning myself and my way of handling client orders.

So what happened? Not really a shocking thing really. I was asked to design a custom blog template for a rather young client. She told me her plans, but the first obstacle we hit was that her English was really poor. And I mean really poor. I understood about half of what she wrote to me. So in the end she sketched me the layout of the blog (which of course had to be in another language as well). With the sketch I was able to come up with a draft for her. She liked it very much, wanted some alterations, which I did, and when we reached the end of the designing part things suddenly changed.

She knew the price of a custom made template, after all she specifically asked me for it. She also knew that I would need her login codes for google when I had to install the template. But when it finally came down to payment and installation she went MIA. 

I was left with a bunch of questions: didn't she like my design after all but just didn't dare to say so? Did she hope I would sell her the template for a much lower price than we agreed upon? Didn't she feel comfortable giving me access to her account? Or was the language barrier just too much to handle? I really couldn't tell. I sent her several emails without getting a response and then decided to consider the project cancelled and took her draft blog down.

Hopefully I don't bump into these kind of clients too often. Of course it's a bit disappointing that I put in all those hours of work for nothing, but the biggest disappointment for me personally is that I just can't trust everyone. I'd like to think that if I approach someone with an open mind and trusting attitude, that that will come back to me. In most cases it does, but every now and then it doesn't. It's life I guess. And I learn from it.

It made me question my way of working. I feel most comfortable when I do at least some work for a client before they make a payment. To gain their trust and let them know that I'm serious about completing this project together with them. I'm afraid that if I have more of these disappointing experiences that I will have to change my way of working. Demand a payment first before I do anything. But I don't like that. It's so not me.

So for now I keep things the way they are and hope that the disappointing clients will just be a very small part of business and that they will be outnumbered by the lovely clients I have met so far. I should focus on them, because they make designing fun!

Daphne
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3 comments

  1. I understand how frustrating that can be and how much sense it would make to change your business plan and request money up front. As a client of this type service, I can say that it's important for me to be able to view some of the work prior to paying. Being able to collaborate is essential to this type of creative process. In fact, it's what sets you apart from your competition. Perhaps a happy medium might be to request a down payment up front. As a professional photographer I know that once money changes hands, it becomes more "real" to the client, and it tends to weed out the "flaky" people.

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    1. Thanks for this tip Elizabeth, it certainly is something to think about. I understand that as a client it's also tricky to pay the whole amount first, since you only contact each other via internet. I've worked with a client who was set up by the designer she hired initially. She paid the full amount, but the designer went missing in action... So I would like to keep my policy of showing some work first to the client to gain their trust and let them know I'm serious. Let's hope it doesn't happen too often.

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