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Creative Director @ Bold Collective Joined almost 8 years ago
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Thanks for taking the time. Love the no-bullshit approach, it's much needed in the creative industry.
What are the most important factors while vetting a client?
How do you deal with a client that agreed to work through your process, but after starting, they get a different idea and want to re-invent the wheel so to speak?
I chose the word "Bosses" for effect. Of course they don't make your schedule, set your hours etc. (Clients do actually determine market rate, so debatable if they have a say over that).
My main point here is that you have many people, that have some amount of leverage over you. They ultimately hand you your paycheck.
If you work with many small clients at a time, you can probably afford to fire a client or propose different directions until they pay (you are losing money.) If you work on larger projects that may span months, this becomes a much larger portion of your revenue, and in turn provides more leverage to that client. When you have to sacrifice great parts of your design in order to get paid, you are going to make those changes, or you are going to be broke. Hardest part of the job.
You will ultimately have as many 'bosses' as you have clients, like it or not. You will probably have to adjust to a variety of working relationships etc.
Ideally you would have a set schedule, workflow, or general pattern that you can follow and repeat with success, but some clients just don't get it, or don't listen -- and you can't always fire them.
My team of 6 uses slack for day-to-day internal stuff that the client is not exposed to. We basically have a channel for each project and #general for quickly hitting everyone with a lunchtime or status message.
We use Basecamp for communication with clients and collaborators as well as external project managers. We try to keep all feedback from the client there and use it mostly so there is no email telephone going on. Devs can see the designs they will ultimately build etc.
When I provide creative direction, it's an awesome tool because it's quick, inline viewing and commenting is easy where as basecamp gets wild.
I'd say its a more polished hipchat and the best feature is connecting to people even if they aren't "online."
TL;DR: I have dealt with a lot of horrible clients, terrible financial situations and have felt extremely burned out, but at the end of the day I can control my destiny. There are assholes in every field.
I am with you. Co-founder / Creative Director that has to pay our people first, but if problem clients happen, our salaries are withheld. There is also very little we can do in the way of tax writeoffs, to make things worse.
I have had clients not pay partially for work that they loved (with signed contracts) and recently walked into a retail store to see our logo and website plastered everywhere as a partnership between the two.
I have had clients not pay at all and much of my energy is fighting for that check, instead of working or winning new projects.
I have had a partner in a separate venture take money and bail.
I still feel like this industry is one of the best to be in, especially now, where we can all find work, and charge well for it. I have worked in corporate environments, other agencies and startups where I have no power to change things, yet share all the frustrations (on a corporate level you usually don't lose out on money).
The bottom line is that all of the challenges that I have faced can be corrected by me.
I can choose to not work with idiots (or get better at picking them out), I can protect myself better by registering work or getting a better contract in place and I can take a gamble with all the knowledge I have on a side project.
Get Satifaction is a reasonable 3rd party feedback tool, but it costs money.
I haven't used a product that combines user feedback into an product mgmt tool like jira, pivotal tracker or asana though. Usually feedback is just a glorified message / email.
TL;DR I don't think basecamp qualifies as "just fucking going for it" because they are 10 years old, successful and profitable.
Working almost exclusively with startups for the past 3+ years, I find the need to defend the pivot and challenge your idea of "fucking going for it". A big part of design is validating or finding product-market fit. Startups usually arent "waffling" for no reason. Some have to based on investor decisions, and some just don't have the ability to wait 18 months to gain traction. They need to make money to keep going.
37Signals chose to fucking go for it 10 years after basecamp was launched, largely successful & profitable, which is clearly a smart thing to do. I have listened to David Heinemeier Hansson get interviewed, and he believes that basecamp is the best idea he will have, but they still chose to wait that long to focus on it.
I don't know about the other company, but I would guess they saw some growth or traction and THEN decided to "fucking go for it." Coming up with a product, launching and continuing without feedback or interest from your customers is just stupid unless you have all the time and money in the world.
I guess the way you wrote your post makes it seem like you are giving them credit for being dedicated to their original idea and fearless, when I think they were very calculated and took much much longer than some of the other companies out there. Food for thought, Basecamp is just a few months younger than myspace.
She's actually selling her craft and gettin' paid -- the client is selling the sugar water. UI/UX designers are contributing to "selling" a service or a product too. So at the end of the day, we're all selling something, we just don't have that corporation stigma.
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