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Principal at Void Digital Strategy + Design Joined over 4 years ago
I love it, very helpful and candid.
But a note on FREE work: I didn't see the word "learn" anywhere on the decision tree. Nor "capacity," which has at times been a determinant for me.
That is, if I've only got about 20 hours on the books for a week, with nothing new on the horizon, I'll entertain free work (which, let's call it what it is: a favor) if there's something I can learn from doing it.
Even if it doesn't end up in my portfolio, I can use that time to play around with some new design tool, meet new people, test out new design concepts, or just keep myself from getting rusty.
And it's been my experience that work begets work -- I recently heard from the friend of a friend of a client I helped three years ago. You gotta play this freelance thing all the way to the river.
One last piece of advice: always make a client sign my standard contract and SoW, even if it says $0 at the bottom. (It's also a great way to scare away disreputable people.) As every great ref reminds his boxers before a fight, "Protect yourself at all times!"
I've been (and continue to be) on all sides of this client-consultant relationship -- today as a freelance UX'er and an entrepreneur who hires UI design and developers, and formerly as a VP of Product who worked with countless freelancers and consultants.
From my perspective, this rant portrays freelance designers as entitled, oversensitive, petulant, and ungrateful.
If you think we (freelancers) are not commodities, look at the numbers: nearly 35% of US workers are freelance, and some say that could rise to 50% by 2020. Log into Upwork, Freelancer.com, or any other for-hire site: there are tens of thousands of us in every category, professionals and carpet-baggers alike. So we are a commodity -- which means we have to go above and beyond to justify our rates.
In choosing the freelance life, I'm no longer just a designer: I'm a professional communicator, an educator, a mentor, a business partner, a part-time therapist, and, yes, sometimes I'm that therapist's "punching pillow." All of this, I'd argue, does make me an employee of the client, even if only temporarily.
Remember that we are the ones being paid, so the onus is on us (not the client!) to make it work. If the client doesn't "get it," it's my job to overcommunicate, to meet them way more than halfway so they are as confident in and competent about the project as I am. I blame myself for every project that has ever gone awry -- either I could have done more to help the client, or I could have better anticipated what might go wrong (and in some cases, refuse the job to avoid it).
For my side projects, I specifically hire UI designers and developers who are great communicators, hard-working, prideful of their quality, and grateful for my business. So I make damned sure I treat my client the same way when I'm on the for-hire side of the contract.
And when the next great recession inevitably hits, I'll be looking around wondering where all the clients went, thinking about how I'll pay my mortgage this month, and reminiscing fondly about all these projects fate saw it fit to drop in my lap.
BJ Fogg's "Persuasive Technology" is a must-read in this category.
I keep a running list of recommended UX books here -- and cordoned off the behavioral stuff for this thread:
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