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Two sides to every story

cut out paper being glued to make a face with eyes and moustache

There’s no doubt we are living through crazy times at the moment. Particularly here in the UK! No matter what your political persuasion or work situation, the uncertainty can’t help but impact our lives. And raise our anxiety levels.

As a member of a few freelance groups, much of the chat at the moment is about client ghosting, pushback on costs, and contracts being cancelled part way through. Or jobs being scaled back because of budget or funding concerns. I’ve read worrying stories of copywriters being asked to cut out the research stage of a project and ‘just’ write the content. Or ‘do a less professional job’ to bring the costs down. I often get asked to ‘just throw some ideas together,’ as there’s no brief. And we all make our own choices on what work we are comfortable taking on. After 30 years of designing, I’m pretty used to making something out of nothing. Mind reading is just one of the skills I offer! Every day I hear more and more examples of this happening. Reading all these stories, it would be very easy to become disheartened and overwhelmed. Particularly as work slows down and we have more time to think.

However, as my dad has always taught me, there are two sides to every story. Over the last few weeks. I’ve also heard from clients struggling to find reliable freelancers. In the last month alone I’ve had three clients put work my way because:

1. Their current designer takes a couple of weeks to get back to them

2. The turnaround times are really slow and there’s no communication

3. They are being ghosted and now can’t get hold of any of the original files or the designer

4. The designer just churns out the same stuff and never asks questions

Selection of paper snippets featuring client messages

Happy days for me of course. I’ll pick up these jobs all day long and say thank you very much. But those are such easy things that could have been avoided. I don’t know the full story, however, what I do know is that poor communication cost them work. And as uncertainty inevitably continues, we all need to be making sure we are providing the best service we can and giving ourselves the best shot. I never want to be giving a client the excuse to go elsewhere. Sorry fellow designers!

When I first started out, I wrote myself a freelance promise. A five-point commitment to clients, summed up as ‘design without the drama.’ The aim was to address all the frustrations I had experienced myself at agencies when hiring . Nearly six years on, I still use it every day. It’s not rocket science but it does make good business sense. I’m sure most clients have better things to do with their day than worry about looking for new suppliers. Or worry if the brochure they commissioned will actually get done on time. I want you to come back to me every time, not only because I produce great work but because I make your life easy.

Having a long-term relationship with a freelancer makes a lot of sense. They get to know your account and how you like to work. Having this knowledge of your brand saves time on future jobs which can in turn make them more cost-effective. If they are good, you will also be able to rely on them to occasionally push back on a brief and offer a different solution or point of view. They can often offer a perspective from their experience working across many different sectors. Something left field that you may not have even considered.

So, clients, if your current freelancer is raising your stress levels with their lack of communication, here’s what you can expect from me. And fellow designers, if you have time on your hands at the moment, it’s definitely worth thinking about what you have to offer and how you communicate that to your clients.

My freelance promise:

  1. Well considered design. With 30 years of experience to draw on, you won’t get good-looking guesses. You’ll get great design backed up with solid reasoning.

  2. Excellent project management. I do what I say I will. On time, every time. My reputation depends on it. I’m fast, efficient and obsessively organised.

  3. Honesty. If I can’t help you, I’ll tell you. I’m good at lots of things, but not everything. I only take on work I know I can do a great job on.

  4. Passion. I’m after long-term relationships. I want you to love what I produce as much as I love creating it. That way you’ll tell your friends.

  5. Large or small. I take on projects of all shapes and sizes. If you’re serious about design, I’m always happy to chat and see if we are right for each other.

Design without the drama graphic

I save all the drama for the finished product, not the way in which I work.

Let me know if you think there’s anything else I should be adding to the list. What are your frustrations when hiring design help? If you were building your dream freelancer, what skills would they bring?


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