One of the main reasons I wanted to go freelance after nearly a decade in the design business was that I wanted to stop being the man who delivered the news “Yeah, there’s been a delay on the print job” or “They promised me it’d be ready today, and I don’t know what the problem is”. I set my business up so that I made it clear that I’d handle print and third party services if required, but ideally I’d complete the design, provide all the files and that would be my involvement over. Finding honest, reliable suppliers who delivered on all their promises was a rare achievement during my agency years. They do exist, and by God cherish those people when you get onboard with them.
I like to think I’m conscientious with my work, and will (albeit with a heavy heart and echoing wallet) turn down work that I don’t believe I can provide a satisfactory level of service on. If I feel I don’t have the resources or knowledge to complete sections of a brief, or indeed the whole project, I’ll turn down the work, and be sure to make the potential client aware of why I’m doing such. No-one has complained yet, which is in stark contrast to buying print and outsourcing services. If I had a Dollar, or a shiny Pound for every time I’ve been told “Yeah we can do that, to that standard, on budget and on schedule” only to be let down on every count, well, forgive the cliche, but I wouldn’t be a designer right now. It’s the nature of business that people will bite off your hand for work, and then worry about how they’ll complete it to match their quote and promises of quality. In some cases they don’t even do the ‘worry’ bit.
Why so perturbed today? Today is the 6th, maybe even the 7th month of trying to get a web design and hosting company to correctly implement the material I supplied for the most basic of websites. I originally turned down the opportunity to work on the website portion of this particular project, citing the fact that I ceased trying to be a Jack-of-all-trades a while back, preferring to try and be good at one thing, rather than rubbish at lots of stuff. Honestly, I just can’t find enough hours in the day to keep up to date with advances in the web as a product, and the design applications associated with it. Basic stuff, fine no problem. When we get into the realms of backside administration, SEO and secure e-commerce, well, that’s when I hold my hands up and say “I’m not your guy” and suggest going to the experts.
Here I am, having provided idiot-proof instructions, reference files, actual files and anything else that could possibly expedite the creation of a website, 6, possibly 7 months on, staring at a site that only barely resembles what had been promised. Throughout the long painful journey there has been an awe-inspiring lack of quality control, client updates, customer care and just plain old common sense. Here I am trying to act as a middle man between the most patient, understanding client of mine, and a web company delivering the absolute least at a ridiculous price. This is not why I went freelance, and it’s certainly not how business should be done. You don’t get to pick and choose who you provide good service to, you provide the same level to everyone, big and small, regardless. My patience expires very quickly when the first signs of “we’re not really that bothered about your work because, after all, you’re not our biggest client, and we’re the experts and can spin any old crap out about what the problem is, safe in the knowledge that your client won’t understand the technicalities” rear their head.
Rear their head they have done too. Here I am, not the expert, picking up a web company on their sloppy HTML, their sloppy proofing, and their outrageous deadlines. So, so much for freelancing, it’s not a boss telling me to deliver crap news that I have no control over, it’s me telling me to deliver the news. I don’t mind doing the deed, but I do very much resent the reasons behind having to deliver such news.
Cherish good suppliers and good people when you find them. You’ll be rewarded a hundred-fold in the long run.