Dealing with clients who think you’ve got all the time in the world…

Bear with me, I get to the point eventually…

When I was thinking about starting a blog, I looked for other titles, website urls etc that already had my chosen name ‘Being A Freelance Artist’.  Fortunately there wasn’t anything else by the same name but there was a great blog (which I’ve mentioned before) by a graphic designer called Jeremy Tuber who is based in America.  His blog called Being A Starving Graphic Artist Sucks (read it here) is a brilliant resource for anyone who is a freelance designer, creative type person and has lots of brilliant advice on dealing with clients, including the app ‘Verbal Kung-Fu for Freelancers’ which I’ve got on my mobile.

I turned up to a meeting today (nicely timed with five minutes to go to agreed meeting time), only to find the building locked up and no one in sight.  That’s fine, I thought, I’m five minutes early, they’re obviously running a little late.  15 minutes later no one has appeared, no one has rung and my nose has turned blue waiting in the cold.  Gave the client a ring and it turns out he hadn’t forgotten but had been held up and was going to be another ‘…five, …no ten, no more like 15 minutes…why don’t you jump in your car and come up here?’  Brilliant idea but I had walked there…

A simple (and easy) solution would surely have been to ring me and let me know when it became obvious he wasn’t going to leave on time to get to the meeting .  We could have rescheduled for later in the day, changed meeting to another day or changed location.  I’m pretty easy – meeting at 1pm or 2pm makes little difference, if I’m sat at my computer doing design work all day.  What does make a difference is going to a meeting that doesn’t happen and has consequently wasted an hour of my day.  I’m not being paid for the meeting so suddenly I’m down an hour, I’ve got to do the meeting another time (which means a bit of re-shifting elsewhere) and I haven’t got all my work done.

So – how to deal with this type of problem…

You can’t go in guns blazing and get very annoyed and shouty (and really, I can’t think of any time you should be anything other than professional), it’s about setting limits BEFORE it happens.  Possibly I had always been far too flexible and accommodating previously and so the client thought it was fine to be late to a meeting.  A gentle reminder when you arrange the meeting to ‘please phone (text, email etc – whatever suits you) if you’re going to be late or need to rearrange’ is easy enough to do – you’re still showing the client flexibility whilst prompting them to think about YOUR time and work commitments, not just theirs.

And if it does happen… it’s definitely worth explaining to them why it’s not okay.  Remember – if your client has a ‘proper job’ that pays them the same amount of money at the end of every month, they won’t really understand why an hour wasted going to a meeting that didn’t happen is costly to you (and yes, PAYE vs freelance will be a separate rant that will probably be several pages long).  Also, if you are too accepting of their no-show, they’ll think it’s okay to do the same thing next time.

Just a final thought – I started writing this post back in January 2012 and have only just got round to finishing it…

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