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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…

10 things to remember when quoting for work

1. It will always take longer than you think.

2. Include prep time AND finishing time – this includes shopping for materials, getting materials ready, creating examples.

3. Include meetings and administration time.

4. Make sure prices from your suppliers include VAT or add it on to costs (unless VAT registered).

5. If the job includes a final product/design that needs signing off, allow for changes and alterations – think about specifying an allowed number of amendments/revisions.

6. The price you quote could set the standard for further work from this client.  If you are thinking about doing it as a loss leader – tell them!  You shouldn’t suddenly hike your prices up for no reason.

7. You are a business and you need to sustain your business.  Make sure your quote is reasonable but at the same time, make sure you aren’t under-quoting.

8. Never give an on-the-spot quote.  It is always worth getting back to a client ONCE you’ve had time to put together realistic costs and time needed to complete the work.

9. Think about giving two or three price options.  Include exactly what a client gets for each price level.  This gives the client choice and clearly sets out what work can be done for what cost.

10. And… it will always take longer than you think.

One more thing to add – it’s quite useful to have day/half day/hourly rates fixed in your mind as new clients will often ask what your rates are.  I know this contravenes point no. 8 but it is sometimes useful and you don’t have to use it.  You can also have different rates depending on what type of client is asking, what their budgets are likely to be and what type of job it is.

Useful information and resources for freelance artists

If you’re looking for advice and information on how to work as an artist and freelancer or you do already and just want a bit of support and reassurance, there are some great resources to be found on t’internet.  Here’s a list of blogs and sites that I think have some really useful stuff on them and make interesting reading…

Freelance Advisor – up to date and UK specific news, information and resources for freelancers.  A really informative site and I like the mix of serious stuff and irreverent comment.  It’s not aimed at creatives, artists or designers but does bring together a huge amount of content from the freelancing world.

Being A Starving Artist Sucks – this is written by a designer in America called Jeremy Tuber.  There’s lots of information about how to deal with clients, how to negotiate and how to price your work; especially based around graphics and design.   What I like most are the rants about working as a freelancer – they’ll make you laugh when you’ve had a bad day.  There’s also a downloadable resource called ‘Verbal Kung-Fu for Freelancers’ which I love.  I’ve got it on my iPhone for meetings with ‘challenging’ clients…!

Freelance Factfile – this is my most recent discovery and is a great resource for both new and existing freelancers.  The blog covers everything from getting started and finding new clients to financial matters, how to stay motivated and keeping said clients.  Much of what’s written may seem obvious but it’s nice to know someone else out there is experiencing similar situations.

Freelance Switch – pretty similar to Freelance Factfile but aimed more towards the Creative Industries.  It also has a Jobs Board and some useful online tools, like an hourly rate calculator etc. but probably more relevant for designers and webby people.

ArtQuest – ok, this isn’t specifically about freelancing but it IS about working as an artist and they help artists to ‘make work, sell work, find work and network’.  Though this site is aimed at artists living and working in London it does have some good information on (there’s a brilliant ‘how to’ section) and is worth a look even if you do live outside the capital.

Compiling this list has raised the question of being an artist versus being a freelance artist – the same thing or two completely different animals? Hmmm…. maybe a question for when I’ve got more time and brain power to dedicate to it.