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vicnorman

Client Woes

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Hmm... I may have lost a client today. Long story short(ish): They approved my boards, and previsuals and i went ahead with the finals. Final renders were approved. About a week later they call back and ask for revisions, new designs, not completely revised, but still: new design. once again everything is finalized, and approved. About one week later they call back and once again ask for changes, this time to make the opening titles 10 seconds shorter. Today they called and asked me to totally redo almost half of the graphics because they realized upon putting the show together that all those graphics they wanted made the show confusing.

 

I finally did it, i refused. I said no way: pay me what you would have paid for a new graphics package and we'll talk, but i'm not starting over because you can't make your mind up. You got what you ordered, thrice. That's enough.

 

The reason i'm posting this is , well... I'm pissed and need to let off some steam, but also: Am I in the wrong here? I've never had an unhappy client before, but i get a strong feeling i'll never hear from these guys again. Maybe revisions upon revision of a finalized and delivered product is common fare, and i should've just sucked it up. I seriously doubt that, but man, I just don't know anymore! What would you have done, and how can i avoid this in the future?!

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Dude you gotta put your foot down sometimes, some of these jackoffs OOPS! I mean clients will walk all over you the minute they see you're wussing. Also you might want to put how many revs they get up front in writing or something. Don't ever be vague about how long it will take you to do a project or how many revisions are resonably allowable. Or, if they want to keep changing things, bill them and bill them and bill them again.

 

Chances are you haven't lost this client (although sounds like they are a pain in the ass). They will most likely repsect your position now that you've put your foot down. If you did a killer job on the pkg, the proof will be when they get thumbs up from whomever their audience is and they will be back.

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I finally did it, i refused. I said no way: pay me what you would have paid for a new graphics package and we'll talk, but i'm not starting over because you can't make your mind up. You got what you ordered, thrice. That's enough.

 

Am I in the wrong here?

 

I guess it depends on the business situation...do you charge some kind of flat fee for graphics packages? Sounds like you need to switch to an hourly rate. Clients gotta know they're going to pay for being picky/indecicive.

 

Anyway, I feel your pain, even when they're willing to pay, those clients are a real drag.

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I don't think you've lost them. I think this will make them look at the seriousness of their incompetence. It's going to cost them to have graphics done over and over and over. It's where it hurts them the most, but without that kind of financial punishment, they would do this shit a million times to you. Where's THEIR responsibility?

 

You're totally correct in what you've done. And honestly, I wouldn't want a client like this coming back if they can't get their shit together. It sounds like you've made the changes you thought were within reason of what the job is. Outside of that, it's time to re-negotiate. They can start from scratch somewhere else if they don't like it.

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vicnorman, you are 100% right and justified in your actions. and you have done a service to your m'graphing peers by putting your foot down.

 

even if it's for a flat fee situation, you should lay down some simple ground rules at the beginning, whether in a full-fledged contract or within an email... just a simple list including something like "2-4 sets of boards/concepts" "15-sec open, 2 x 5-sec bumps", etc.

 

when they ask for more than what was on the agreed list, that's strike one. mention in an email that they are asking for more than was agreed, but you don't mind accomodating it blah blah blah. each time they do this, politely remind them again. when it gets to the point of absurdity, they will have had plenty of warnings that they are exceeding what they're paying for.

 

your situation sounds like a producer who's accustomed to working with in-house designers that they can bully around untill the 11th hour. the only way to really make a producer like that do their job (nail down key variables in a timely manner) is via negative reinforcement-- ie. they go over budget because they ask for too many unreasonable changes or keep trying to slide things onto the deliverables list. going over budget means that THEY THEMSELVES have to actually incur some kind of consequence, so they are more likely to make a conscious effort to not be wishy-washy on future projects, at least with you. otherwise, they will keep doing it over and over.

Edited by jaan

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I sympathize with your frustrations. You may not win the argument here, but you do need to stand up for yourself. All designers must put their foot down like this or we all suffer from the getting the expectation that acting this way to us is acceptable.

 

The best way to avoid this is to put wording into your contracts from the get go. List what assets you are expected to deliver. I would even detail what elements you will be delivering before you get to the final assets such as style frames, animatics, etc. Then place wording that your client gets NO reiterations after concept and style frame is signed off. A common practice is to give your client 3 reiterations possible per asset. Then write in that if it goes over that you charge them by the hour.

 

Also, try to educate your client by introducing a strategy to your work. I use this 7 step process, which helps prevent situations like these.

 

"All Little Red Robot productions are put through a 7 stage process of Analysis, Strategize Concept, Writ-

ing, Design, Development, Delivery, and Maintenance."

 

Most of the details that get signed off on in the writing phases make the rest of the production more streamlined. Gets everyone aligned with a course of action that will be undetaken.

 

Finally, most clients expect they can run you around and get anything they want, so sometimes you just gotta suck it in if you want to keep working with them or get your final paycheck.

 

I hope this may be useful.

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Guest Sao_bento

I don't mean this as an insult to vicnorman, but any of us who does business without proper contracts deserves what we get. No one else in the world (in case you haven't noticed) is going to do any type of business for you without some guarantee that you will pay for it. For some reason, designers are super-susseptable to this. I don't know if it's because we feel embarrassed for charging for something we enjoy doing or we're too focused on "art" to have any common sense or what. In any event, it's time to grow up and handle your business.

 

AIGA has some resources to help.

http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/professional_practice

 

(ignore the spec work stuff, and don't be a sucker).

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You are right, but it's a little weird putting everything on paper when no one else does it, none of my freelance buddies do it, and none of the people or companies that i've comissioned to do sound design/ 3d models etc have done it.

 

That's my excuse, poor as it is, but I'm definitely gonna get everything in writing on my next job, i'll be the exception that defines the rule.

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you gotta be firm for sure, It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I know how to deal with clients (it was even worse when I was working in web as a website is never properly finished)

 

I dont go so far as any written contracts but recently I have to admit that I've been giving it some thought.

 

I mean sometimes a client just takes the pi$$

 

for example: I was given a brief to create some graphics for an event and given some printed material to follow for styling. The client then dissappears on holiday leaving me to knock up some "animations" in effect giving me artistic control (after signing of a storyboard)

 

On return from holiday they then take a complete u-turn and issue me with a new style/story board.

 

I agree to do it (no extra cost) and I stick quite literally to their board even though I know it looks weak, they then have the cheek to tell me that it is lazy and lacking in impact, all this after me working until 1am.

 

Sometimes I think you are just better off without certain clients.

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I've never had an unhappy client before, but i get a strong feeling i'll never hear from these guys again.

Honestly. Do you want to see them again? Is that the kind of work you want?

Contracts could save you financially, but creatively a client like that will continue to destroy your soul. They don't need artists... they need monkeys. It's far better to cut them loose and let them find what they're looking for.

 

Focus your efforts on finding a client you ARE interested in working for.

 

-m

Edited by the_Monkey

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Wow...try working full-time in house & salaried. This sounds like EVERY project I've ever worked on....only I can't charge the incompetent client & I have no choice on whether I work with them again.

 

Oh wait I do--I forgot I just gave my two-week's notice :)

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Honestly. Do you want to see them again? Is that the kind of work you want?

Contracts could save you financially, but creatively a client like that will continue to destroy your soul. They don't need artists... they need monkeys. It's far better to cut them loose and let them find what they're looking for.

 

Focus your efforts on finding a client you ARE interested in working for.

 

-m

 

So true. Not only will they destroy your soul, but also your reel.

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Speaking as a person who hires and is hired, I have to say put everything on paper and agree to it before you start the job. This is real business, no real agency will balk at you wanting to send a proper deal memo/estimate/fee.

 

As a Client/Supervisor, I'd rather we agree on paper, I would be worried that you'd hit me up later for an overage that I was unaware of.

 

As a producer providing the services, I'd want to protect the artist's time and the amount of revisions, sticking to the job specs that were laid out. If the client changes the specs (whether it's creative direction, technical specs or a schedule change), I'd let them know right away to expect an overage and unfortunately, I or in this case You would have to send one asap despite the pressure of just starting the additional work.

 

You have to protect yourself, because everyone else is.

 

Handshake deals are for friends and people you really trust. It's also for people who want to look cool to the other person.

 

If you're freelance buddies are really not putting anything on paper, it only hurts the rest of their peers because clients start to expect this loose behavior and they can take advantage of it.

 

Part of freelancing is the ugly part of accounting and producing, you can do it yourself but if it feels that weird, maybe hire someone to do it for you.

 

If it happens again, you'll only have yourself to blame.

 

Hope that didn't sound too paternal...

 

Good luck.

 

 

 

 

You are right, but it's a little weird putting everything on paper when no one else does it, none of my freelance buddies do it, and none of the people or companies that i've comissioned to do sound design/ 3d models etc have done it.

 

That's my excuse, poor as it is, but I'm definitely gonna get everything in writing on my next job, i'll be the exception that defines the rule.

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Can this thread be about any "client" woes? I am in a battle with producers where I work right now. They seem to think that I'm at their beck and call...They clearly don't know me very well...this week alone I've been asked for graphics without being given a rough cut or a script for that matter...I say no. They come back, like an alzheimer's patient, a day later, and ask me for the same graphics I shot down the day before, and I say "no" again.

 

We work with request forms that give us due dates, deliverable lists, etc. And I swear to god this whole week, not a single request has had an accurate due date on it. they either leave it off completely, or are too lazy to check that it's correct. I had one given to me yesterday with the due date 08.21.06.

 

I'm just glad it's Friday.

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Where I work everything is put into contract before any work is done. Even with regular clients. Luckily my project manager handles all of those details, but I'm never allowed to even start a project until they sign the agreement. Everything is spelled out as to estimated hours, rounds of revision (usually only two), and specific deliverables. They have to sign off on every step of the process (styleframes, storyboards, animatic, audio, preliminary and final graphics). If they step out of bounds they pay overage fees.

 

Always check your actual hours with estimated and figure out your man/hours. If you don't watch it carefully you might be giving your time away at below minimum wage.

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I agree that without a contract you're setting yourself up, but I've been in situations where sending a contract worked against me. Years ago my company was asked to do a pretty big job for a major cable network, and we worked up a very simple one page schedule/ deliverables list for the job. Well, it turns out that this company does not allow their producers to enter into written contracts. So, our contract gets forwarded on to their legal department, and they are ordered by the legal department to stop all work with us until the contract can be reviewed. So, the project is delayed several days (pissed off client) and then we are sent a 25 page contract from the legal department that we were all supposed to sign. We couldn't sign it because it was so overwhelmingly biased towards the network and almost impossible to decipher. We ended up agreeing with the producers to "cancel" the project to get the legal guys to go away, and then do the same project without anyone having to sign anything. We were darn lucky they still did the project with us; for a while they were none too happy that we got them in the stew with their legal department.

 

Of course this is the exception and not the rule, and I'm not trying to talk anyone out of getting signed contracats before doing work. You should just be aware of the unintended consequences these things can have. Some perfectly honest people get all sweaty when you ask them to sign something.

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Wow...try working full-time in house & salaried. This sounds like EVERY project I've ever worked on....only I can't charge the incompetent client & I have no choice on whether I work with them again.

 

Oh wait I do--I forgot I just gave my two-week's notice :)

 

 

so sad. so sad.

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