Yes my ego cost me $6,000 on a branding project…
I want to share my story so you can avoid the pain and anguish, and loss of time that resulted. I improved my Logo Design Process and client expectation management skills as a result. Lessons were learned and bridges were not burned…
“Vince, you woke me up last night!!
“DO NOT TEXT ME Logo ideas at 3:00 am!”
I could hear her voice while I read her text reply. What a thoughtless bastard was all I heard.. Yes I keep strange hours as a freelancer, but I had no idea the sound of receiving a text would wake her up, and cause so much turmoil. I do not sleep with my phone, apparently SHE DOES.
I need to remember other humans keep ‘normal’ hours, I told myself… So in essence, I WAS a thoughtless bastard texting my new client.
Who did I think I was texting her at 3:00 am?? I thought my ideas were so special they needed to be shared in the middle of the night? My ego got in the way.
Yeah ok, I was a thoughtless bastard.
“I am very sorry to have awakened you. I did not realize your phone would wake you, I assumed you’d get the message in the morning. It will not happen again, my sincere apologies. It won’t happen again.”
This was JUST week one of a branding project with a new client.
I should have known this as foreshadowing of the project spawned from the devil (her)self. This business would be GREAT without clients, I laughed to myself.
This intense feeling of wanting to make up for past indiscretions, started me down the wrong path, I would realize later I did not follow my standard process for concept delivery.
I am not used to having unhappy clients, in fact the opposite is true. I pride myself on being able to please almost any personality with exceptional work. Over 90% of my clients are strong entrepreneurial women. I can take the heat, I thought to myself. Bring it.
Week 2, Sketching like a mad man.
We had gotten off on the wrong foot. I received general negative energy from this client, and the mantra of ‘I have not seen a decent logo design in 20 years’. My take on it was she simply did NOT WANT to be pleased.
As a prolific art gallery owner, she had seen more fine art in her lifetime than many people, so she was discerning. I get it. But still her attitude was not one of looking for solutions, it was born of rejecting ideas and looking for reasons not be pleased.
Good times. So I started sketching with a mad man. I had to bring her around and make her happy. It’s what I do!!
Week 3, Deliver first round of conceptual sketches.
I deliver my first round of sketches to her and her partner. ‘Underwhelmed’ is the only adjective that fits, they had little to nothing to say about the initial sketches. I was not deterred.
Week 4, MORE Sketches delivered.
I dug deeper. More sketches delivered. And more apathy from my client… yay.
Week 5, Logo Ideas delivered.
I was getting nervous but kept working on ideas to present. More logos delivered. And more rejection.
Week 6, Logos in context of the Website.
Yes, even more logo concepts shown in context of the website were presented. More rejection without any feedback on any ideas that may be getting closer. Growing frustration on both sides. My business partner in crime (at the time) was also helping me think of new ways to approach the challenge. It was not looking pretty.
Week 7, Admit Defeat. Move on.
This was heading nowhere. So I had a serious heart to heart with my partner. We decided to cut this client loose. A first in my 13 years freelancing. We decided to take the high road and return her $6,000.00 deposit in full. This deposit covered Logo + Website.
A painful decision when you need the income… But it was good karma, avoided us being sued, and most importantly it was the right thing to do. If a client is not happy, make them happy or agree to disagree. I added a ‘Kill Fee’ in my terms and conditions for protection moving forward. More on that in a future post.
What I did Wrong:
1. I did not properly vet this client as a good fit for my personality. I resisted listening to my gut urge be wary of this client.
3. I let Money get in the way of my better judgement, and my contract terms did not contain a ‘Kill Fee’ clause.
4. My ego forced me to over-deliver on Logo Concepts. I failed to self-edit my sketches to bring the best most appropriate work to the table. She was confused and overwhelmed.
What I did Right:
1. I fully owned the problem.
2. I resisted the urge to blame the client and keep a portion of the deposit money.
3. I returned the entire amount ($6,000 USD) to the client and wished them well.
4. I avoided any future legal problems or litigation that may have resulted in keeping some money.
5. I ended the client relationship, but did not burn any bridges.
The reasons my Ego cost me $6,000.00 USD?
1. I thought my ideas we so clever that she needed to get a text at 3:00 in the morning. My freaking ego was calling the shots.
2. I thought I could bring her around with copious sketches after pissing her off by waking her up with my ‘amazing’ ideas. Wrong.
3. I was not counting on her NOT being pleased, and my Proposal did not contain a ‘Kill Fee’ clause because that could never happen to ‘ME’. I’m a creative rockstar, “How could I NOT make a client giddy with delight?”. Clearly I was full of myself and clearly mistaken.
It was arrogant and reckless.
At least I learned some valuable lessons, received some good karma points from the universe, and I did not burn a bridge with a former client. So my ego got in the way. Poo poo happens. Own it, make the necessary changes, and move onto the next client.
How about You?
Share any horror stories about clients and freelance projects you may have had.
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– Your Creative Junkie