A Spec Work “Adventure” – Investing the Right Time for the Job
Every designer at some point will come across a client who wants everything done yesterday. They give you a “brief” in the evening, they want the design the morning after. Then you follow the instructions and that isn’t what they wanted.
I had a client just like this the other day (alas not the only one) but this one was fairly difficult to deal with. He also requested something that was graphically incorrect and even almost impossible to realise. It wasn’t just about a colour that doesn’t go well with another. It was a request that was very similar to asking to set a fire by throwing cold water on wood.
The job comes on my desk in the morning, at 9:30 with the request that I get it done by 11am. The client calls at 10:45 asking me if I did it…
After the first draft, which was exactly per his instructions, he decided he didn’t like it and changed the instructions. Of course, what he asked wasn’t possible, but it was nevertheless my fault. He also went on about how he waited from 10:15 to 11am for my draft, to get something he didn’t like. Following the new instructions, still fairly impossible to realise, I tried to do them as quickly as possible, also explaning to him that I will refine them once he decides on one. By 13:00, he had 5 drafts to choose from.
He still wasn’t happy.
I don’t think I ever had so many problems with a client before. Eventually I just said one of our salesmen will contact him and we cancelled the job, and encouraged him to go to the other designer he really wanted to go to and with whom he had previous arrangements (which was the main reason of his impossible requests to me). Yet, the cherry on the candle: “Your designers take 5 minutes to make drafts, they don’t even spend time to work on them.” However it was by HIS request that I speeded up a job I already did quickly, and that others also saw and thought was well done.
Furthermore whoever contacted him didn’t have a contract. So I lost more than half a day in the end for a job that didn’t result into any income for the company. Needless to say, I had other things to take care of, one of them being 3 editions of a magazine.
This should be a lesson about spec work. Always have a contract (in this situation, I wasn’t the one taking care of it). Always specify the number of changes, drafts or hours in the contract. And when people ask you to do something in very little time, too little for the job you are being asked to do, try to explain to them that it requires time to do something properly, because in the end, as this very example showed, even they won’t be happy about it and will say you don’t even care for their job, even when you try to suggest to them better solutions, which I did.
This client wanted me to spend more time to take care of his job, but he didn’t have time to allow me that. I consider myself a decent designer, but that is out of my reach still.
July 22, 2009