Customer Service Lessons from a Bad Freelance Designer

Customer Service Lessons from a Bad Freelance Designer

I hired a freelance graphic designer for a small job, in hopes that he would really impress me and I could give him lots of assignments. It didn’t happen. Granted, this person is working full-time and freelancing on the side and appears to be a newbie.

But I’m always looking for good, fresh talent to help with client projects, so I’m willing to give the freshmen a try. Sometimes they work out; sometimes they don’t. This experience definitely fell in the Don’t category and I’m turning it into a lesson in customer service for creative professionals new to freelancing.

1) If you don’t know a client’s gender, don’t guess. After emailing a few times, Designer Guy called me, and asked for Mr. Miller. This was a call to my business line, so while I am married to a Mr. Miller, I said “There is no Mr. Miller here.” To which Designer Guy replied, “Oh! OK. I thought you were a man.”

Yes, I have an odd name. But why not just ask for Kivi and go from there? I was annoyed with the sexist assumption and should have ended it there, but I decided to give him a second chance.

2) When a client gives you specific instructions, follow them. I gave Designer Guy two specific instructions: no bleeds and make it go with the design of a particular website. I gave him two photos to use. I also asked for two different mockups from which to pick.

What did he deliver? One version with a full bleed of one of the photos with my text thrown on top of it. It bore no resemblance whatsoever to the URL I asked him to match. Strike two.

3) Don’t take jobs if you can’t meet the deadlines. When I asked Designer Guy where the second comp was, he said he didn’t have time to do it. I admit this was a rush job (he had four days in between getting my copy and photos and producing a draft for me), but I was perfectly clear about the schedule when I described the job.

If you don’t have time, don’t take the assignment. If you run out of time, be upfront with the client. Don’t hope they won’t notice. Strike two and a half.

4) Don’t change your terms at the last minute. When I told Designer Guy that the draft didn’t work, because it didn’t meet my two main criteria (no bleed and matching the URL), he demanded full payment before he would deliver the final product. Mind you, I hadn’t even seen a product that met my needs yet, nor had he previously requested any payment upfront, even though we did discuss his total estimate for the project.

Because my deadline was nearly upon me, the only way I could have paid him anything was if he took credit cards or PayPal. But he wouldn’t take either, insisting on cash or a check. I had no way to get him payment and get the final product within the time I had left (less than 24 hours), even if I were willing to do so. If he had taken credit cards or PayPal, I probably would have given him 50% and hoped that his second draft worked. But the idea that I would pay in full when the only thing delivered completely failed to meet my needs was laughable. Strike three. He’s out.

I stayed up late that night and did it myself.

  • Sandy Rees

    We must be living parallel lives, because I just had a very similar experience! I gave a graphic job to someone with very specific instructions, and it was as if she ignored what I asked for and just did what she wanted. She took about 2 weeks longer than the 4-day deadline I gave her, and was tough to communicate with. I won’t be going back to her.

    • Kivi Leroux Miller

      So frustrating!

  • Samantha

    I understand your frustration Kivi, all of what you just stated have been my clients complaints before they found me:) I’m a freelance designer who also has a full-time job working for a newspaper and I work nights and weekends on my design business. I started this endeavor in 2012 and I have learned a TON! Client satisfaction is my #1 goal. I have credit card or paypal options because it is a convenience for my clients. I always have a contract, no matter how small a job, that states very clearly both parties wants and needs, so there are never any surprises. And lastly, I enjoy a customer who tells me exactly what they are looking for, it’s refreshing. I love being creative, but coming up with all the ideas all the time is very exhausting. When a client starts out, “I don’t know what I’m looking for” I like to send a questionnaire or speak on the phone, so I have a better idea of who they are and what they want. I hope the Designer Guy, gained more experience and learned a few very important lessons from you. I was inexperienced too and still consider myself to be in a way, I’m constantly learning. Anyhow, I had to give my two cents. I really enjoy your posts Kivi:)