This article was based on Episode #30: Ari Kryzek’s Story, please watch the complete episode here!
“You know what, that’s it. We are done being nice.” — Ari Kryzek
Being referred to be a professional is a tremendous honor, and it provides you with a distinct edge over your competition. It is also a good feeling to be regarded as a professional by your clients since you can plainly tell that your clients appreciate your work, your time, and your effort.
Ari Kryzek, our guest for today, also had this kind of experience, where her client valued her expertise and left her with the responsibility of handling everything. During her first meeting with this client, she was treated with great courtesy and enthusiasm.
This client expressed their admiration for Ari’s work, their regard for her professionalism, and their confidence in her ability to handle any situation. With that kind of treatment, it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about working for a client. The thought of “I would absolutely give them my all-knowing that they had placed their faith in me to handle everything” will definitely be a driving force.
Maybe you wonder how this seemingly happy story can become a terrifying one? Well, believe me when I say that this happy story would turn into a client-horror story, and it was made possible because of these 3 factors: Ego, lack of communication, and lack of expectation. I think you now have an idea of how this story can go sideways, so why don’t you sit back, grab your pen, take down some notes, and read Ari’s client-horror story.
To set the stage for this scenario, Ari is a member of a working group in the internet business known as the creatives. In advertising firms, creatives generate leads and sell advertising for marketing that has been planned and produced by a variety of professionals, including art directors, creative directors, and copywriters, among others.
Advertising agencies and purchasers often use the terms ad banners and other sorts of produced advertising to refer to their goods’ promotional materials. As a result, Ari is a seasoned expert in developing innovative advertising and sales marketing tactics, which is why she was contacted by a client who was familiar with her work.
Ari couldn’t say no when the client asked him to assist him with a fun and exciting project that Ari couldn’t say no to right away. However, and this is a spoiler warning, it started off pleasant but went sour during the endeavor. This is, without a doubt, one of the worst circumstances that you may ever encounter over your whole professional career.
When you sense that things are going sideways right at the beginning of your project, then there would be plenty of time to decline, or there would be a great possibility that you can avoid a disaster. However, when things start to go wrong during the project, it will be tough to prevent the catastrophe from occurring towards the conclusion of the project.
Before we continue Ari’s harrowing story, let me say that this client was a fan of Ari’s work. The project was digital in nature and included the creation of websites, pages, apps, and a variety of other things. In an approach with Ari, the client said, “Hey, we absolutely look up to you guys, you guys are professionals and experts, and we want you to assist us with this project.”
Ari became enthused since no one would want to turn down an eager client who appreciates and respects your expertise, which got her all pumped up. Ari was relieved that they could now demonstrate their true capabilities to the public and that they had finally found a client that recognized their worth.
However, this apparently innocuous incident is the catalyst for Ari’s client-horror tale, and you’ll find out why in the following chapters. Ari raises a red flag right away, and that is the fact that she is accepting a project or a client primarily due to emotional reasons.
1. Never let your emotion be the reason for establishing a working relationship
You can clearly see that one major aspect of Ari accepting the project was her emotional response to how the client treated her. There were other aspects, such as the kind of project they were dealing with and the terms and conditions, but her emotions significantly contributed to why she accepted the proposal.
This is a yellow flag because when you let your emotion become the reason for establishing a working relationship with a client, your senses may become dull, thus creating a possible client-horror story.
If you get emotionally attached to a project, you tend to neglect some yellow flags like informal contract signing or discussing your payment. This is also prone to scope creep and the failure to conduct due diligence.
Let me briefly explain this one; let’s say your client is your close friend. There is already that emotional factor involved in accepting the project because they are your close friend. Because of that, you tend to skip the contract signing, ignore setting boundaries, and slip out in discussing your payment. You find these things unnecessary because the client is your close friend; why should you get formal with them, right?
Well, that’s where you’re wrong. When things go sideways, the one that will be affected the most is you, even if you are close friends with them. So, to be safe, avoid letting your emotion become a big factor in accepting a project or a job offer.
Going back to Ari’s story, she immediately accepted the client’s project, and they began to work immediately. This is where ego strikes in. Ari tried to put so much value into the project and tried to impress her client that there was no actual scope on the project.
Ari overdid some things and tried her best to impress her client that the scope of their work became too big for her to handle.
2. Keep your ego in check
There is nothing wrong with praising yourself, but if you let your ego control your work, then your boundary would be abused, and there would be a lot of scopes creep that would happen.
Your boundaries would be taken for granted. When you let your ego control your work and know that people acknowledge your professionalism, you tend to impress them and do whatever they ask.
For example, if your client has no prior knowledge of SEO but is really impressed with your work, you may feel compelled to go above and beyond to impress them out of sheer vanity. As a consequence, your personal boundaries will be violated. When the time comes, you will be unable to say no to them because you want to please them and have already established yourself as someone capable of everything.
Scope creep would also emerge from your ego telling you to offer them all you have, which would include those works that are no longer included within the scope of your agreement. This occurred to Ari, and it was the catalyst for the beginning of her client-horror narrative.
So Ari was engaged in this creative work in a digital project. She and her team were so excited that they didn’t even realize the scope creeping that had happened. At first, Ari and her team were having fun, but then she gradually noticed that the 15 pages they were making became 150 pages, which was way overboard. Ari also had to consider other screens like the web and connected devices, such as tablets and mobiles.
If you think of it, Ari still has a lot of work to do. Ari noticed this, and she told herself, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Ari already painted a picture to her client that they can do anything and that they are experts, so she had a hard time thinking how she could tell her client that they were already out of scope.
Those 150 pages were already out of scope for Ari, but it was only typical for her client because they thought Ari and her team were superheroes. This also happened because they weren’t able to discuss the scope of the project right in the beginning.
3. If you don’t respect your own time, then who will?
This was one of the most critical lessons Ari wanted us to take away from her experience. You are the only one who can respect your own time. At the very least, you should do all in your power to ensure that respect is observed, even if it results in your client terminating your contract with them.
If you don’t value your time and enable your client to offer you work at any time of day or night, your client will almost certainly take advantage of you. If you allow them to assign you to work even on weekends, they will almost certainly take advantage of you.
Understand how to respect your time since it is at this point that you may establish your limits with a client. If your clients do not accept it, no matter what occurs, urging them to respect your time and boundaries is critical no matter what.
Never allow someone to take advantage of you just for the sake of money; you are a professional, not a slave.
4. Time-tracking is important
Another thing to keep in mind is the monitoring of time. When working on an hourly project or a one-time project, you should understand the importance of time tracking.
Not only is this important for estimating how much your client should pay you, but it is also essential to know how many hours you have spent working on that particular project and whether the hours or money spent on it was worth your while.
Going back to the story, the 15 pages snowballed into 150 pages, and Ari was looking for a way how she could say this to her client. Now, Ari and her team really are under huge pressure and already feel that they can’t add any more. Their dev team won’t be able to execute those many pages anymore because the original agreement that Ari had with them was to get the very MVP level of features out.
But it turned out that there were a lot of added features within that MVP that ended up affecting the design team as well. Ari took her shot, talked to her client, and explained what the next step should be. She told them, “We can’t delay this anymore. We can’t tweak this. We can’t make more changes to this. We got to go to code.”
Ari didn’t get the reaction she expected because it took her client a couple of weeks until they finally understood and agreed with Ari’s proposal. Ari’s team knows that they should already proceed to the next step, but the client still wanted to create more pages. It was a complete waste of time, and it took them almost three months to finish just the pages.
Those time wasted threw out the developer’s timescale as well, so there was really a delay. Ari planned to get everything done in about five to six months. They plan to finish making the strategy, wireframing, designing, prototyping, development, and the demo launch within the span of five to six months.
But this is where it gets terrifying because the supposed five to six months became more than a year, and the client wasn’t happy about that. Now the big question is, did the client pay Ari?
Now, it gets heartbreaking because Ari’s client refused to pay them. Ari sent the residual invoice before they did a final handoff to their clients, but the client refused to pay Ari because the project was super late and the original deadline was included in the contract.
Her team was utterly stressed and burned out from that project, and the client just told them, “No. I’m not going to pay the full fee.” Ari was heartbroken because they delivered well, and they gave their best. The output was fantastic, and the only problem was that they finished it late.
Unfortunately, the date was included in the contract, so they can’t do anything about it. They can fight legally, but Ari thought it would be a waste of money and time if they brought the case to court, so she just asked her client how much they could pay. Ari’s client told her that they could only pay 20% of half of the residual invoice.
So, if the residual invoice amount to $30,000, half of it would be $15,000, and 20% of $15,000 would be $3,000. The client would only pay them $3,000 to the supposed $30,000, which is something genuinely heartbreaking and frustrating for every independent contractor.
This left a sour taste in Ari’s mouth, and she considered this her greatest mistake and lesson. That was the end of Ari’s client-horror story.
Her biggest mistake became her strongest lesson because now, she promised to stick to a specific structure when accepting new projects. Ari learned not to overdo things and not to neglect the proper process just to impress her clients.
In Ari’s story, she highlighted 3 mistakes that she found as the reason for her client-horror story. We already found 4 lessons, so now let’s state these red flags for the future versions of ourselves. The first one would be the lack of communication.
Lack of communication could lead to a client-horror story.
Because Ari was taken aback by her client’s demanding professionalism, her ego took over, resulting in a communication breakdown.
From the beginning, Ari and her client were unable to clearly define the project’s scope, boundaries, or overall purpose. Ari wasn’t able to find out exactly what her client wanted, which would have allowed her to determine the project’s scope and make necessary preparations.
Ari also provided the planning and discovery stages free of charge, which was a mistake. You should already include the briefing stage as part of your work since it is difficult to describe what you do to others, and it takes a lot of time to get everyone to grasp what you all need to accomplish in order to finish the project in question. If only Ari’s ego hadn’t taken over, she would have been able to do all of this.
She preferred to avoid explaining things since she wanted to impress her client rather than the other way around. She just hastened to do what she does best and provide the best service possible to the client.
Prior to accepting any project, you should clearly define the parameters and scope of the work. You should also inform your client of the parameters that they must adhere to, and if they disagree, you should discontinue your pursuit of the matter.
Setting boundaries isn’t a negative thing; it’s a protective mechanism that helps to keep terrible things from happening and abuse from happening.
Lack of establishing expectations
Even while this may be considered a lack of communication, the process of defining expectations is different from just chatting about what you should do. When you establish expectations, you are stating what you want your client to anticipate from you throughout your working relationship.
Setting expectations, on the other hand, is a two-way street. It is unlikely that your clients will disclose their expectations to you, and it is as unlikely that you would disclose yours to them. You and your client must agree on the project’s expectations so that neither party is disappointed when the final product is delivered.
If you and your client disagree on this, your client may anticipate a giant tarp to receive from you, while you believe that your client just requested a brochure from you.
Isn’t it the most horrible thing that could happen?
Lack of work system implementation
The third fault that Ari brought up was the absence of a system in place. When you are engaged in any kind of task, you need to adhere to a precise procedure. When it is not required to improvise, you should refrain from doing so.
Of course, taking the initiative is still crucial, but if it is not required to utilize a different procedure, you may want to stay with the tried-and-true method if it is still working. If Ari followed their traditional approach, they would immediately begin the discovery, strategy, and planning stages and then move step by step through the rest of the process.
Ari couldn’t keep up with them since they were all so thrilled to go to work. When accepting a project, avoid being too emotionally connected to it and maintain a level of objectivity throughout the process.
She realized how important it was and said, “You know what, that’s it. We are done being nice. Well, we still are nice, but I just feel like it’s time for us to really put that tag for us in terms of, if you want to work with us, here’s what needs to happen.”
As digital creatives, the discovery phase is one of the most difficult challenges. It takes a lot of conceptualizing and brainstorming before reaching an endpoint. Sadly, this is what most clients take for granted.
Ari recognized this hardship and has included that they will charge for the discovery phase on their works system. She added, “We’ll be more than happy to share all of our brilliant ideas out of the box solutions or whatnot. But you can’t have them for free.” There could be similar things in your industry, and it’s essential to include that in your work system.
Imposing a well-defined work structure will snap you back to reality and make logical decisions based on it. It is one of the pillars of your work, so adhering to it will keep you away from any major troubles.
That’s all there is to it! A combination of Ari’s ego, a lack of communication, a lack of expectations, and the absence of a structure resulted in her own client’s horror tale. However, thanks to that experience, she gained knowledge and developed strength in her career progress.
That’s exactly how it should be. It would be best never to allow a single error to prevent you from progressing forward. Use these blunders as stepping stones to further your education and development as an entrepreneur.
I hope you gained a lot from this tale and avoided the three faults that Ari pointed out because if you did, you would be the next guest on the next episode of the client-horror story, which will be up soon.
This article was based on Episode #30: Ari Kryzek’s Story, please watch the complete episode here!