Every single moment of every single day, my son wants to know “what the plan is”. He wants to know what we’re doing, where we’re going, who we’re going to see and what we’re going to do after all that. Now the reason that my son is hindered by this debilitating desire to know what’s next is because I am also hindered by this same annoyance. I don’t know when it happened or why, but I always need to know what the plan is. This is particularly troublesome given that most of my friends fly be the seat of their pants and couldn’t be pinned down for an answer to that question for a million dollars. But recently I came to realize that it’s important to not get ahead of yourself.
I was building a website for a client. They had selected a domain name, sent me over some rough copy to work off of and everything was looking good. I had fleshed out the basics of the site and sent it over to them. They were generally pleased. They had a couple small edits, but nothing major. We were trying to nail it down for a launch before I left for vacation. So, two days before I was leaving I sent them what was supposed to be the final copy of the site for their last second perusal before I flipped the switch and we went live. Just before I was about to go to bed, the night before my early morning flight with two kids aged 3 and 1, I got an email. “Hey, I really like the direction you’ve gone with the website and it’s got me thinking. When I bought THIS domain, I bought a few others at the same time and I think I want to use www.thisname.com instead of www.thatname.com. That’s not a big deal is it? Enjoy your vacation.”
No. Not at all. I mean, aside from editing all the copy, the meta data, the footers, every page title, every image, rebuilding the sliders and changing the Twitter handle, it’s basically all done. Now, on MOST projects, I have a clause that says “this is what you can change and how many times you can change it because of thing on YOUR end before there is a change in price.” Unfortunately, on this project, I was mixing business with pleasure and had given a pretty firm quote on how much the site would run. So I fibbed and told him that because of my vacation, it would take a couple weeks to be completed but that it wasn’t much work at all. He replied that this was great news and that I should send him the amount I would charge due to the changes I had to make.
I was floored. Essentially, he had said that he understood that this was more work and believed in the value of my time and would like to financially reward me accordingly which, for anyone who does freelance web work, is basically a miracle. But the point of this post is not that some clients are magical unicorns that you should cherish and hold on to forever, but rather that getting too far ahead of yourself can be problematic and you should always have a backup plan for when others decide to go in a different direction. There’s an amazing video that I LOVE called Fuck You, Pay Me by Mike Monteiro. He stresses that he’s built into his quotes and project agreements that it doesn’t matter if you decide to go in a different direction or you decide not to use his work. As he puts it, quite succinctly, Fuck You, Pay Me.
There are two forces at work in these situations; you and the client. Sometimes things are your fault, and some times they’re not. But it doesn’t matter whose fault it is because it’s on you. If you don’t work out your contracts so that your paid for your work no matter what, then understand that you may not be paid for your work. If you decide to start working on something before the job has officially been won, understand that you may not be paid for your work. There are a million ways for you to not get paid for your work. My biggest lesson on this topic is to not get ahead of yourself. Don’t get started on something until you have a solid agreement in place about what each party is responsible for and who gets the cheque at the end of dinner.