We’re back with our second installment of The Information, a series where marketing and media experts talk candidly about where something went wrong – anonymously, of course. Now that they have learned from the experience, they are sharing that knowledge with you. Sweet, delicious knowledge…
What was the nature of the project and what kind of client was it?
A few years back I was working as a producer at an animation studio. I had this project for a marketing agency. They needed an animated video to showcase a new service offering they were launching.
How was this project problematic?
From the start it was clear that this client – who was new for us – was going to be one of those clients.
At the first meeting, the head of the client company revealed his temper, to say the least. He would get red-faced when things weren’t to his liking. He berated his employees in front of everyone and was just generally disagreeable. My alarms were going off, but we needed the work at the time and the project was actually pretty interesting.
The second problem was us. We were over-extended at the time so we brought in a freelancer to get the project done. Of course, none of our regular, trusted outsource partners were available for this one! So we had to go with someone untested (but who was recommended to us). Turns out he was over-extended too! So, unbeknownst to us, he brought in another freelancer to do the work.
Things were fine until after the presentation of the first draft. Then it came time for changes, the client’s deadline shifted up, and everything went downhill from there. Our freelancer became unresponsive. Our client became angrier and angrier. And I was about to head out on vacation.
I started getting abusive, expletive-riddled texts from the client at all hours while I tried to track down our freelancer. When I finally got a hold of him, he admitted that he had outsourced the work to someone in another timezone and that guy wasn’t responding to him, either!
Was the problem resolved?
Eventually. We got the work done and almost everyone was happy with it, except of course the head of the client company. He remained angry and abusive and wanted a refund. We negotiated a discount and parted ways. We did not work with that client again. I did hear from some of his former employees and it seems I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get along with him!
What did you learn? Did you change your approach after this project?
After this project, we learned to go with our gut more. If bells went off, we heeded them. And we also learned to turn down work if we weren’t confident in our ability to deliver it (either ourselves or via a trusted partner). And we also added a clause to our freelancer contracts about “not outsourcing” the work we’re giving them.
What would your advice be for someone facing a similar situation?
My advice would be to do what we did after that project. One – trust yourself. If you feel an unsettled feeling in your gut about a client or project, don’t ignore it. If you can find ways to mitigate the issues that you are envisioning, fine, but otherwise you may be better off passing on that work. And number two –know who is really doing your work!