Updated: Feb 21
Clients walk through our doors—all the damn time—with horror stories from working with freelancers and agencies. Lovely clients, who tell us all about how they hired a freelancer or agency with the highest hopes only to feel completely screwed over.
We often hear that the contractor didn’t meet expectations, didn’t deliver a high quality product, didn’t stay on budget, or that they were just plain mean and difficult to work with.
And what do we say to them? "Bummer, but…” it’s more likely than not that the freelancer/agency didn’t actually let you down.
We absolutely sympathize with the emotionally draining experience of not jiving with your contractor; but we can also guarantee that if it was bad for you then it was also bad for them. Neither of you were stoked, and it’s likely that both of you are to blame.
Contractors aren’t trying to do a bad job, and they certainly don’t get their jollies from screwing people over.
So what exactly IS happening that makes this scenario so common in our industry? In my experience, there are two reasons why you had a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good time:
1. You didn’t do your research, and you chose the wrong agency for you.
I always say that hiring an agency or freelancer is like choosing a tattoo artist.
If you want a cheap tattoo and don’t care if it’s unique or artistic, then head on over to Fat Terry’s Tattoo Garage and pick a design out of the book in the lobby. Sorted. Sure, Terry might smell like pepperoni and spell your mom’s name wrong, but that’s what you get when you don’t take the time to curate your choices.
On the flip side, if you want something that is done with quality and attention—something that you’ll love in years to come—then you need to do your research. You need to spend a lot of time looking at tattoo artists all over the world, deciding on what style you want, and then making sure that you love at least 90% of their work.
You’ll likely have to spend more money, book your tattoo months in advance, and the tattoo artist may even choose not take on your project; but it’s worth it because you are hiring a suitable professional and you’ll be happy with the outcome. An outcome that will become a permanent fixture on your lower back, like, for keeps. (You know where we’re talking about. Right above those two cute little dimples? Directly over your spine? *cough*trampstamp*cough*)
You’ll know ahead of time whether or not you like the professional style of a contractor. If you end up with a website, business strategy or logo that doesn’t suit you at all, then it’s likely that you never actually liked the contractor’s style in the first place, and were never going to get what you wanted.
2. You suffered a communication break down.
The reality is that every relationship takes active and calculated efforts from both sides. If things were starting to go south, then it is both the client’s and the contractor’s responsibility to stop work until the issue is resolved.
Communication is c-r-i-t-i-c-a-l for a successful contractor experience.
If you aren’t able to communicate your expectations, tastes or opinions effectively then you aren’t giving your contractor much to work with. Alternatively, if the contractor doesn’t communicate their expectations of you, provide you with effective guidance, or keep you updated on the project, then they aren’t setting you up for success.
Unfortunately our industry is highly technical, complicated, and ever-changing. To make matters worse, the professional advice you get may vary widely from agency to agency. So, we’ve gone ahead and made a handy-dandy checklist for you to use when sussing out freelancers and agencies for your next project.
Black Sheep’s Handy-Dandy Agency/Freelancer Assessment Checklist:
Have you done your preliminary research so that you have a clear idea of what you want/need? (You don’t need to be a pro, but you do need to get your feet wet.)
Do they have the technical ability to do the work, in the time frame and for the budget that you would like?
Is your budget realistic for the quality of work you are looking for?
Do you like at least 90% of the agency’s portfolio?
Have you assessed the quality of the agency’s work? (ie. are their graphics hard to read, and are their websites mobile optimized.)
Is the agency responsive (1-3 business days) to your emails?
Did you jive with them during your initial meeting?
Did they ask you questions about your tastes, expectations and goals in your initial meeting?
Did they explain the process of how they work?
Did they outline their expectations of you? (ie. timely feedback, getting your homework done.)
Do you trust the agencies professional opinion, and are you willing to take their advice?