Hey guys, I’m new to this forum so I apologize if I’ve posted in the wrong place!
I need some sound advice on how to deal with clients who hire you to do a specific job, agree to your terms, timeline and process, sign your contract, and then immediately do weird things to hinder that process. I’m currently frustrated by a new client that is trying to take the lead and direct me around instead of following my design process. AITA for feeling like I’m being rubbed the wrong way already?
I just recently was hired as an independent contractor to design and develop a website for a client. The client is a former coworker (he was a real estate agent at the office where I was a designer for the marketing department) which is how he knows about me. He contacted me to build a website for his side company. The company is new, and has no existing digital assets or branding. We spoke on Zoom about his needs, and he expressed that he would like a basic website with not a lot of complex functionality. I sent him over a beautiful proposal detailing the timeline, different deliverables/milestones, cost, etc. He emailed back saying that after reviewing with his business partner, they’ve decided they would love to work with me. He also mentioned he would ‘link me into conversation’ with a designer who ‘does a lot of their copy work for his business partner’s other ventures, and that this designer has some HTML background so he can be used as an additional resource’. I didn’t think much of it and was excited to get to work. He signed the proposal and then I sent the contract. He signed the contract and made his deposit for work to begin.
Here’s where the fun starts. Before kicking off the project, I agreed to meet with the client another time to discuss what role the other designer going to play so I could plan accordingly. We also were to talk about the first step outlined in my proposal…creating the sitemap. Instead of following my lead, he in instead told me that the aforementioned designer had created a mockup the other day (after signing my proposal) and some sort of sitemap. Why did he hire me to create these things for him but ask someone else to make a mockup as well? He presented the other designers work to me, and it was a whole mockup and sitemap, skipping over the Wireframing or any UI planning. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable copying another designers work, but asked him if there were any elements he liked or disliked that I could incorporate into my own sitemap or wireframe. We chatted for a bit and I felt like I had a good idea of what pages he actually needed built, what he wanted on each page, what info was most important, and what he hoped to accomplish with the website. I asked him about the other designer’s role in the project, and he kind of just told me he’s some old guy who’s a designer in another state that they’ve worked with before and maybe he could provide some input on things, but was not a decider of anything or the primary contact by any means. I told him I was still confused about what I would need to contact him for then. We eventually agreed that when structure and design was decided on & we got to the content phase of the project, the other designer would just provide me with the written copy for the website and that’s how he could help. However, at the end of the conversation, I concluded by telling the client I would deliver a wireframe and sitemap over the weekend…and then the other designer was mentioned yet again. He said he wanted to link us together via email, and suggested the other designer and I could link up over zoom sometime this weekend and he could set that up for me. For what?? I just laughed and said sure you can introduce us over email and we will go from there, but it is not necessary for you to schedule a zoom meeting for us this weekend. We ended the call, and I got to work.
Fast forward to Sunday… I sent him the wireframes and sitemap I promised, and asked for his feedback. He responds with an email connecting me and the other designer. In the email, he tells the other designer when I am most available in the evening, and says he’s attached the wireframes I’ve put together so he can see them and have starting point. A starting point for what? And why is he sending my concepts to other designers that have no stake in the outcome and are not a part of any the website build? And why did he just assume that I was available at 5:30 everyday and could share that information with someone else and tell them to contact me during those hours?
The other designer replies all on Monday morning, and says nothing but “Hi! Do you have an half-hour-ish that we can chat today? Let me know a time window or two, if you do, and I’ll send you an invite.” What? Am I missing something? I can’t imagine what he’d possibly need to chat with me about. I need feedback from the client, not some outside ‘resource’ designer requesting meetings with me. I was hired to do this job, and I know what I’m doing. I don’t need the other designer’s advice or hinderance in my process. I don’t need the client behaving as my supervisor either. Am I looking at things all wrong or are these the telltale signs of a difficult client on the horizon?
More importantly, what on earth can I say without sounding rude, to reframe my clients thought process and stop trying to bring the other designer in & let me do my job that we agreed upon?