Making sure to work with the decider?

How do y’all make sure you are dealing with the decision maker?

On a recent project, I specified that I needed to work closely with the decision maker. They assured me that “Jane” was the one in charge of this project and would be deciding.

So I moved forward working closely with Jane, including her approving the design. A few days later, Jane told me she had been talking with the president, and presented me with a long, specific list of changes. Essentially, a new design. Since it was a pro bono project for a non-profit, I graciously offered to let Jane take it over, and bailed on the project.

How do you make sure they’ll live up to this requirement? Do you include it in your contracts?

I love that :smiley: and I have no real answer for you … because even as you said you were told she was the one … and still, someone had to stick their big, fat nose in. Happens all the time.

I often ask it in the initial call: “Are you or someone else the decision maker for this? Who will be the main point of contact?” Of course, then you can get someone who thinks they have more power than they do.

I do have something in the contract that states they have the authority to engage us for the work.

When I know my contact isn’t the highest ranking person in the organization, I plug a clause into my contract that names them the official company representative and puts the onus on them for affecting reviews of the work in progress by their superiors and/or peers. It doesn’t necessarily offer protection in any legally binding way, but it does set terms that encourage the contact to prevent what happened to you there.

I’m sure that’s right… yes, maddening.

There were some other signs that I should have paid more attention to, like having to ask them three times for some key information and never getting it.

I guess my takeaway will be if they obviously don’t value my time and efforts on their behalf, I’ll bail sooner.

I always love those projects where everyone is the decision maker, until something goes wrong, then suddenly no one wants to step up to fix it.

But I’m not sure I understand this concept of “bailing” on a job you are contracted to do.
Pro Bono jobs are just jobs with the total zeroed. They are the same as any other contracted job.
If the parameters of the contract start to change, you immediately set up a call or meeting to either get it back on track and/or change the deliverables schedule for both sides. Or if there is failure to respond on the client’s part, you send an official notice pretty much politely stating breach of contract and offering them the opportunity to get their crap together or cancel the project. When it’s their decision to cancel, that usually gets their attention.

PD, I think in most cases, your advice would be right on. :slight_smile:

But in this case…not so much. I haven’t gone into a lot of detail, but they had already disregarded much of the written agreement. They had made a lot of changes to the original project, didn’t give me information I needed, ignored my emails, etc.

Yes, assuming they would even acknowledge my request to meet… that was one of the ignored emails. As was the deliverables schedule I set up.

I’m not a quitter. I did offer them a choice, whether to go forward with the approved design or let them have it back and do what they wanted. But I wasn’t prepared to spend much more pro bono hours on changes after approval. It was clear that they didn’t care about the contract or me, and the thing was going south.

Lessons learned… except how to ensure that the decider is the one I work with. Still chewing on that one.

I’m not sure it’s possible to make sure. One can always insist that the CEO, president, director or whomever sign on the original contract that has a clause delegating Jane Doe to make and sign for decisions on the company’s behalf regarding the job.

However, even if the CEO meant it at the time and Jane Doe believed she could make those decisions, it wouldn’t keep the CEO from changing his or her mind down the road. All it would do is protect the designer from liability and help ensure that designer got paid when the whole thing fell apart due to the CEO’s interference.

Like most things, take prudent, reasonable precautions and move forward — there’s always a risk.

And yes, sometimes it’s necessary to fire difficult clients. Just make sure it’s done without violating any contractual or ethical obligations — even when it’s a pro bono job. It would really suck to be sued over something you never planned to make any money on in the first place.

Sounds like you did everything I mentioned.
People sometimes suck.
Maybe that’s why the occasional pro-bono stuff we do is usually for a specific event with a specific end date where the other party looks bad if they don’t pull through (which hasn’t happened yet.) :wink:

In the original contract, offer all work to produce the first three proofs as pro bono, and any work requested after that will be billed at your regular rate.

I think that’s basically the bottom line…

Yes, that makes sense. I think I need to be a lot more careful about the pro bono projects I take on.

Thanks, guys, for your feedback and suggestions.

It is hard to get to the decision maker. The decision maker has staff appointed because the decision maker cannot always be involved until the project is underway.

Not-for-profit or pro bono has always been challenging. They don’t mean to take advantage, they probably don’t realize the are. I have been angry and frustrated at them and myself for allowing myself into the mess.

Here is what I do. I decide what and how much I will donate up front. It seems fair to them and me. Time is money so why not put that into the equation and kind of put them on a budget.

For example: I’ll donate $2,000. I then divide that by my break even hourly rate. Say that’s $100. Means I will donate the equivalent of $2,000 or 20 hours of my time to do the project. As much as I want to help a NFP, I still need to have time to get the paying work done. I find this lets them know, just like a paying clients estimate. It sets up a limit.

Bluidsusan, thank you for your input, I appreciate it. :slight_smile:

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