I've got a client on the East Coast that's driving me nuts right now - woman's clearly got OCD issues. Over this Easter/Passover weekend she has called and left me two messages (both extended beyond the 2 minute limit on my machine so she got cut-off in mid sentence), she also left me 6-7 emails (I lost track after 5). Even though we're on record pace, she's desperately trying to get her web site up and running for...well, there isn't a specific event or date we're shooting for, it's just become an insatiable obsession for her.
She's like Chicken Little running around screaming that the sky is falling because her web site isn't up. Well this may be an insatiable obsession for her but not me - I've been down this road before, and I know the sky isn't falling.
This woman will keep pushing and pushing, calling at night, early in the morning and yes on weekends (holiday weekends too), to try to get me to work as hard and as fast as she desires. As a younger, more naive designer I would have begrudgingly followed her lead, but "homey don't play that now". I of course want clients to get a terrific ROI and experience from working with me, but I don't work on their schedule and I no longer put off people and events just to cater to their ridiculous demands. I often think, "Hey, just because you don't have a life beyond this project right now doesn't mean that I don't."
I did the best thing I could do to ensure I enjoyed my family and my weekend: I just ignored her. Yep, just ignored her.
Depending on the career stage you are as a freelancer, you either applauded my decision or thought, "Dude, what are you doing? You're losing business and you might even lose the client." You veterans probably applauded, because you know...
If you'll allow me to back up just a bit, I'll explain why I did what I did.
Remember the first company you worked for out of college? You know, the one that you'll take just about anything just to get into the corporate world...well, I worked for a hospice company. While most fresh-faced kids in their first "real" job get to see how the world works, I not only saw that but I saw what people were like (really like) at the end of their lives. I saw people that were dying, which of course engrained an indelible impression on the rest of my life.
The one thing I noticed more than anything else was that whether the patient lived a good/tough life, was male/female or was old/Moses old was that none of them ever expressed ANY regret that they hadn't worked harder in their lives. In fact, in talking with them it was hard for them to talk about anything but their friends, family and memories.
I have tried to carry that sentiment throughout my life, and at times not doing a very good job of it. There have been too many times in my career as a freelancer that I passed up on life's memories just to cater to snarky, demanding jackass clients, so I could earn a buck and perhaps earn a testimonial and referral from them.
I won't do that anymore, I will never do that again. I have missed too many wonderful times when I should have been enjoying myself and my family; instead I am banging out some project for a client that in a couple of weeks won't care about me in the slightest.
If you're new to freelancing, I understand that getting your career off the ground is important - it should be. My career was and is still vitally important to me. But if I may give you a small piece of friendly advice...from someone that has seen first-hand how easy it is for demanding clients to suck you into their time frame and make you miss out on other aspects of your life, I suggest that you shut down PhotoShop, turn the computer off and enjoy yourself, your family and your life.
At the end of your life, and I hope it's a happy and healthy life, I can promise you that you'll never find "I should have worked harder" as one of your regrets.
Happy late Easter and Passover.
PS - a little different style and topic for me, I hope you enjoyed it. Please retweet this and share it with other designers out there...and feel free to comment.