This week, saw me make some business mistakes and pay the price for it. I hereby choose to share my shortcomings here in the hope that others may learn from my feeble business brain.
There’s no doubt, that I am my own biggest critic; when I make an error of judgement I am furious with myself but at the same time I realise it is invaluable to make mistakes providing you ensure you know you’ve made them and you learn not to make them again.
My usual business model
For the most part, I work for web agencies. If they have too much work on one week/month or if a staff member is away on holiday and a big project has come in I go in there and help them out. I charge them a day rate and dazzle them with my professionalism and GTD attitude. I tend to shy away from client work because the extra work involved in dealing with clients often leads to less profitable projects (for me anyway).
Despite my business model going so well, I decided to dip my toe back into client work this week and have ended up doing more work whilst earning less money and potentially damaged my reputation in the process.
Along the way, I made the following errors of judgement:
- I didn’t fully scope out the state of the website code I was to be working with
- I didn’t fully research the cost of goods (stock photography) I’d have to purchase for the work
- I certainly didn’t factor the cost of said media into the quote
- I purchased images prior to getting client approval and was left with some expensive (and useless to me now) images
The work involved simple updates of site, a bit of cleaning up of the appearance of the text on the site (to make it more visually appealing) and to update the imagery across the site. However, soon after I’d started the project I realised two things:
- The cost of the stock imagery was about £3 each (for the right size) from istockphoto.com* – way out of budget for changing 10-15 plus images.
- The quality of the code was in such a state (thanks DreamWeaver CS2) that I would have to spend the majority of my time cleaning up the code to be able to make simple changes.
In short, a one day job ending up taking 2 and a bit days and still wasn’t finished at the end of it. This lead to other jobs being delayed (albeit only slightly) and this new client being unhappy with my level of service. I’ve had to swallow the cost of images that I should never have purchased and offer the client a discount because not all the quoted for work was able to be completed.
This means, I’ve ended up working for nearly 3 days (factoring in the meetings and communications) and at the end I’ll have made about one days’ pay. This is not good business. Perhaps I should get a job as Woolworths’ or RBS’ CEO – I am now perfectly qualified.
To make matters worse, the client originally suggested the work was about two day’s worth – a suggestion which I laughed off assuming there was barely a day’s worth of work in the whole kaboodle.
What should I have done differently?
I should have sat down and worked out how much images would have cost and factored that into my quote so £30-£50 worth of media wouldn’t come out of my pocket. I should also have fully scoped out the code and worked out precisely how long it would take to get the job done.
If I’d have done those two things I could have provided a much more realistic quote and then, had the client decided that was my price was too high, I could have moved on to the next job.
* istockphoto is not the only stock photography site, I am aware of others – but they do provide high quality, licensed imagery that is affordable. Other sites were either more expensive or not to a high enough standard.