Client Question

  • Hey everyone! I've got a puzzling (and potentially awkward) situation that I'm trying to figure out how to resolve with my client.

    Some background: I was hired by a family friend's firm to illustrate books that help promote literacy. Given that it's a start up business and we're selling the books online, the contracts outlined a total payment of 2500 - 3k. I agreed to this for each book because I want to help promote local authors, and literacy in our poor community, not to mention I'm a teacher by day, and have just been starting out as a professional. The last two books have gone off without a hitch.

    Then comes this third book. We signed the contract back in July, agreed upon installment payments and I got my deposit. Here's the puzzling part....I have yet to receive the copy/text for this next book. It's been almost five months. I figured that, early on, the reason the author hadn't given me the text was because they knew I was a teacher transitioning into Distance Learning (thank you COVID...) and following that, I was out of commission due to tennis elbow. But even in spite of all of that, I haven't received any communications about re-signing a contract with new deadlines, and the last time I contacted the author (a month ago), they said they'd get back to me that week...but since then nothing.

    I contacted them today, but in all honesty, I'm starting to worry that the project is going to get canned. It's not about the money for me, it's more about me wanting to get my name out there and make work that I'm proud of. I don't want to alienate my clients, or be thought of as unprofessional (which probably won't happen but it's definitely an insecurity of mine).

    Any insights on this, or advice on what to do?

  • Pro

    @lpetiti So if we summarize here: the client didn't send you the materials within the deadlines outlined in the contract, they did not message you to let you know they'd be late or let you know when they would send you the manuscript, and when you reached out to them they said they'd message you back and then didn't. But YOU are worrying about being thought of as unprofessional :o

    Let me just reassure you here: they are the ones being unprofessional, not you. Trying to get your materials so you can do your work within the deadlines isn't unprofessional. Reaching out to them when they fail to contact you isn't unprofessional.

    What is professional? Getting the project done. Making sure you get what you need to get the project done. Maintaining communication with them.

    I doubt you emailed the author saying "Hey Btch, where's my fcking manuscript??!?!?!" So you really have nothing to worry about. Polite, calm, clear and honest communication IS professional.

    If I were in your shoes, I would have emailed them ages ago, being polite but candid. Asking them if something is wrong, if there's a problem with the project (maybe due to Covid) and letting them know we're going to have to re-draw a new contract with adjusted deadlines. Let them know you understand this is a difficult time and anything can happen, and you wish to maintain communication. That understanding what's going on with the project and when/if it can be expected to resume is important because you need this information to organize your schedule. You can reiterate you love working with her, you love the project, and no matter what's going on you wish to work with her to find a solution and get this wonderful book done.

    As long as you are being nice and polite, you should never be afraid that communicating with your client is going to make you look unprofessional. I think you've been exceedingly patient and understanding considering the circumstances. This client has been very unprofessional and should be counting their lucky stars that you still wish to work with her after all this.

  • @NessIllustration You're definitely right...I just have a terribly insecure mindset when it comes to dealing with other people so I always assume stuff like that, even though, you're right, I wasn't demanding.

    Luckily, I finally heard back and apparently she'll be sending a general outline of the story this afternoon. The book production has been greatly stalled so there's no "official" manuscript yet. I can probably start work off of an outline, I've done it before. Hopefully she'll follow through and be able to at least give me that soon.

    Sort of another question. Do you guys give yourselves a timeline for how long to wait before contacting a client? Like, once you send an email, how long do you wait to get a reply before a follow up?

  • Pro

    @lpetiti I have to say, I've never really thought about it before. It depends on the person I'm dealing with - if it's someone who usually answers very quickly, then even after just 2 days I'd follow up. If it's a new client, I'd probably give them a week. I think I'm probably a bit more impatient with that sort of thing though, I prefer more communication rather than less and follow up a lot. But no one's ever seemed to take it the wrong way so there's that. It's also happened quite frequently that emails got lost or ended up in spam, so it was a good thing that I followed up or I would have been waiting forever. One time, 5 days after sending sketches I followed up and the AD said, I kid you not, "Oh, I answered in my head and forgot to actually type up the email!"

    But for the other thing, don't be too hard on yourself 🙂 It's not uncommon to feel insecure in these situations because there's an imbalance of power when someone is hiring you to do something, especially if you really want/need the project. What really helps me put things into perspective is imagining what Iu would think of the situation if the roles were reversed. If you never contacted someone to give them something they need from you to do their job, then ignored them, would you think them unprofessional for following up?

  • @NessIllustration that really helps!

    I finally got a small outline of the manuscript and have been promised the full thing next week, so hopefully we can get this started. I want to keep improving with each book and this project just started bringing up the old "not good enough" insecurities.

  • Well...perhaps I was too optimistic. I have no idea why this is being delayed so much. A part of me wants to just stop trying to communicate with the author and see how long it takes her to contact me. My boyfriend asked why this bugs me so much, and I keep thinking how if the roles were reversed my behind would be on the line and I'd be expected to be professional.

    It's a good thing I don't need this contract to live on and that I'm doing this simply because I like the project.

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