Another Reason to Stick to Your Standards

Another Reason to Stick to Your Standards

Something reminded me the other day about why you should always do things according to your standards in your business and not to go below them just because a client asks or wants you to.

Many of the biggest, most valuable (but painful) business lessons I learned came unfortunately by working with a good friend of 10 years.

When she was starting up her business, besides setting up all her systems, doing her bookkeeping and providing her with administrative support, I created many marketing pieces for her.

Normally, I would have done these pieces according to my usual and proper design business standards using the appropriate design tools and software (i.e., Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.)

However, because she constantly had changes and didn’t want to have to wait for me to make them (rushing me, being impatient), she wanted to have them done in programs that she herself had (e.g., Word) so she could make textual updates/changes herself.

I made the mistake of accommodating her. And let me tell you, it was an impressive feat to integrate design imagery into a Word document.

There are many reasons why you don’t do this as a designer.

First of all, it is not common business practice to hand over native files to clients. That’s YOUR intellectual property that you earn your living from.

What that means is the files and ownership of the creative piece hold a completely separate value from simply being engaged to create a work for a client.

This is why people are charged separately for those things (or not allowed to purchase rights at all, simply giving them license to use the work).

But in my business adolescence, I did a lot of stupid things.

And that act of “being nice” and accommodating my so-called friend came back to haunt me (or tried to anyway) because later when I had to sue her for the thousands of dollars she owed me, one of the things she tried to use against me was the very fact that these pieces weren’t in professional standard format (i.e., in Word instead of InDesign or Photoshop, etc.).

She failed in this attempt and in the end I got my money, but it was still galling to have done a favor for a client (a friend, no less), gone against my own standards and boundaries to accommodate her wishes and then to have it thrown back in my face.

So next time a client tries to rush you, overstep your processes and standards, have you do sub-par, below-standard, second-rate work, or wants you to ignore details and slide things by, or do anything that goes against your personal and professional standards and ethics, think twice about allowing that.

It won’t sit well with you and it could come back to bite you in the butt in ways you’d never imagine in the present.

Excellence in service and being of service should never come at the cost of your own standards, well-being and self-interests.

Ideal clients are those who allow you to do your best work and respect your standards and boundaries. Anyone else is not a fit.

3 Responses

  1. Mirna Bajraj says:

    Dear Danielle,

    Your words are nearly describing a situation I am facing these days with a client of mine who is always pushing me to accommodate my quality standards to his. His answers to my emails are ambiguous, not clear enough and partial. He almost never can revert to me with a clear or complete idea. Last week an uncomfortable situation occurred which made me take the decision that I do not want to work with him anymore. After receiving a request of quotation, we exchanged a bunch of emails in which he provided me with the information I supposedly needed to prepare the quotation his prospect was asking for. E-mails went back and forth because, as usual, he couldn’t answer in a shot, accurately and consistently. After having his agreement to send the quotation out, he came back to me complaining that one of the services included in his proposal was not 100% accurate.
    I strive for excellence in the quality of my work so his complain made me feel so bad. His lack of clarity definitely contributed to my mistake.
    I regret that I knew for a while that the way we were working was not according to my standards, and despite the fact that I was conscious of that I just accommodated to his “lack of time and lack of consistency” which only caused that I failed to deliver the kind of work I stand for.
    Lesson learned: I will never try to please a client and “adapt” myself to his standards if that in any way jeopardizes mine.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear you are going through this with a client, Mirna. I thank you so much for opening up and sharing this because it’s a great reminder about choosing our clients carefully and why it’s so useful to have hoops for them to go through before working with them. Our initial processes (e.g., fill out this form to schedule a consultation), the consultation process itself, how prospects interact with you, all these “hoops” act as prequalifying gateways that give you clues and allow you to determine what a client may be like to work with and whether or not they are likely to be a fit.

    We could work with anyone and everyone who knocks on our door. However, if quality of life and joy in our work (which requires that we INSIST doing our best work) is important to us, we simply must qualify clients and by taking our time and be discerning and selective about who we choose to work with.

    As I always say: Be a client snob–not only will your prospects go up (it acts like a magical magnet; don’t ask me to explain how, but people seem to telephathically know when someone is a choosy hot commodity and want what everyone else can’t have), but your life and business will be improved immeasurably.

    It’s when we fail to “fire fast” those clients who show us they are not (or are no longer) a fit, that we give away our power over our lives by letting fear and scarcity hold us hostage in business and keep us from living a happier life.

  3. Yes. I agree wth this blog. Never change your business practices for anyone. If you decide to take the chance then do yourself a huge favor & get everything in writing. That’s my #1 policy – everything is in writing – before, after, in-between, changes, everything. Clients tend to be a lot more professional when they know you have a written transcript of a conversation, etc.

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