Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
“We’re targeting people who are more open, free spirits who should feel we are open to fellow humans. This sort of dull text turns me off and I wouldn’t read more than 3 sentences… Otherwise we should stick to our existing text which is relatively short and avoid burdening ourselves financially any further… Something is true, though – any expert would write it differently and there is no golden rule. So let’s write it up the way I feel and in a way that expresses us, not something we are not.”
For most of you working in agencies, the above may have sent the proverbial shiver up your spine and caused your cortisol levels to rise. On the other hand, the excerpt probably strikes a chord or two with those of you working on the client’s side of the equation. I received this seemingly reasonable plea from a client after submitting a 4-page text proposal for his renewed website. Contrary to what you may think of me, I really feel for the guy and I’m sorry that he’s upset. However, I’m afraid I won’t be granting him his wish – that is, I won’t do it free of charge.
Don’t worry, this isn’t about me airing my dirty laundry in public – as you can see I omitted any and all information regarding the client’s identity. It’s also not about me acting tough. It’s more of a blessing in disguise that provided me with a somewhat textbook example of miscommunication between the client, the contractor and the intermediary (be it a project manager in the agency or a marketing executive on the client’s side), which I find valuable to talk about. It stresses the importance of the relationship between the client and the intermediary in the period following up to the creation of the first draft.
The unfortunate situation that resulted in me receiving the opening lines of this column in an email came about because of unaligned expectations between the three parties mentioned above. More specifically, it came about because the intermediary decided to take matters into his own hands without properly consulting with the client and provided me with an inaccurate brief. I don’t blame the guy, he probably had his own reasons to do that, but the point I’m trying to drive home is that I cannot be held accountable for somebody else’s decision and I won’t be paying for the consequences.
I believe this is best represented by a simple and relatively straightforward allegory from everyday life. If you find it reasonable I urge you to employ it next time you face a similar situation (minus the sass).
The Ćevabdžinica Allegory
You and your partner are out on the town. After a fun night, you decide it’s time to grab something to eat to avert that impending hangover you know will creep up on you the following morning.
You turn on full-forage mode and you finally chance upon that hangover-quarantine-extraordinaire, the street ćevabdžinica. As it happens, your partner bumps into an acquaintance and is forced to do the ‘stop and chat’. You know this is going to take a while so you hurry ahead to procure a meal for you and your significant other.
Your stomach is rumbling as you order two servings of pljeskavica in bread with ajvar and kajmak. You figure your partner will get there just in time to receive the pre-emptive cholesterol bomb you’ve both been craving. And surely enough, there he/she is. Just in time! You’re proud of yourself. Good job! But, uh-oh, something’s wrong. The moment the server hands your partner the juicy goodness, his/her smile transforms into a grimace. Your partner turns to you, then back to the server and says he/she didn’t want ajvar and kajmak on the pljeskavica.
The server is slightly baffled but says he’s sorry and offers to remove the condiments from the meal, free of charge – after all, it’s still a pretty tasty pljeskavica. But it’s too little, too late. The partner protests. He/she demands the server whip up an entirely new serving sans the ajvar and kajmak.
The server is happy to oblige, but informs both of you that he will be charging extra for the ingredients. Your partner is in shock. He/she can’t believe the server is trying to charge extra. What a ripoff! He/she demands to have the pljeskavica without ajvar and kajmak free of charge and doesn’t want to hear another word about it. It’s either his/her way or the highway.
The server finds himself in a pickle. He has two choices:
- He either swallows his pride, makes them a new pljeskavica and pays for it from his own pocket in order to keep his Yelp rating above 4* (to be fair, 4* is a pretty good rating for this ćevabdžinica) or
- he acknowledges that he was simply doing his job by filling the order he had received and politely tells you to either take it, pay for a new one, or fuck off
Now, you could say that this allegory doesn’t exactly match the case I outlined above – maybe it’s more like your partner got a pljeskavica when he/she really wanted ražnjići – but the main issue underlying this whole debacle is the same: you ordered something your partner didn’t want and now everybody’s upset. The server would’ve gladly made a regular pljeskavica had you ordered it to begin with, but now he’s upset that you want to make him pay for your mistake. And you’re left wandering the streets with the amazing Hulk, an empty belly and a dark vision of a hangover looming over you.
From my experience, the decision between option #1 and option #2 represents a fundamental difference between working at an agency and working as a freelancer. The former usually means you’re stuck only with option #1 because ‘Hey, this is your job! And we can’t afford to fuck up our relationship with the client just because YOU decided to be a dick about it. Now mosey along. And get me a cup of coffee while you’re at it!’. Being a freelancer means you can do that. But it also means you can say ‘Sorry, but you told me to make pljeskavica and I made a perfectly good pljeskavica. If he wants ražnjići, either he can pay for it or you can pay for it or you can both fuck off.’ Just, maybe, take it easy on the curse words…
For now, I’m going with option #2 because I feel it’s the fair thing to do. You can either remove the condiments free of charge (i.e. tweaking and editing the text, making corrections here and there etc.) or pay extra for the ingredients (i.e. the effort and time it takes to write up a completely new draft according to his new guidelines). Maybe after you and your partner calm down and reflect on the experience, you’ll learn it’s better to synchronize your expectations beforehand and find a better way to communicate next time around. And maybe the server at the ćevabdžinica will make sure to double and triple check similar orders in the future.
I hope all this talk of food won’t boost your appetite too much. Thankfully you made it to the end of this column and you can treat yourself to something tasty. But before you go I’ll leave you with this: maybe my approach to this issue strikes you as naive, irresponsible or even obnoxious and maybe that will also be the case for some of my future clients, but I comfort myself in the thought that, if all else fails, maybe there’s a job waiting for me at a ćevabdžinica somewhere… Keep that in mind the next time you mistake your order ;)