The Ethics Committee Keeping Professional and Classy When Others Don`t Know How

In a slow economy, you can rest assured people will resort to dirty tactics to get a client. And their hand in their pocket. But when you are sharing a client with another “freelancer” with bad habits, you need to safeguard more than just your reputation and your money.

I recently had a run in with an extremely unethical “freelance” designer, whom I shared a client. She needed certain “technical” things done to the design I created, and with her request, she added her ineffectual opinion and nugatory critique. However, because I was hired to create a logo that would basically replace her old design, it all smelled a bit rotten to me.  Though I don`t intent on shaming her, I will tell you what not to do so you do look like a smart freelancer.

  • Presume all communications are public. If you need to vent, call a friend, not a client. Insulting the other party of a transaction is always perceived as professional jealousy. Presume your client will share any and all emails, so don`t say anything that can be used against you. Emails are like diamonds, they last forever.
  • If there is something wrong with the work, say so.  Explain with luxury of detail and without any technical vocabulary, in the simplest terms why and what makes it wrong. Your client is not in the same field you are (that`s why they hired you!), so when you need to let them know something is wrong, say it in laymen`s terms.
  • Insulting the other party. Directly insulting the other party`s skills, giving a derogatory critique, or just discrediting the other party is a big NO NO. What they think of you is none of your business and neither is what you think of them. Editorializing your findings on someone else`s work is not what you were hired for. Even if you are hired to critique, keep it professional. But if you are beware of saying…
  • “I don`t mean to be a …” Okay, immediately when I hear this, whatever adjective they use, is exactly what they end up being. It doesn`t soften the blow.  “I don`t mean to be” should never be used to preface anything. It is an excuse to a proceeding insult or behavior. Instead use tact, be honest and deliver your request. “I don`t want to upset you” or “don`t take it personally” are also two losers you should never utter.
  • Question the 3 page review. If you pay someone to paint your home and they stop and say “before I paint, I am going to give you a house estimate and tell you why the siding is on wrong and you need to let me replace it”… Run for the hills!  He is a painter, not a siding guy, so his scope of expertise is not covered here or even requested. To be fair, in my case, the other party was a graphic designer, so her scope of knowledge would have crossed over to that of a commercial artist. However,  She actually prints designs and she was the designer of the logo, my new design replaced. This made her intentions questionable. Which gets me to my next point…
  • Mudslinging never works. I don`t think this needed to be said. But here it is.

If you are in the receiving end, here is what you should do to protect yourself, your client and your work relationship.

  • Admit your guilt… If you are guilty, or made a design boo boo, then admit it. Or better yet
  • Fix your boo boo in front of your client. Doing this will address any doubts the other party may have risen and you would look like a peach and you fix the issues right in front of their eyes. This is when skyping comes in handy as you can show them what you did, why you did it and how you can fix the problem to the other party`s standards.
  • Be transparent. Show what your process is. Explain things so there is no confusion. Don`t demystify what you do, but keeping someone in the dark does raise more flags than none.
  • Defend yourself. I don`t believe on just letting people walk all over you. Without resulting to the same low tactics your opponent chose and you can rebut her arguments. Write a detail email explaining your decisions. Show proof and give yourself a moment to express…
  • “It  is very hard not to take it personal”,  “even though she didn`t mean to be” rude or whatever she prefaced not to be. You are human and feelings were hurt. Finding the right sentence that conveys that without insulting back is hard, hence I provided those two. 🙂 I have a secret phrase I use that only my designer friends and I know it secretly means “eat poop and bark at the moon”. It is very seldom used and reserved for the truly awful. It releases enough pressure for me to want to continue to work with my client and/or the other party.  But if all else fails…
  • Write a nasty email… but do not send it. I find that this is a great exercise to let go of any feelings you may have left over. It also helps you sort out your feelings, if you find yourself too angry or disturbed by the email.
  • Make sure your client knows where`s the beef. Make a lasting impression on your client by letting them know you are not angry at them. The other party`s behavior caused your reaction. Clearly state that, and you can salvage your relationship.

Please know that this only works if you are a freelancer and do not have a higher up. If you have a boss and they are going on behind your back, you need to call in a meeting with said party and a mediator. That type of environment is not conducive of productivity whether at home or work.

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Luckily for me, fighting every instinct I had to rip the other party`s eyes out through a nasty email paid off. My client was clever enough to see through the mudslinging and I kept my client. 🙂

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