There is an epidemic happening in the design industry, and today? I’m telling you all about it, no holds barred. (My only condition is that I will not release names of specific individuals.)
Apathy is that epidemic.
Indifference, carelessness and a lack of integrity are just a few other ways to describe the apathy that is running wild amongst entrepreneurs and freelancers, alike.
It is mind-blowing because… this is how we make money, being entrepreneurs and, often, freelancers. And yet, it often feels like the people you hire couldn’t care less about your business or your project.
Today I am going to tell you a cautionary tale of what actually happens behind the scenes of a design agency. I know I am not alone in this experience, as the owner of this particular design agency. This can happen to you if you’re scaling or growing and thinking of adding people to your team. So, this entire post? This is an invitation from me to you to step up and speak out about this apathetic community of freelancers. We need to bring to light this crazy, rising trend, hopefully showing those who do this that it’s not just about them and they need to show up in their business.
Okay, here’s the story of the last two weeks.
We had a rush sales page project come up, and I knew instantly that one of our newest and most talented designers was the one for the job. The work they had previously submitted for other projects was beyond gorgeous, and their eye for design was better than I had seen in a long time.
Let’s call this person, Designer A.
Designer A accepts the project and has a few days to work on it, deadline is a Sunday afternoon. The deadline passes and we hear nothing. We call, email, PM, text and Slack message Designer A, and… it’s crickets.
Finally, we receive a text from them on Tuesday morning saying they had the design done and ready and had even sent it the night before but it must have not sent because of the file size. Not to worry, Designer A tells us, “I’ll be in touch with the file shortly.”; they are driving home right now to send us the file and will have it within the hour.
By Tuesday evening, we realize there’s nothing we can do more to contact Designer A than we have been, and we need to quickly hire an alternate designer, since the project was supposed to be sent to the client the day before (Monday).
Oh, and Designer A was also assigned to two other projects due that week, which they never contacted us about or completed. If you’re counting, that’s three clients that are now left with a sour taste, simply because of the apathy of Designer A.
Back to this rush sales page project– We reach out to our design team on Slack (PS – I love Slack.), and we hear no replies. Not surprising, since it’s getting later on Tuesday.
I post an urgent call for a sales page designer on my Facebook wall (you may have seen it?), and we get a flood of responses. Ahh, we’re saved! The design community is alive and well, and ready to help!
We send all the information and everything to our sales page saviour, including the 50% deposit of the project fee AND rush fee, with a firm deadline of the following evening.
Let’s call this person, Designer B.
About 12 hours into the project, after saying they would be working through the night on this project, I log in to see only about 10% of the design complete (based on word count). In fact, they were working on the header of the page (the first thing you see when you go to the link).
Not to worry, I’m told, “It’s all coming together!”
I check in about 7 hours later, whilst at my daughter’s Christmas concert (this is my commitment to our clients), and I see some more design elements (yay!) and quickly realize they are actually pre-designed elements from a template design they had used before, not custom design, as it should have been. This person “just does design a bit differently”, and we are told it is not a template.
My heart rate is going up at this point. Red flags all over the place. At this rate, it’s going to take days longer to complete, not the few hours to the deadline that are left.
The layout is done locally, I’m told by Designer B. I asked for a screenshot/copy, so we could be reassured that the design truly was complete and merely needed to be migrated. Nothing. Never sent.
Hours past the deadline, I call it. This designer still has only about 12% of the design complete and we’ve past the deadline, with no evidence to show that anything is complete. I email this person to let them go, and we move to the next.
Let’s call this person, Designer C.
Designer C was one who reached out after my urgent call for a sales page designer from the night before, and although we had not worked with them before, their portfolio looked amazing and they seemed to truly understand the predicament we were in.
Designer C “promised-promised pinky-swore” that the complete design would be done and ready to go within 36 hours.
We’re miles past the deadline for the client but they’re (amazingly) understanding and even empathetic, which we appreciated. Nevertheless, we continued to go balls to the walls to do everything we could to get this design done.
It’s just about a week ago, and I checked in at the deadline. They blanked on the deadline and are still working on it, and they will send where they are at within the hour.
Eight -EIGHT- hours later, I receive a design that is only 25% complete.
In true Mercury Retrograde (…), their computer crashed and they were out of town and all the images were deleted and … it continues.
This is the point in the story where I truly began questioning the entire Felicity + Design Inc. model. After a total breakdown on my end that night, crashing after an intense, highly-interactive, 3-day course, I slept from 10 pm to 1 pm the following day.
Sunday evening, nearly 60 hours past Designer C’s deadline, I received an email that they quit.
After all of that, in the middle of our own Creative Director staying up all night to get the sales page design completed, we received an email from one of our other designers.
Let’s call this person, Designer D.
They were emailing us to let us know that they did not complete the design task they were assigned (which was due the previous day, mind you), and that they quit.
The attitude of these four designers I’ve shared this story about feels nonchalant, like if it doesn’t serve them, why bother? Or if something better comes along, they feel like they can jump ship and ditch their previous commitments.
And did you notice how many times I had to “check in” with each designer? Despite ridiculously clear expectations surrounding keeping our team updated (primarily me and our Creative Director), never did any of those four designers reach out to us before their deadline, to let us know what was happening, to ask for advice, or to request an extension.
Guys. I know life happens. I get it. People get sick, accidents happen, loved ones pass away. Things we cannot avoid or plan for will happen and they will impact those perfect plans we make.
What I am asking for is not to avoid “life”, but to show up when you commit to something. Communicate. Update those you are working with. Work the extra hours if it takes longer than you thought.
What I am asking for is that you don’t just give up.
I do not quit when things get tough. When the most embarrassing things happen or difficult questions come up, I walk towards it, not run from it. This is how I run my design studio, with integrity. If I say I will do something, you can bet your ass I’ll be getting it done, some way, some how.
Have you encountered this apathetic mindset among entrepreneurs around you, or worse, from those you’ve hired? Speak up. Bring light to this epidemic.