In my experience done is better than perfect.
The case for absolute perfection is so rotten and wrong and shameful that I feel dirty just for knowing about it, and so should you.
Pointless iteration after pointless iteration slows progress and grinds whole departments to a snail’s pace.
This should scare the living shit out of your whole family and cause absolute panic among friends and colleagues.
Bad clients and red flags.
It’s been a while, but I remember being young. I felt like a high powered mutant bursting with creativity and vision. My love for web design fueled my soul and I was a serious consumer.
Looking back, there’s a romance to youth that whatever you’re doing and whoever you meet is one step closer to achieving absolute success.
Sure, you make a lot of stupid mistakes, and life gives you an all you can eat buffet of shit sandwiches, but that’s a part of life.
However, the one mistake that I truly regret is allowing my enthusiasm to make me blind to the client’s red flags.
When you’re first starting out in web design, or any profession that you’re passionate about, you’ll do anything and everything to make your client happy.
No matter what you do, or how hard you try, the client is never content. They want more deliberation and more revisions.
When you finally succeed in satisfying the bad client, you’re left with a hollow feeling.
They have everything they want and yet there’s some silly reason to pay you less or to leave a mediocre review that tarnishes your reputation.
Wiser decision making in business comes easy with age.
I guess it’s only natural to hit 40 and reflect on the past decade.
Sure there was a lot of pain and loneliness, but my thirties were arguably the best years of my life.
I got married, we have two amazing kids and while things were tough financially, we’re finally gaining the traction that we always wanted to achieve.
However, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices along the way and life’s retribution left with me persistent anxiety. 300mg of Mertazipine and a slew of other medications dull the pain, but it still feels like the redistribution of cattle-prods in my chest.
When you’ve been in business as long as I have, you begin to realise that getting new clients, specifically high paying clients, isn’t all that hard. What’s difficult is finding good clients who want you to succeed every bit as you want them to succeed.
It’s not enthusiasm or perfection, brings success, but working smarter and working faster for good clients.
I have now come to the conclusion that absolute enthusiasm is a dangerous commodity in the context of professional web design.
Wild enthusiasm turns fresh designers into lobotomised lemmings who are ready to leap towards any client, even perfectionists and bad clients.
When a perfectionist and their goons consistently shake designers down for more revisions, it causes a frenzy of hysterical screaming from older colleagues.
They’ve seen it all and they know how it ends.
They know that when a team of designers collide with perfectionism, it’s only a matter of time before one or two of them explode. It’s the unavoidable law of physics.
We all have our own coping mechanisms, but my solution to survive a bad client isn’t for everyone.
I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, wild bursts of violence or raving insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.
Without them, I would feel real trapped by demanding clients if I didn’t know that I could escape reality and my conscious at any time.
Web design is a high-pressure gig at the best of times.
When entering a contract, both the client and the web designer take a leap of faith that neither party will bludgeon the other in their sleep.
Unfortunately few clients or freelancers or agencies get to be veterans in business without a few gruesome battle scars.
This creates a deep wound in their subconscious that left untreated will fester and rot. A silent voice begins to form and whisper poisonous rumours that “history will repeat itself” and “it’s better to hurt them before they hurt you”. This feeling of absolute terror can be triggered without warning and is brutal to be on the receiving end.
It’s never easy watching someone’s dreams flicker and die.
Unless you’re careful then you’ll believe that business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long seedy alleyway where thieves, pimps and grifters run free, and good CEOs go to die.
Therefore I feel it’s important to go over the client’s expectations, bad client’s (perfectionists) expectations and the web developer’s expectations.
The client’s expectations
The client will never tolerate bumbling mediocrity. (and who could blame them?)
They expect a unique and special redesign of their website that doesn’t just work but works better than what they had before.
The bad client’s (perfectionists) expectations
The perfectionist expects unlimited revisions so they can continually meddle with a website redesign.
In some cases, a redesign will go live and prove to be a white-knuckled, high-torque sales machine. However, their compulsion will result in them wanting all manner of things to be changed.
When non-professionals mess around with things, it’s inevitable that the website won’t perform as well as it did before.
Therefore the volume of sales and leads are affected.
Unsurprisingly any blame for fewer conversions is then deflected onto the designer and in some cases, the client may then choose to withhold payment.
This is a breach of trust.
The designer’s expectations
A designer has two clear expectations:
- The client doesn’t shank them when invoiced
- The client isn’t one of those “God-damn perfectionists“
This may sound easy and it should be.
The web designer is normally at the mercy of the client because they hold the cash. Things get real messy when the paradox of burn or be burned comes into play.
How I learned that done is better than perfect
I’m now 40 and I came to the realisation that yesterday’s mistakes are tomorrow’s reason why.
They wanted me to put together a crew of fellow creatives to shoot and edit promotional videos for a marketing campaign.
I would travel to their office in Paisley and then take notes as they watched the cut for the first time.
They would ask for a series of changes, I would make them, travel back to their office and then proceed to take notes.
This lasted for months until one evening I came to the realisation that “done is better than perfect“.
The next day I turned up to their office with the first cut of the promotional videos, minus all revisions that they had asked for.
They loved it, proclaiming. “those changes we asked for sure make a difference!“
Go figure, huh?
“Done” doesn’t mean “dump“
When you begin to break down the experience with my first client, you realise that their department held up the project for mundane reasons.
Their alterations were so bland and insignificant that they had absolutely no idea if they were included in the final cut of the video.
If you can’t identify the changes made, then your target audience or customers won’t either.
This saves time and money because you’re free from the pursuit of absolute nothingness.
This isn’t an excuse to do a shitty job.
If something is worth doing then it’s worth doing right.
I’ve always believed this.
But there’s no point losing sleep over insignificant details.
It causes friction with team members and slows the momentum.
A Done Something is Better Than A Perfect Nothing
A man who expects perfection will inevitably slow productivity.
I believe perfection to be a fear that holds you back from getting things done because the results might not be what was expected.
Nobody wants to look a fool in the eyes of others and this fear of failure grinds everything to a screeching halt. This tampers with progress and costs a lot when you consider how many people are sitting around picking their nose while you miss out on sales.
There’s something quite liberating about this: you have nothing to lose by releasing your new website or whatever creative project you are working on as the potential payoffs far outweigh the cost of procrastination.
When we are focused on making everything “just right“, we lose the courage of our romantic convictions, that our imagination can create something truly special; and therefore miss the wine of business, forgoing the very things that make the creative process worthwhile.
Hopefully, this triggers an awakening in perfectionists.
Rounds of revisions
My experience with perfectionist clients is shared by most of those involved in offering products and services.
This is why we (and most designers) offer a set number of revisions to eliminate a never-ending list of changes.
At GoGoChimp we offer three rounds of revisions with any additional alterations costing £250.00 per hour.
It’s a deterrent to scare off perfectionists who believe they possess the power of unlimited revisions.
I do believe that we cannot accept a client until we have decided that they are worthy enough to accept our help.
Done is better than perfect and one good client is worth a thousand bad clients.