simplifying things, cutting off painful extremities

so last week, erin and i decided to cut off iFreelance for good.  we’ve gotten a good run on Elance and we’ve only really gotten 1 fix-it job on iFreelance, the interface isn’t as good, the support and payment isn’t as easy (for either party) or well developed, and the jobs are fewer and tend to be less money.  so we closed down shop on iFreelance.

similarly, we’ve been talking about dropping heritage as a source for freelance work, as well.  we don’t make as much money, the projects are more work, the customers are often frustrated and upset by the time they get to us, they didn’t pick us as designers, but the company, and therefore the projects are typically less the types of things we really want to be doing. additionally, it’s been months since we had a project that wasn’t a pain and actually was something we enjoyed doing.  on the contrary, pretty much every single project we’ve had lately has been completely horrible, including the one i’m working on right now in which the customer doesn’t pick up the phone when i call, and responds to my emails in one sentence that does not answer what i’m trying to find out.  it’s a joke and it’s been a week and i haven’t gotten any information yet.

which has made us step up our exit strategy a bit.

the original plan was to wait and see how the off-season/winter treated us as freelancers and evaluate heritage after january and maybe drop them then.  at this point, the amount of stress and hassle and time wasted dealing with their stupid and non-functional bueracracy makes me think that we’d be making more money if we were not taking anything from them and just doing stuff on our own through our site and Elance.  more money, because we get more out of working for ourselves (since we set the prices and it all goes to us, so we make more from doing less), and because we’re not wasting time dealing with people who don’t respond to us and stressing out about it.  and time, in this business, really is money.

so.  the new plan is to drop heritage after this project.

i won’t say anything bad about heritage (well, not more so than i have already, i guess).  the experience wasn’t all bad.  on the contrary, we learned a lot, and have done really well.  but the system is flawed, the outsource department is often left hanging and seemingly ignored, with very little support from in-house staff or training material to go off of.  increasingly, and especially since we’ve been able to make money doing this outside of heritage, the inefficiencies and pain points of working with them are made more obvious and it makes the experience more abrasive.  it’s hard to be an advocate for the company as a designer dealing with customers when i’m so frustrated with the situation.  the projects have slowed to a crawl as the number of outsourcers has expanded and the amount of projects being moved to the design phase are hung up in the gathering content stage, and even those that do get moved to design are woefully incomplete.  at least when we’re dealing with our own customers, they know what they want, they have their content, or not, and know that they’re responsible to.  if they want a specific feature, we can give it to them, if they don’t, we don’t.  we don’t spend time and patience haggling about enhancements the customer doesn’t really need or charging them a gross amount for things that should have been included.  it makes dealing with customers, and the project, even more painful than it should be and takes time away from doing what we should be doing which is, designing their site.  in my mind, i’m much more able to ensure good customer service if i’ve been with them directly from the beginning.  coming into the story at the end, after they’ve already been pissed off for 3 months about nothing happening on their site does not a good customer service experience make.

but it has been a learning experience and a good jumping off point.  but it’s a lot like tech support — no one with any actual talent stays with it forever; if they knew their stuff, they’d be doing something else.  it’s a good intro job, but it’s time to move on.