Why I Left Reedsy
Decades before I became a software engineer, architecting enterprise web applications, I made a living as a graphic designer. I love design work and it fed a part of my soul that loves the creative process.
Once I made the jump from designer to developer, those design skills followed me into designing a lot of UI / UX that most of my fellow developers wanted nothing to do with. Most developers I’ve encountered hate the design aspect of front-end work, but it’s the one place I’ve always gravitated toward in my career.
Graphic Design also leads you into the inevitable arena of Web Design. Even back in the 1990s when I was running various tech companies I had spun up, my web design work looked exceptional compared to many of my contemporaries. I even had competitors copying my website practically verbatim. I guess outright plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.
Feeding the Need to Design
Several years ago, my beautiful wife and I started what many of us would call a “side hustle”, designing book covers, typesetting, and of course building and hosting websites for new authors self-publishing on Amazon.
Donna had been designing all kinds of book covers on 99Designs and had garnered an impressive 5-star platinum rating on the site. She is a rock star cover artist.
During the “plague”, a lot of writers and new authors had a lot of time on their hands and we were busy running the company and serving new clients.
While growing the company and looking for new avenues of marketing, we discovered a platform called Reedsy that looked promising for generating new business and new clients for us.
My First-hand Review of Reedsy
The Reedsy platform markets itself as a place to find just about any service you might need for authors, from writing tools, to editors, to cover designers, even website designers like me. So I signed up to see what kind of business they could bring our small studio.
According to their website, Reedsy was founded in the summer of 2014 by Emmanuel Nataf, Ricardo Fayet, Vincent Durand and Matt Cobb. The company is based in London, but has a distributed workforce all over the world. Evidently, they receive money from the EU as well.
My very first impression of the Reedsy site was that while it was pleasantly designed, their work flows are weird and disjointed. As a UI/UX professional, I was often confused by their workflows and a sore lack of error messages.
It’s often not clear how you get to and from your client and job lists and contracts. Once the work starts and clients are building up in your request list, their sorting tools are rudimentary at best and make getting around in the list a real pain.
The platform, as I say, is disjointed and takes a bit of getting used to. Just navigating the site to find where things are and how to get to them is not all that intuitive. Reedsy could benefit from some real UX people and basic user testing.
It Took Me Literally 2 Months To Sign Up
Before you even get onto the platform as one of their “vetted” freelancers, you have to fill out a signup form and show off your work as a designer.
During this process, the site wouldn’t allow me to complete and send the signup form. The submit button just stayed disabled. I emailed Reedsy several times about what was missing in my application form and their support staff would email back saying that I was missing information and that once the form was fully filled out, I could submit my “application” to be a provider on their platform.
Only, no one told me what I was missing and their signup form didn’t either. No error messaging, nothing that was clear anyway. I know this from personal experience because I spent way too much time looking for what was missing in the form.
Finally, after weeks of emails and waiting, someone grew a brain and got back to me letting me know that I needed more samples of my work (you mean your developers couldn’t put that error messaging in the UI?) and then I could submit the form. Oy.
And this was only the beginning of entering Reedsy hell.
Once Reedsy finally did get my “application”, they looked at my work and I was “approved”, they scheduled a group Zoom call. Lovely. I’m an introvert and I hate public Zoom meetings with people I don’t know. Even without my phobia, this was a little weird. I don’t want some group meeting. Good God. Who thought this was ever a good idea? Just call me if you want to talk. And why must we speak at all?
The whole vetted talent schtick is pure bullshit, frankly. I’m just being honest. Reedsy isn’t doing the best of jobs vetting talent. By contrast, signing up for 99Designs, or Upwork, or Fiverr, or any other platform does not require you to have a Zoom meeting. They just let your work speak for itself.
Side Story—Reedsy’s Vetting Isn’t Always the Best
One of my Reedsy web design clients wanted me to do a website for them, but their book cover was so atrocious I asked them to call me. We talked about doing a redesign of their book cover, it was that bad. The client had used a Reedsy cover designer and paid way too much for such an ugly cover. The client agreed to let BeauxArts do a new cover for him on spec—if he liked it, he would pay us for it; if not, no charge and no harm done. He loved the new cover we created and I built him a website that was really awesome using the motif of the cover our studio had designed.
The purpose of the Reedsy Zoom meeting was to introduce new providers to the platform and walk you through how it worked. I guess the platform is so badly designed that they need this step in the onboarding process?
In any event, to me the real purpose of the meeting was really to make sure you didn’t break any of Reedsy’s draconian rules—namely, you’re not allowed to tell the clients whom you are designing for that you have your own business.
More Stupid Rules
From the outset, it was clear that Reedsy was deathly afraid of the fact that clients using their platform would find out freelancers actually doing the work owned their businesses and companies.
OMG! Really? No, we’re all just fresh out of high school and college and we just started working for Reedsy as freelancers before finding real jobs. Seriously, what the hell does Reedsy think we’re going to be? We’re already business owners.
The other stupid rule Reedsy has is that you cannot offer more than one service on your account. In other words, you cannot offer both cover design services and web design services from the same account. You also cannot have more than one account. (99Designs, in contrast, doesn’t care if you provide multiple services, as long as they get their cut from your project.)
This is stupid. I could bring Reedsy all kinds of new business if they just let me use their platform for a myriad of services—especially book covers.
Also, you cannot outsource or use employees to do the work, you have to be doing it yourself. Huh? Who in the hell thought up this nonsense? If we do work for the client and they love it, who the hell cares if an employee or studio contractor did the work? Anyway, it’s just more bullshit from a company that doesn’t know what they’re doing.
As a small studio, I don’t have the time to do everything. Some things we outsource to our own vetted people whom we’ve worked with for years. But it all comes from our studio. We put our name on the line with each and every design and we’re not letting anything out the door that doesn’t meet our elite standards of design and professionalism. We’re not the only professional designers on the planet and not the only studio who has people working for them.
Who Really “Owns” the Freelancer?
Like I just noted above, the most irritating thing about Reedsy is that they attempt to “own” you as their own quasi employee, er, freelancer. Reedsy is so afraid that a client might actually discover that the platform is made up of ALL 3rd-party business owners, that they take draconian steps to irritate clients using the platform.
- They do not allow you to list your company contacts, sites or URLs in any of their profiles or work examples.
- They strip out any URLs and email addresses you might try to place within their communications platform.
This latter aspect of Reedsy platform is what irritated clients the most. In fact, I had multiple clients LEAVE the platform and contact me directly because they hated this draconian behavior so much.
When clients are leaving your platform, it means your platform sucks. You need to stop sucking. Give clients a REASON to stay on platform that isn’t a threat of violating your draconian TOS!
The Final Warning
Earlier this year I got an email from Reedsy saying that I needed to remove a previously approved client design that was part of my profile because it was the site design of my own company, BeauxArts Design. Again, I had listed this site as part of my initial application to be on their platform.
I said no. It’s some of my best work and it shows off my expertise. I then emailed one of the company founders, Ricardo, and offered quite a few reasons why this was request was ridiculous.
Unfortunately, all of my comments fell on deaf ears. The email reply from Ricardo was that Reedsy had been in business with their [draconian] policies for years and they weren’t going to change. He assured me they knew what they were doing. (Yea, not.)
Then at the end of his now “rebuttal” email, Ricardo says he’s suspended my account until I “comply” and remove the site design from my profile.
I told him to keep my profile suspended. I’m leaving. GFY. Have a nice day.
(Okay, I didn’t actually say GFY, but keeping the conversation professional didn’t dismiss the bad feelings that Reedsy’s own founding management had left within me. “Do it or else!” doesn’t leave good feelings within your business clients.)
Reedsy Doesn’t Listen and Doesn’t Care
The truth is, I really wanted to stay with Reedsy. They only charge a 10% service fee and I like the idea of them handling all the customer payments. This part of the platform, collecting new clients and handling the payments, is perfect and it’s what a great platform should be doing.
What kills the Reedsy experience is all of their draconian “we own you and the client” bullshit. It loses clients—it lost me 2 or 3 for the short time I was on the platform.
Just embrace what you are—a marketing platform that facilitates an experience with working with vetted 3rd-party freelance providers.
Don’t try to own us.
We’re already in business and have been for years. We don’t need you. Really, we don’t. It’s cool that you can bring us new clients—and I don’t have a problem keeping clients brought to me by Reedsy ON the Reedsy platform so Reedsy can keep marketing for us and making money.
I love the paradigm. It’s a total win-win.
Listen to Your Customers
Back in the 90’s I owned a national dial-up internet provider that did pretty well against the likes of AOL, Earthlink, Mindsping, et. al., until the end of dialup. One of the best decisions I ever made was setting up a CEO email for customers to contact me personally and directly with issues and complaints.
Those emails were a treasure-trove of wonderful advice that gave me tremendous insight about what we were doing wrong, what our pain-points were, and how we could make ourselves into a better company. A lot of really big companies don’t listen. Or it takes them forever to solve problems. But some companies do listen, like we did.
Even massive companies like Amazon still use “firstname.lastname@example.org” to contact a specialized executive team that will move the emails along to other executive-level team members. And as an executive at Amazon, when you get an email from the “Jeff Team” you damn well better move your ass and fix whatever’s broken because they report to the C-suite.
I’ve sent a handful of emails to this address and within a day, if not hours, I had the ear of an executive who was “johnny-on-the-spot” ready, willing, and actually able to remedy the problem. It was like magic how fast the issue(s) were resolved.
It’s why Amazon is the powerhouse marketing company that it is. They actually LISTEN to customers and move quickly to fix problems. THIS is what Reedsy fails to understand about platforms.
Reedsy Has Some Things to Learn About Business and Customers
The biggest problem with companies not growing as fast as they could be is they have an un-listening management team with immovable opinions that are often misguided.
In my view, this is Reedsy’s biggest problem—one they need to overcome. My guess is that one of their founders is really running the show, badly, and the others are simply playing “yes men”. (I don’t really know, it’s just my guess.)
Reedsy’s own website say: “Since , we’ve proudly built a community of over 1 million authors and 2,500 freelance professionals — helping them bring more than 15,000 books to market each year.”
After 8 years in business, including receiving funding from the EU, all you’ve been able to muster are 2,500 freelancers? And some 15,000 [sales] per year? Running the numbers, that’s an average of 6 projects a year per freelancer. Sorry, but I can’t live on one project every other month. Seriously. And if you employ the mean average, a good chunk of these freelancers are getting zero business from Reedsy.
To me, things are broken within Reedsy, badly broken. When top designers and top design studios like ours are being dumped from the platform, yea, there’s a problem. They’re arrogant and they don’t know what they’re doing.
Conclusion—Reedsy Can Do Better
Some of us might be wondering why I even bothered to write such a review? Most freelancers would just leave and say nothing. What do you care? Reedsy sucks, move on.
But Reedsy doesn’t suck. That’s that point. I do care. Their marketing is top-notch. They bring freelancers new clients. That’s a very good thing.
As a business owner, Reedsy brings me clients. Sure it costs me 10%, but I will do that deal all day long! I wish my marketing expenses were 10% of sales! No—Reedsy rocks this part of the business equation well.
From what I’ve experienced, Reedsy’s biggest problems right now are an un-listening management team who think they know more than their customers and freelance professionals. That’s a bad condition to be in. And it’s likely been killing their growth for years.
Other talent platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and 99Designs, or even Amazon, have no problem with you telling clients you’re a freelancer with your own business working on their platform. It’s the ease-of-use of the platform and the handling the financial transaction that keeps all of us there.
The easier the platform is to use, the more you will keep people using it—just like Amazon does.
I would love to keep clients on the Reedsy platform—but the platform needs to be “client-freelancer friendly”. Right now it’s not. It’s a draconian UX mess.
Reedsy needs to look at their competition and what freelancers are used to and what clients want.
Reedsy is not through growing—not by a long shot. But they have a long way to go if they ever want to grow beyond what they are now. Their short-sighted policies have most likely been a major catalyst stifling their growth.
It’s time the platform grew beyond its founders’ abilities.
Beau Beauchamp is an enterprise application architect with over 20 years experience in software engineering, specializing in UI/UX design. Beau has over 30 years experience in business and graphic design. His studio, BeauxArts Design, has helped hundreds of authors self-publish since 2018. He is also the author of over 25 books and novels on Amazon under various pen names.