The Most Common Misconception About “Web Magic”

I belong to a website called Alignable, and how often do I hear small business owners complaining about “not getting ranked” and how all the “big business” is killing small business. After a while, your humble narrator has to jump in and open a can of whoop ass. Maybe you will find this interesting, as what I wrote seems to be generating muchos buzz about it on the site itself.

First of all, the comment that set me off was this (the poster will remain anonymous):

“I am concerned, and I see the rapid reliance and escalating costs of doing business on the internet. I am concerned that what was once freedom for business to proliferate without these giant companies monopolizing advertisement as slipping away, and once again small business will pay the lions share of business advertising expenses with large companies getting fat with lower percentage costs, but getting top placement.”

And here is my reply:

As a web designer, I will say for the most part that it is not the website that is probably the problem. It’s the idea of “saving cost” on the website that is the problem, and then blowing your hard earned dollars on bullshit like AdWords and high-priced SEO companies. Most people I design for say they have “no idea” how to develop a website, and then once the contract is signed, all of a sudden they dictate how the website should be built. That is not how web design should be. You don’t tell a doctor how to remove your appendix, do you? Professional designers have spent many years analyzing code, noticing what works and what doesn’t, researching demographics, etc…And we often see what is best for a business because we have an objective view of it. But how often do we here “I don’t think that is necessary!” or “That is going to cost HOW MUCH to do?!”


Look…If you are worried about the “cost” of your website, you are missing the whole point of having one. A design spearheaded by a professional may cost you more than what you were looking to spend, but it will pay off ten to twenty fold in the return on investment. So if your website is not doing what you wanted it to do, you have to ask yourself this one question: “Did I not let the professional do the job I paid them to do, or did I argue because it was going to cost too much, and I didn’t think it should?”

In other words, did you let the professional do what they needed to do in order to make your website do what you wanted it to do?

I understand what [anonymous poster] below me is saying. But my company specializes in making small businesses look like bigger businesses. We level the playing field on cost for the concerns mentioned. But a client has to trust the professional and the process, or else they get what they have always had: Something amateur. They also have to want to play in the major leagues. I know the biggest complaint about competing with big business is that they have “deep pockets”. But at one point, those big businessess were a small business just like you. The only difference between yesterday’s market and today’s market is those now big businesses understood what small business today does not seem to understand: “the only want to make money is by spending money”. In other words: You don’t skimp on the damn budget when getting people to know you. When we go out on date’s, we wear our best outfits, and let’s face it…Fashion isn’t cheap. We spend oodles of time and money at the gym, so we can look good naked. We spend god awful amounts of money at high end grocery stores so we can “live healthier”…But when it comes to our source of income?! We have a shit fit about the cost…How stupid is that?!

It’s not considered stupid at all. It’s considered “Small Business Marketing Model 101”…Or at least that is what it has morphed into.

And it’s flat out dumb as fuck.

It’s the idea of giving the illusion that you are a successful small business owner to your judgmental neighbors (shopping at Whole Foods spending hundreds of dollars on the “trendiest foods”, driving a BMW, wearing fancy clothes from Nordstroms, etc) rather than the idea of actually being successful and moving away from your judgmental neighbors to a nicer neighborhood.

When people try to cut the cost of how they present themselves to the world, it shows…Trust me. You know it, and so do we all. No amount of SEO will save you if you budgeted the look and navigation of your website. No amount of being at the top of Google will help you, if someone clicks off of your site as soon as they are horrified by it (bounce rate). In other words, you can lead a horse to water, but if you do not make that water look tasty and relevant, that horse will go find another well to drink at…And that well will usually flow from the bigger company who realized when they were a smaller company that they needed to let the professionals do their job, the job they spent years doing, and worry about the cost later. I know I will get flack on this, but sometimes the truth hurts. After all AT&T (Bell) was up against Western Union when they started off, and now the only time we hear of Western Union is when we need to wire money. AT&T believed enough in themselves to invest in themselves wisely…Do you? And don’t get me started on the demon Wal Mart, because that started with just one store, and now it is like the Starbucks of retail. And speaking of Starbucks…Are you starting to get it yet?! That is the difference between small business and big business…The reason big business has “deep pockets” is because they keep investing in themselves. It’s the difference between the “big picture” and “sweating the small stuff”. My business started off with my own money (which was actually below $500), and we are now in competition with big design firms…Even got some of their clients…It’s not because we spent a lot of money…It’s because we spent our money wisely, and listened to other’s who were guiding us in those early days. Sometimes it means “this is going to hurt your pocketbook for a while, but it will pay off in the long run”.

Just because the internet enables others to find you faster, does not mean they will like what they see. Let’s face it, many small businesses don’t look like they take themselves seriously, because they are cutting costs of the very thing that will get them noticed. These days, it’s all about presentation…Not just getting client’s to your door. Top placement means nothing if the one who clicks in does not like what they are seeing…Or even worse, have to dig for what they see.

I’m A Creative, Not An Idiot

Sleazy salesman pointing
The scams on us creative types never ceases to amaze me. We are often seen as people bordering homelessness who will do any “make money quick” scheme, as long as it involves being creative.

This is just an overview of a phone conversation I had this evening with someone trying to work that shtick.

First of all, the guy owns a real estate company, which should have been my first clue that the lines were about to get greasy. He said he had a bunch of videos he needed to edit which had “great potential” to make a lot of money for individuals. So basically, he was saying he had a “gimmick”, like he was a motivational speaker of some sort. Mind you, I have never heard of this guy. He said he knew someone I used to work with that “praised” my ethics, and got the referral from them. Ethics were pretty high in demand for this guy, because he said he could really “monetize” on these videos. Of course, I have learned to interpret this over the years as follows: “I want someone who has some ethics, because I don’t have many myself.”

Secondly, he went into the pitch. You can tell the pitch is coming. It is usually forwarded by “Well, let me tell you about this great opportunity I have here.” The opportunity he spoke of was how he had testimonials from people about his “inspirational and informative message” to people, about believing in themselves enough to make money through real estate. He also said he had collateral marketing in mind, using his website as a portal through which others could watch videos he did himself…You know, so people did not make the same mistakes he did. In fact, he told me of one “stellar testimonial” from a guy he helped when the guy was down, and showed the man he was “worth investing in”. Apparently, this man is now very comfortable and happy, all because of Mr. Shtick.

Thirdly, here comes the “stroke”. It’s used by every used car salesman on the planet, which makes you feel as if you need a shower after interacting with them. He tells me he knows some very high priced video guys, guys involved in the film industry (to show how “connected” he is, of course), who he could ask to help him, but he felt he would give someone else (essentially a peon like me) the opportunity. Oh gee! I feel so special! [Apparently he saw the few videos I had on my website, but didn’t bother to look at the Philly Puddy Production page or my IMDB profile at all.] The “stroke” comes in the form of this, though: “I want someone who does video editing, who can see the importance of what I do, and for an hourly rate work for me for 10 hours a week cutting these videos down to the marketable asset. Once the program starts making money, I want to basically partner with someone who will get in on a share of the profits.”

I tell him I already have a business partner. This really flusters him. I guess he thought I was going to drop everything me and my business partner have worked so hard for, for some unseen “potential”. Is this guy still in high school?! Maybe “unseen potential” is why people get involved in sick relationships, but it surely isn’t the basis for business relationship.

However, me being me, I humor him with a quick follow up after dropping the “I already have a business partner” bomb. “How much were you considering hourly?”

“Well, probably not as much as you are used to, I am sure…” and then goes on to avoid the question, telling me about the potential for the money I would make down the road. Yawn. Do any of these people understand how many times a creative person hears this in a month? A week? A day?

He gives me more inspirational bullshit. I listen, but I do so to make sure I put a kink in this guy’s technicolor dream coat when soliciting future creative people he wants to “partner” with. In my early days, I used to fall for this crap, and was left broke after doing tons of work. In all honesty, I wanted him to squirm a bit while I was on the phone after giving me his best line of bullshit. In this used car salesman’s words, I am also writing this down, because I want to help other people avoid the mistakes I have made…Except, I am offering this advice for free. You’re welcome.

He rounds out his sales pitch, thinking he has made me “reasonable” enough to basically take whatever he is willing to give me. But then he then asks, “Why? How much do you usually charge?”

Welcome to Pandora’s Box, bitch.

I tell him. I can hear his asshole pucker over the phone. It comes in the audible, “Well, I am not cheap, but…”

So I cut him off and give it back to him.

“You know, you should really believe in yourself. People often hire non-professionals to form the basis of their truly great ideas, only to see them fail because of the lack of professionalism shown in the foundation. Or, they try to do it themselves, and are not objective enough to see what other people want to see. You need to consider it as an investment in yourself, and the future of this great idea, which we both know has a ton of potential, correct?”

Now he starts to stutter and backtrack. Even insults what I do for a living by saying it is not “rocket science”, which is what everyone wants to hear about their career. Makes them feel good about themselves. Well, being a doctor isn’t rocket science either, but I would rather have a doctor who is a professional cutting me open rather than a doctor who “dabbles in some medicine and stuff”.

I tell him maybe he should ask some of his film friends to do it for that hourly rate, but I already know that is why he is calling me. They told him to get bent. No professional is going to help someone else get rich for $10 to $15 an hour unless you are working at WalMart. Then he gives me the sob story that “some initial investment needs to be low in order to get this off the ground” bullshit. Sure. How about I not invest my time in this project of yours? How about I invest my time with those who feel my expertise is worthy of investing in? He, like others, do not understand a creative makes their living off of this “non-rocket science” stuff…Sort of like a person who sells other people’s houses, which is not rocket science either, by the way.

He said he would get back to me. Sure. I will hold my breath until then.

Maybe he is going to go listen to some of his videos until he feels like he can follow his own advice?

Creative Folk: You Are Worth It

I recently watched this Abbott & Costello video, and figured out the math some clients try to use on creative people. Go ahead and watch it…I’ll wait.

Now you see what happened there? At the time, it makes perfect sense. And most clients who utilize our services talk about how they aren’t making enough to afford your regular rates. Since you are tired of eating Ramen and Peanut Butter and Jelly every day, you think to yourself, “At least some money is better than none.”

You give in. You want to be seen as the nice and understanding one, and quite frankly, rent is due. You think, “Gee…Maybe I will get some exposure, and then the money will roll in.”

Clients count on this. While they go shopping at Whole Foods, get $120 hair cuts, and go home to a house with a view of the city, you are in your one bedroom apartment eating Ramen and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

This is what you need to know. Because if you don’t, you will soon give up…Financially, you will have to…And we all know you are worth more than that.

No other professional is treated quite the way that creative’s are, because clients want us to believe they really don’t need us, even though they are the one’s who hired us to do what we do. Think about it. Why would they hire us if they didn’t need what we do? Do you go to the doctor if you are not sick? Do you go to a restaurant if you are not hungry? Do you go see a hairstylist if you do not need a hair cut? Well, why do you think they called you then?

They hire creative professionals because what they have currently sucks.

That’s right, I said it.

Creative folk everywhere! Hear me roar! They need us to continue to have a Shop-At-Whole-Foods budget! They need us to keep buying those $120 hair cuts! They need us to afford that house on the hill! So now I will explain some of the common excuses you will hear, and even give you some ammunition to blow those excuses away.

Excuses And Comebacks

1. “I can get someone else to do this for less.”
Oh really. Is that why you called me then? No, the truth is they either want to believe this, or they have called around and no one else caved in. They are hoping the one that caves in will be you. Your portfolio is what had them call you. They want what you have. Never forget that.

What you should say: “Then I encourage you to shop around, or go with those cheaper options.”
This calls the client’s bluff. They know how much time it takes to shop around and find a creative they like at the price point they like. This is why they called you, and you are about to walk out the door. We have always received call backs from client’s like this if they are smart enough to swallow their pride for making such a moronic statement to a professional.

Another thing you can say: “Sure. And you will get what you pay for.”
Again, calling their bluff. Not only that, but you remind the client why they like to shop at Whole Foods and not the other stores for their food…Because they believe that statement…They live it.

2. “I can get a student to do this for next to nothing!”
Yes, they can. A student is hungry for a portfolio, and they do not have the confidence to say “no” yet. They will do whatever you tell them to do with hopes the client will be happy and give them lots of exposure. They will also re-produce something this client currently has, and as you know, what the client currently has sucks. Once that student starts to realize their portfolio says nothing about what they can do creatively, and is also hurting them professionally, they will stop always being the “yes man for free” clients seem to desire.

What you should say: “If you do not care enough to invest in yourselves, that is a viable option you have.”
Whoa! Yes, this sounds scary. But you know what is scarier? Hindsight! The hindsight being knowing the value you brought to that client, while you eat Ramen yet again. It also puts the client back in their place, and reminds them why they hired you. More often than not, when we do this, we not only get the gig, but we also get the client’s respect.

3. “All I’m asking for is a website/logo/video/whatever…”
Of course, that is all they asking for! But as you know, that stuff takes time out of your life, and how much do you value the time in your life? And what is the client asking for? Brand identity! What does brand identity do? Helps a client get recognized. What happens when your client is recognized? They make more money! More hair cuts! More shopping at Whole Foods! Especially if it is done correctly. The point is, brand recognition done professionally earns a company money. When businesses decide to design their own stuff in-house, it doesn’t. Ever see a website/logo/video/whatever designed by the owner or the IT person at the company and cringe? If you cringe, you can be sure others are cringing as well. They are not dealing with that client, because it looks like the client doesn’t care. You are that professional they need. The ATamp;T logo was designed in 1983 with slight variations on it since. It cost ATamp;T a bunch of money to be made, and more to be re-marketed to replace the bell it had for years. Yet that logo earned them billions of dollars because of brand recognition. That AT&T logo has a 93% brand recognition rate. That recognition rate turned into dollars. I’m not making this stuff up! Them’s the facts:

What you should say: “And all I am asking is for what I am worth, and asking you how much you value what others think of your company.”
Boom! Bring it down hard! This gets them right where it hurts, because the truth does hurt. If they value their employment, they want the best, and the best costs money. Not making their company look it’s best hurts their bottom line, and threatens their value as an employee. Which in turn, threatens their Whole Food budget. If they try to belittle the work you do, and you accept the belittling, then you are not going to do your best work. This not only reflects on your skills as a creative, but also makes their company look bad…Which again, reflects your skills as a creative. Believe in yourself more than the client believes in themselves, and you both benefit.

4. “Our product is going to change everything, and you will get so much exposure!”
I don’t remember the last time I walked into a grocery store, went to the checkout, and the person said, “Aren’t you the person who did that thing? Just go ahead and take the groceries! Their on us!” Until exposure means you get fed, exposure is only good for the client…And you are the one who will be making that happen. Remember that.

What you should say: “If you believe in it that much, then you should consider me an investment…Otherwise, you don’t really believe that at all.”
Owned! The reason they say such a dumb thing is because they are hoping you are gullible enough to believe their hype. They are appealing to the “artist ego” myth that has been around for years: All we want is recognition for our work. Even if this is true (which, let’s face it, it is), it doesn’t mean your ego can pay your rent. This also turns their hype on them in a “put your money where your mouth is” sort of way.

You are starting to get it. They have excuses ad nauseum, but we keep allowing the excuses to happen. It is up to us as professional to assert ourselves as professionals.

You Don’t Need Those Who Don’t Value You In Your Life

When you go to the doctor, you do not haggle the price. The same goes for a restaurant, a coffee shop, Walgreens, Wal Mart, a mechanic, etc, etc. The price is what it is. If you cannot afford it, you shouldn’t have it. That is Economics 101. You are the product. If they want what you have, they should pay for it. Plain and simple. Sure, you may lose potential clients this way, but it’s just like dating: Weed them out quickly, so you can focus on the one’s that are worth it. Once you start realizing you are worth it, the quality of your clients goes up, the quality of your work goes up, and you can walk past the Ramen aisle once and for all.

Our kind has become a co-dependent type that has devalued the nature of our work, and it all stems from fear. But we are creating our own fear by devaluing ourselves. I have seen designers, video editors, etc making less than employees at the local Wal Mart. We created this mess. We need to un-create it.

Go get ’em, Tiger.

Dear Fellow Business Owners

Recently, someone tried to scam me. I figured I would let all of my friends and anyone who is interested in on the joke. I immediately knew it was a scam, but I figured I would go for the slam dunk on it, since I like to mess with their heads. Yes, everyone thinks I am a nice guy…And there is a reason…It’s because I can handle my shit, and I do not crack under pressure. 🙂

This is a derivation of the Nigeria 419 scam, and it has been duly noted on the interwebs. I am just putting the knowledge out there so you and others can be aware…Plus, I love to display how I mess with these folks.

The first email I received:



From: Nicholas Lee <>To: artist <> Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2014 10:56 PMSubject: Brand Protection Notice phillypuddy

Dear CEO/Principal,

This is Nicholas Lee—Senior Consultant of domain name registration and solution center in China. Here I have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on April 28, 2014. that a company claimed “RANTRANCE LTD” were applying to register “phillypuddy” as their Network Brand and some “phillypuddy” Asian countries top-level domain names(in/hk/tw/etc) and China (CN) domain names through our firm.

Now we are handling this registration, and after our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company’s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we would finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we could handle this issue better. After the deadline we will unconditionally finish the registration for “RANTRANCE LTD”. Looking forward to your prompt reply.

(This is a very important case, so please transfer this email to your CEO or Principal. Thanks a lot.)

Best Regards,

Nicholas Lee

Senior Consultant Manager



First of all, everyone should be aware that if a company is going to try and muscle in on the brand name you already have established, they are not too bright, and you have nothing to fear. Secondly, no one would advise them to do so. This should make you go “ah-HAH!” rather than “Oh shit!” I laughed when I got this, because I knew I was going to reply, and I also knew I was going to insult the hell out of them.

So here is that reply…Which at first is always nice:




I would be the only one able to authorize, and I regret to inform you that I already have the name “PhillyPuddy” registered as a business in the state of Texas. Therefore, no, I would not authorize anyone to use it. I have been PhillyPuddy since 2000, and have owned the domain since 2005. It was also trademarked in 2005. It would be in the best interest of your client to find a different name. Considering the fact we have done so much branding, if your client were to use PhillyPuddy, people will automatically defer to us, and that is never a good way to start off a new brand. And yes, we work internationally. Good luck to them on finding a replacement name though…And inform them about researching the name before they become sold on it. It happens to clients all of the time. 🙂

Thank you for the contact. It was much appreciated.

Philip Lee



I knew when I woke up this morning, I would have a reply already, because they think they have a fish on the line. This is when you have their undivided attention, and bring about the whoopass. They did not disappoint.



From: Nicholas Lee <>To: Philip Lee <> Sent: Monday, April 28, 2014 7:28 AMSubject: Re: Re: Brand Protection Notice phillypuddy

(For our better communication, pls add my E-mail address to you whitelist. Thank you! )

Dear Philip Lee,

Thanks for your confirmation. As soon as receiving the application of “RANTRANCE LTD”, we checked and found “phillypuddy” is your company’s using name and brand. We are concerned that your brand name might be affected negatively by their applications, this is why we informed you. following Network Brand and domain names are applied by “RANTRANCE LTD”:

Network Brand: phillypuddyDomain Names:


You know that the domain names registration is open in the world, “RANTRANCE LTD” also has the right to apply for the available domain names. you only have the preferential rights to register them. At present, we haven’t passed their application, we need your opinion. If your company consider these names of importance to your company’s business or interest, I suggest that your company register these names first so as to avoid confusion or speculation. Of course, If you don’t want to protect your intellectual property rights, then my suggestion is your company give up these names so that we can finish registering for them as per our duty. Please give me your company’s decision as soon as possible in order to handle this issue better.

Best Regards,
Nicholas Lee  
Senior Consultant Manager 


This message and any attachments are meant solely for use by the intended recipient only. Disclosure, copying, use or distribution of the information included in this message is prohibited without the written permission of MPE.

please consider the environment before printing this e-mail 



Notice how the signature changed, or at least now it HAS a signature, and all of a sudden they have some professional looking stuff at the bottom to make them seem more “legit”. Even a nice little “care for the environment” has been added, when we all know that China has an even nastier environment record than the US at the moment…And that is saying alot. Again, this is to “dupe” people in the US who use this as a selling point for their companies, furthering their supposed “legitamacy”. In fact, they didn’t have it on their first email until they realized I was an American company. See what I mean?

Now for the whoopass:




We own two of the top level domain names: .com and .net. If your advisement for this company is to proceed, then you are advising your client to fight an uphill battle for recognition and branding, not us. In fact, our company does branding as one of our services. We don’t have to buy foreign domain names to understand the significant weakness of this advisement for your client. No one does.

(showing them we really don’t care what they think they can do)

Our brand name and intellectual property rights are solidified even if you do purchase those domain names, as we are a firmly established brand. We have our name established on all major search engines as well. So we encourage you to feel free and purchase them. You feel free to advise what you deem necessary for your client. We are not to be coerced into buying domain names we do not need to own in order to assert we are established, and your assertion we do has been noted. We have a digital trail depicting we have owned the name PhillyPuddy for years, as well as legal documentation on file with the United States government. Since we do business globally (including Asia), you are advising your client to go in direct competition with an established brand name. It will not be us who will have a hard time with intellectual property and brand name recognition. We have a 14 year head start, and we do this for a living.

(again, showing them how ludicrous their assertions are)

Good luck if your course of action is to advise your client to proceed. I will have access to this correspondence for future reference should RANTRANCE ever try to say they were “unaware” of this situation before they moved forward. We will inform them of youradvisement should this ever prove to be an issue for them. Please take time to research United States laws concerning this issue and all aspects of it. We are a US company, so they apply to us, as well as RANTRANCE should they ever decide to market in the US. We are under advisement we have nothing to worry about whether we purchase these Asian domains or not. Even if our brand name becomes confused in Asian countries, we still have established brand name recognition throughout the rest of the world. This we feel is a non-issue for us, whereas it might prove to be a sizable issue for RANTRANCE.

(showing them how stupid THEY are)

This will be our final correspondence on this issue. There is nothing more to discuss. Especially once I found this:

And this:

How about getting a job? Wouldn’t that be easier and more honorable? You might also want to consider checking INTERPOL about the legality of what you are doing. That applies everywhere…Including Asia. 

And just for the record, we have recorded your IP address. Don’t mess with a Texas technology company, and have a great day.

(signed with whoopass)

Philip Lee



(What?! No reply?! Are those crickets I hear?!)

I mean, who would name their company RANTRANCE LTD anyway? What a stupid name. If they were considering something cool and fun like “phillypuddy” for their product, you think they would have put more thought into their established business name, right? 😉

So again, if any of my friends who own businesses get emails like this, don’t sweat it. It is 100% false. Your brand is assured even if it WERE legit. Buying a domain name means nothing, and as long as you own Top Level Domain names, are registered as a business, and have been established for some time, don’t make more hassles for yourself. feel free to mess with them if you want. They can’t do anything to you. What they are trying to do is have it seem like they are doing YOU a favor, and the next step is having them purchase those domain names FOR you. You send them the money, and since they are such nice guys, they handle the hassle of purchasing those domain names…Even though all it takes is to go to a domain purchasing site and buy them yourself. A year later, you realize these domain names were NEVER purchased, and someone has over $300 of your hard-earned money. I have had to get smart to these guys ever since my band’s domain name was stolen back in 2005 ( by scammers, and then they attempted to re-sell it to me for $10,000. They actually thought I had that kind of money. Well, all they did was blow their money on a five year lease of the domain name, and now it is currently available again if I wanted to purchase it for $10. Allow me to mess with these guys for you. I have it in for them. They ruined a perfectly good independent music career for me. Now I just want to mess with their heads, and I share these antics with you all. 🙂

For more information on this, refer to:!-got-an-email-from-china-domain-name-registration-center-asian-domain-registration-service-in-china-the-department-of-registration-service-in-china-etc.#.U16MnfldWSo


Have a great day, everyone…And keep your money. 🙂



Not all clients are “from hell”…

client from hell

It is common for most of us creative types who do work in this field for a living to talk about our “clients from hell”. This may scare some of the new creative people who are up and coming. Look…The reason why we only talk about our “clients from hell” is because it is funny. And really, if you don’t laugh at some of these people, you’ll only end up kicking the cat…And it really isn’t the cat’s fault. Some people just don’t have social skills, and you will find that in any career.

So I would like to say that since I have been doing independent design and video for people in the Central Texas Area and beyond since the beginning of this millennium, I have had only FOUR clients from hell…So in the greater scheme of things, I have had a really good run at this business. But, the main reason why I have a really good run in this business is because of the attitude I bring to the table.

Most confrontations can be avoided if you look at the client like a person. I know! In this day and age! But trust me, they are people. Oftentimes, us creative types forget that. Yes, I am saying that WE have a responsibility in this. If all you are dealing with are “clients from hell”, you may want to think about how you are treating the people you are dealing with.

I often say that the reason why most marriages fail in the United States is because more people are looking for the other person to make them happy. They are not thinking what they can BRING to the relationship, they are thinking what the relationship can GIVE to THEM. That is backwards. Always has been. Always will be. Sure, the person makes you happy for a while in the beginning, but everything is shiny and new…That’s why. Eventually, they will just become a person with faults and needs. Since we also live in a disposable nation (disposable razors, disposable this, disposable that), we tend to think that “Well, I am no longer getting what I need from this person, so it is time to end it.” Rubbish. That is when you should be thinking what you can bring to the table.

Clients need to be thought of as a marriage. At the very least, they need to be thought of as “long term partners”, because that is what they really will be if you are doing it right. In the beginning, both of you are excited to be working together. Everything is shiny and new, full of promises and hope. Sound familiar? It should if you have ever dated. Then comes the first mistake, or in our case, the first draft. Suddenly, there is a critique. You are no longer “perfect” in the eyes of the client, and they are no longer “perfect” in your eyes, because they didn’t welcome what you did on the first try with open arms. Do you take this personally? Do you tell them they are wrong? Do you even offer up an explanation as to why you did what you did, and how a compromise might be better? These are important questions you should be asking yourself upon dealing with the people who are going to be paying your rent.

Oh…Did that last part wake you up? It should.

This is nothing personal. This is business. Us creative types are often so caught up in the creative process, that somehow our creations become a part of us. When someone criticizes our work, well, they might as well have just kicked your first born child. It’s not YOUR child. It is THEIRS. You are just the surrogate. Bring this with you upon revealing the first draft. Don’t take the critiques personal. Listen to what the client has to say, and if it is NOT a good idea, don’t just say, “That’s not a good idea.” Tell them something like this, “I hear what you are saying, but what if we tried something like THIS?” And then explain it to them. You need to remember to bring your A-game with you. You need to offer a solution that works. After all, you are the professional. When you offer solutions, you start developing this characteristic known as “credibility”. You also need to remember this is a person you are dealing with. A person who is giving you money for a service. A person who is probably not made of money. Learn to empathize with your clients, and listen to what they have to say, even if it isn’t complimentary. God forbid you might have misunderstood what they project was all about. Admit that you misunderstood, because you did! I guarantee if you do that, if you practice a bit of humility, the client may actually apologize for not making what they wanted clear enough for you to understand. I have had it happen so many times that I know this to be true. If you do this, not only will the project you are working on turn out fabulous, but there might be future projects to work on as well. I have found this to be the case with most of my clients. And even if they do not do any future projects, they are always willing to give a good referral if someone in the future needs similar work done. Word of mouth is the cheapest and most effective advertising technique there is for you. You can have the coolest website, the best social media presence, the coolest ideas for marketing…But if you’re an idiot, no one is going to really care. They won’t want to deal with you. Why should they?

So please don’t take this personal if it pertains to you. It pertained to me a couple of times myself…I realize in hindsight, had I reacted differently to two previous clients, they might not have ended up on the “from hell” list.

Then there are those other two. Ah, what stories of wonder and horror I could share, like watching an avalanche that is about to occur when you just started down the mountain missing one of your skis. Of course, there are going to be people you can’t do a thing to please. They are entitled and they expect you to be God, lick the screen, and make the impossible magically happen for the least amount of money possible. If THAT is the case, then I recommend venting through a forum such as this: Clients From Hell.

But under NO circumstances give them a reason to say that you were the “contractor from hell”.

Totally random post…

So it’s 2:23 in the AM, and that can be pretty dangerous for me as well as others…Thank goodness no one else is here. Well, my cat isn’t too happy. But I will share with you some of the thoughts that runs through a creative person’s head at 2:23 in the AM…Oh, make that 2:24.


And that’s Central Standard Time, in case you were wondering.




* Do people who invented SPAM really think it is an effective marketing tool? I mean, does anyone buy or support any of those products at all after being bombarded with useless emails? And when will it be legal to lynch them?


* I wish Ben And Jerry’s made gallons of ice cream instead of pints…I would buy it by the gallon if they made them.


* Who is kidding themselves when they only eat a half of a pint of Ben And Jerry’s?


* Coffee should be the official drink of designers and video editors if it isn’t already. Any flavor will do. After all, it’s just the effect that I am after.


* Why aren’t designers and artists treated like professionals? I mean, people wouldn’t try to tell their doctors how to perform an operation, or tell a mechanic how they should fix their car, would they? Well, then why are clients trying to offer me advice on what they think is good design?


* Am I the only person in the world that thinks possums are actually kinda cute?


* Why do I even bother to have cable?


* When my cat looks at me in what I assume to be a loving way, is she really looking at me with pity in her eyes, wondering how I even manage to get through my day?


* Why do people work so hard to live longer lives? I would understand if the teenage years were at the end of life, but they’re not…


Ok. It’s 2:36 in the AM. Time for some Ben And Jerry’s…And then sleep, perchance to dream.

Have some integrity, will ya?

Begging Everyone To Do The Right Thing

I think the biggest complaint we ever receive is this: “I gave some so-and-so guy/girl so many thousands of dollars and they still haven’t built my website yet!”

And then who do they give a hard time about it? You guessed it. Us. Or someone else like us. Either way, it’s wrong.

So I am writing this both for the people who do these sorts of things, and the people who need to be on the lookout for these sorts of things.

I don’t really believe that the people who are taking people’s money with the promise of a product are actually designers. I think they SAY their designers, but I don’t think they really are. Scam artists, maybe, but not designers. If they are designers, what a designer needs is a portfolio. If they are just taking people’s money and not building up their portfolio, they will not be carrying on this scam for long. With web-trends changing all of the time, their stuff will start to look dated, and they won’t be able to get the pay off they used to. One of these cases involves a friend of mine who worked for months to get a small business loan, and they gave a supposedly reputable designer $2000 to get started on her site. That was over 5 years ago. She still has nothing to show for it. I’ll tell you why later. Now, $2,000 may not have been much to this jerkwad, but it was everything to her. And you know what? I know who this guy is! He was more concerned with being a rock star and being “seen” then he was in having some integrity. In his eyes, she may have been a “nobody”, and people do think this guy is awesome, so he probably thought it didn’t matter. In fact, you often hear people like this saying, “Yeah, I got the money, but she kept calling me and bothering me about the site. I don’t need that in my life!”

Really? So she gave you money, and you decide since she is asking about what she paid for, that now you just take the money and run?! Look…if a mechanic takes longer than a week to fix my car, I am on the phone asking them what the hell is going on…And I haven’t even paid them yet! But I need the car. I need to meet clients. I need to go food shopping. I have things to do! Likewise, so does a small business owner. And it means more to them than getting around. It means they are not making a living. On average, we can design and build a website within 4 months. Hearing stories from people that are still waiting 2 to 6 years later to have a website built is ludicrous. It doesn’t take that long if a designer is diligent. So how does this guy look at himself in the mirror every morning? I have no clue. He probably believes all the hype he has built around himself, plus he has a major client…One. But he hasn’t had another major client for years. Maybe all other clients look small to him, and he doesn’t think it matters. But it will. Some day. There is a rule in our field, or ANY field for that matter, that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I know that we treat each and every client as a human being. They are all equal. We treat the corporations the same as the “Mom and Pops”, even though we don’t charge the same for the “little guy” with the “limited budget”. Why? Because we have integrity, and if a person succeeds, especially the small businesses, we feel good about ourselves. That is the true reward of doing what we do. That is the true reward of having integrity. Plus, we don’t have to ask these people to say good things about us. They just do. 85% of our client base are people who have either been referred or are repeat customers.

Now I am not saying that there are not pain in the butt customers out there. Some complain no matter what you try to do for them. They say they know nothing of the workings of the web or video, but they sure know you did a crappy job! But if the work is done, and you have tried everything to please them, and get it through an email trail or some form of writing, well…Then your safe. You can let the courts decide. Hey…It happens. It’s happened to us once. That’s just business. BUT…And I mean BUT…If a person has paid for something, and you have never done a thing about it, you need to get on the ball and start doing some work. Seriously. It makes it harder on those of us WITH integrity. We have to do all the damage control that you caused. It takes us twice as much work to repair what damage in trust you have caused when it comes to us “artistic types”. It hurts the creative industry. Seriously. Stop it. And get to work. Now. Yes, you might have already spent that money, but so what? You wouldn’t have had that money to spend had it not been for that person. Show a little gratitude, you sociopath. And yes, I know…There are clients who are sociopaths as well. But those are what the courts are for, not for you to decide.

Now, people looking for work to be done…I have some tips for you to protect yourselves. This is why our clients love us.

1) Make sure that the person or people doing work for you make you sign a contract and give you a copy of it. Yes, you think that contract locks you into something, but it also locks the person or people doing the work into something as well. Make sure you at least do much of your correspondence through email. Why? Because, even if you did not sign a contract, there is at least some sort of electronic trail that this person was doing work for you, an amount had been paid, and this gives you at least some legal standing to file a lawsuit. Yes, it’s ugly, but so is giving away a large amount of money for nothing in return. Phone calls, conversations, and feelings have no legal standing in a court of law.

2) Never trust anyone who requires ALL of the money up front. Never. That is a sure sign you are getting scammed. A common practice is getting a quote and paying half up front. OR, another thing we do for those with a limited budget, is work on an hourly basis which requires only a $200 “faith payment”. But never have we asked for all of the money up front. It’s just not good business practice to pay the full amount for something you haven’t received yet.

3) Contact some of their past and present clients. It is not illegal to do some snooping on the people you plan to have work for you. In fact, if people come to us, we encourage it. We are aware that someone somewhere is always going to complain, but if the people who are shopping around are smart consumers, they will listen to the complaints and the person complaining. People say bad stuff about the iPhone, too, but there are some people in life that are never happy with anything. We call them “entitled”. But the people who are truly happy with someone’s services, you can tell. Since 2005, Philly Puddy Designs has had only 3 complaints about them, and all 3 complaints were people who felt they were “entitled” to receive more than what they paid for. No one is slave labor, so we don’t have to take that as a business. Only one of those 3 will and still do say bad things about us. The other two apologized to us for not understanding the scope of the services, and we actually ended up completing what they had requested for a minimal cost. We understand that people aren’t always clear about what they are shopping for when it comes to creativity, or what all is involved, and we cannot hold that against them. So we have 1 client since 2005 who just isn’t happy about us at all. Out of 33 clients, those really aren’t bad odds. We must be doing something right. Maybe it has to do with that integrity thing?

Having integrity makes life easier on everyone; the client and the designer. As a designer, try to explain the project to the best of your ability, remembering that some people will play that they are smarter than what they are. That is because they don’t want to be taken advantage of. That is totally understandable. For us, no matter how smart they are or appear to be, we always try to over-explain so there are no misunderstandings. But it is ultimately up to the consumer to make sure they maintain their integrity by not jumping in to expensive business deals frivolously. That goes for anything in life.

Dear Student Designer,

We know. We have all been there. You want to develop a portfolio. You want to get your work recognized. You want to excel in your field so you can be set when you graduate. But I am here to appeal to you from your future. Stop under-cutting those of us working in the field.


Now, you might say, “Pfft! Of course he is going to say that. He’s not in my shoes. He’s already in the business.”


Well, you’re right. I’m trying to pay bills, have a life, afford gas…But I am telling you that YOU are going to be doing this in the future. And you are soon going to hear “Why should I have you do it when I can get a student to do it for next to nothing?”


That is when it becomes real. When your rent is due. When your bills need paid. When you want to go out on a date on a Saturday night. When you should be a self-sufficient adult. By under-cutting those people working in the field, you are under-cutting your own future in this business. That is what they don’t teach you in school. So I am going to try and teach you Designing Life 101 right here.


What they don’t teach you in school is that you are a value-added service. What you do for a company adds value to what they have. They can have the best product in the world, but if they have no form of marketing or advertising, no one is going to even know about them, let alone use them. So that $50 bucks you charge them to make a really snazzy logo that will eventually end up all over their marketing material is going to make them thousands, maybe even millions. Sure, you have the bragging rights that you created that logo, but when people ask you how much you created it for, you are going to feel that twinge in your stomach. You suddenly know you were duped. And will the company give you credit for it? Nope. You know you made it, but no one else will. It is now the company’s logo, not yours. As far as they are concerned, they have always had it.


The most common excuse that people will give you is, “Well, I have a limited budget…” If they cannot afford the standard cost of your time, then they are not going to be in business long enough to have your logo noticed anyway. Every good business with a solid platform starts off with a marketing budget, no matter how small they are. If they didn’t include that, then they are not using good business practices. And what they are not telling you is that, yes, they have a limited budget now, but how much do they plan to make from your labor in marketing their product? How much do they value the product they are selling? You need to look into what the standard rates are for developing logos, websites, video and other marketing material. And yes, under-cut the pros by a bit, but doing them for near-slave-labor prices are only hurting yourselves in the long run…Because you are watering the market down. By the time you get ready to practice your art and make a living for yourself, you are going to find it impossible to do so.


Plus, what are you telling people about your worth? About how you value your time? About your professionalism? Knowing these things are valuable will make all of our work more valuable in the future. Customers WILL try to take advantage of your insecurity! There. You have been warned. If they feel you are too unsure of what you are doing, or the process of doing things, they will try to even under-cut what you already have under-cut yourself. I know you have big dreams and ideals and think the best of your future. We all did. We all started off with the best of intentions in an ideal world we were planning. I know you are the “next big thing”. But in all honesty, out here, you are a number on a piece of paper among many other pieces of paper that have been thrown into a hat. To BE the “next big thing”, you have to act like it. Because we put the time and the energy into knowing principals of design, UI development, best-practices, etc, we deserve to be treated like any other professional service out there. No one tries to negotiate the price of a doctor’s visit. We don’t tell the mechanic what we plan to pay for them to fix our car. We don’t tell the dentist we are working on a limited budget. We pay the market price. As a soon-to-be professional designer, so should you. What we do just looks better than what the average consumer can do with the free website services offered, the picasa photo fixer, or the video editing software that comes with their computers. We as designers and videographers have a skill! It is a marketable skill! Don’t sell yourself short.


Learn your value. You owe it to yourself. $50 is a lot of beer money for a Saturday night kegger, but when you start paying your own taxes and need to eat, that $50 is nothing. If you want to develop your portfolio, just start creating. Make up fictitious companies, think of their product, how they want to show themselves off to the world. When you start thinking in those terms, your creativity actually increases, and you end up with a cool story for each logo you create. Design a web page for one of them. Create a whole marketing scheme for your fictitious company. You don’t think your future employer or client is going to appreciate all the time and effort you put into doing that? Think again! That is what we call PROACTIVE. They will find it MORE appealing, because it shows you are creative and can think in broad terms. We LOVE that stuff. Those are the people we want working for us. Those are the people that future clients hire to do the work for them. Forward thinking is vital for our practice…So start practicing! But when the time comes for you to be called upon, remember your future…Remember your future colleagues…Remember that you want to leave your parent’s house when you graduate…And start charging accordingly.


Don’t be a creative slave. You are worth it. Trust me.


Hugs and Love,
Creative Director at Philly Puddy Designs


P.S. I live in a major university town (University of Texas), and I mean NO disrespect to those of you studying to get into this field. I and many other’s like myself have just noticed that this is a common theme nowadays, and are trying to maintain this field to be a lucrative industry in the future. Otherwise, that degree you are working so hard for will be worthless…So please keep that in mind. I am here to help, not hinder. I look forward to seeing your talent in the future. 🙂

And so it begins…

tom servo

I suppose the first issue I want to tackle with this thing is how “cheapened” the creative world has become. Whoa, Phil…Them’s some strong words. Well, maybe…But it’s true. Especially when you put it into a certain perspective…Which is the point of this entry and having an opinion.

I suppose I will preface this by saying this is only my opinion, and I am not trying to pass it off as fact as so often many bloggers do. That being said, let’s move on.

As I peruse the web, there are many sites out there claiming that “you, too, can be a designer in a just a few simple steps!” which is a bunch of crap. I think this philosophy started with the idea that “everyone’s a winner” in the 90’s, when even the last place teams got a trophy for “trying”. You know what last place did to people like me: It made us look for something we were actually good at. That’s the heart of the argument here. Technology has watered down the whole concept of the creative process. What takes me and many of my colleagues thought and hours to create, there is now an “app” for that…Giving people the illusion of being “creative”. But just because your iPhone has an app to give photos a certain look and feel to them, there is nothing creative about it. If anything, the phone is creative…The person who created the app is creative…The person is merely an observer of art.

Think of going to the art gallery. People like certain forms of art, and despise others. But give them a paintbrush and a canvass, and they won’t be able to recreate even the pieces of art that they determine are atrocious or even too simplistic to be art. They won’t notice the lines, the attention to detail, the thought process that went behind it. All they know is what they like and what they don’t like. That is true for all of us. Just as I stated from the beginning, I am guilty of having an opinion myself. But simply because I can appreciate or not appreciate Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, does not mean I would even know where to begin to re-create it. In fact, I cannot even paint on a canvass, and if I do, it would look like a 3 year old did it. But because I can appreciate it, does not mean I am creative.

That being said, what makes me and so many others like me creative is the fact that we sit down and create. We apply teachings and technology to what we do and have a plan. There have been growing pains, there have been moments of self-loathing, there have been many hours honing our craft…And then to hear that you can do what we do with just a few easy steps is an insult to our dedication. I am sure the same thing could be said about doctors and lawyers as well, because it is true. If someone showed me how to do an appendectomy, I am sure I could walk through the steps and perform one. Yeah…I said it. It doesn’t mean I would be good at it, but I could do it. I wouldn’t know why I put a clamp here, or why I can’t cut there…And here’s the thing: Not knowing could cause me to take short cuts that could be fatal. “Well, putting a clamp there is annoying. I think I’ll just skip that.” Patient bleeds to death. Lesson learned, I suppose.

Of course, no one is going to die with bad design and cheap photo tricks…But it is killing an area of expertise that is being cheapened by such tactics. “Why would I want you to do this for me, when I could save money and do it myself?” Well, say you are starting a business…You want your business to stand out, yet you go to a website that offers templates. You spend time and energy promoting and writing about what you do…And then you surf around some day and find someone else, just like you, who thought that same template looked just as cool. How professional do you feel now? Or maybe, just maybe, that template you thought would be really neat for your designer doll business is the same template being used by some goth rock band located in Kansas. Are you seeing what I am saying? Let me sum this up for you…

Sure you can appreciate what you appreciate…It just doesn’t make it what is right for the situation. Those cool effects that you put on your photos and save them forever…What if some day you want to remember the situation as it was? What if you are getting older and just want a picture of yourself without all the crazy effects to remember what you looked like to begin with? And just because you have a certain aesthetic style, does it mean that your audience is going to have that same aesthetic? You would think so, but you might be surprised. THAT is what a professional does. We create websites to appeal to your audience. We choose imagery and custom create it to fit the mood and audience you are looking for. We look at the lines, the attention to detail, and have a thought process about the whole thing, and we are OBJECTIVE about it, which is something someone who is wholly invested cannot do. So put your “iCan Website” tools down, put down your iPhone with the Hipstimatic app, and call a professional. You will notice the difference it makes. Don’t dabble with your image…Don’t call your cousin that “diddles” with Photoshop to create your website for you…There are no trophies given out for last place anymore.

I think Tom Servo from MST3K said it best during “Devil Fish”: “Just because you can edit, doesn’t mean you should.”