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: http://www.logodesignlove.com/all-about-saul-bass

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.

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”.