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.

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.