A young digital Illustrator e-mailed me after seeing a post of mine on a business networking site. He asked, “After reading your profile, I would love to hear anything else you have to offer regarding the inside of the industry!”
I wrote back, “Yikes! That would take ten minutes, at least. Not much I can say without breaking non-disclosures with my clients. What did you have in mind?”
He replied back, “Well, being on the other side of the table as an Art Director, what did you look for in freelance creatives? Anything you can impart would be appreciated. Thanks!”
I thought about the answer. What really got me interested in using new talent?
“Mostly talent and a certain style I can see applied to product,” I wrote. “There are many great artists I just couldn’t use because their work didn’t lend itself to the design direction or demographics.
As for dealing with creatives, there were those I found and approached, those who approached me and those who did everything they could to annoy and insult me.
The key, if I had to draw a conclusion, is to have great promotional pieces, stay in contact with those who buy art, have patience and persistence and, most of all, don’t screw up a project. I can’t tell you how many people screwed themselves out of the chance to break into the place I was working because they went nuts. Don’t get overexcited, don’t smell of desperation and don’t take a rejection personally and act as if it IS personal.
“I wouldn’t want to know a man who hasn’t been fired!” I forget who said that but I laughed whenever I heard it because I had never been fired. But in the corporate world “the boot” can come unexpectedly, thrust us into having to jump into running our own freelancing business, and place us in the unsteady position of needing to learn the small business ropes quickly. Being prepared before getting fired can help you negotiate a severance package that will help you land solidly on your feet, even if the worst happens.
There was one time I gave two weeks notice and they fired me the next day. They actually told me to go and not to train my replacement, which is a sound business decision because who knew if I would steal client information, or poison my replacement. It’s a good business principle to just pay someone the two weeks of salary and get the lame duck out and away from the company.
In this case, however, since they technically fired me, I was eligible for unemployment. Six long months of it, baby! I didn’t care. I was happy.
Since then there were two more similar incidents. One involved a payoff for leaving quietly with a resignation to keep my mouth shut about…something. The other was what they call an “at-will-firing” (you sign a document when you are hired, agreeing you can be fired without notice or reason and will not take legal recourse – standard in America these days). Unfortunately, my former employer gave a reason. They didn’t have to. They shouldn’t have.
It would have been better for all involved if they had just said, “we’re sorry but business is bad and we need to cut our overhead. We’ll consider bringing you back if business gets better.” Sounds better — friendly and professional. I would have been happy. Instead, after several rounds of layoffs and the strain of buyouts, retirements and severance, someone must have had the brilliant idea to change the rules on year-end-reviews.
I was called recently about a freelance job for a local corporate entity and met to speak with the marketing director. After a few days, I received an e-mail informing me I was one of six “finalists” for the assignment. The message contained a list of several advertising campaigns, a rebranding of the logo, signage and billboards. It said all finalists were to do these for a presentation in two weeks. My first thought was…not fit to be printed here.
I contacted the marketing director and asked if he was serious about asking for such an amount of work, in such a short amount of time, on speculation. I pointed out that no bid had been discussed and without knowing the fee structure, even working on speculation was too risky. He replied that I could do as much as I wanted, but the person who did the most would probably win the assignments.
I asked if he was willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement that indicated I was to retain the intellectual property. He replied that the legal department was “out of town” and wouldn’t “be back in time.”
I knew what they were trying to do, so I wrote up a marketing plan that showed why the outline they had handed out was flawed and how I would approach it. I did not design one thing they asked.
Though the holiday season reminds us of many wonderful things, peace on Earth and good will seems shattered for most the minute family walks through the door. If not a visit, the annual phone call to grandmother is stressed by the repeat attempt to explain to her what it is you do for a living. At least you can tell her your phone battery is dying and you need to hang up, but even that brings an explanation as to why a phone needs a battery.
It’s based on love and concern. Keep saying that so you don’t unwrap a shotgun at the dinner table and scream, “JUST WHAT I WANTED!” Ho-BLAM-ho-BLAM-ho-BLAM!
You all know the problem; non-creatives who don’t understand how you can make a living creating, designing, developing web sites, coding or designing logos and such. Sure, old drunken Uncle “touchy” has always wanted you to do logos for his friend who owns Microsoft as a “favor to him” or to paint his company logo, consisting of a slug dressed as a sewer cleaner on the side of his panel truck, but does family understand what we do and why we love it? If they did, I wouldn’t be writing this therapeutic article and pounding on my keyboard as if I wanted to give the keys concussions. Continue Reading