Tales of a Graphic Designer: The Deadbeat Client

 

Part of the fun of working for yourself is sending out invoices.  I don’t know why, but I love to put them together, print them on my little letterhead and pop them in the mail. It’s strangely comforting to me for some reason – I guess since for every one you send, you know that’s some money coming in.  I  like that. You know what I don’t like?  Never getting fucking paid from those invoices!

It happens more than you might think, and it always seems that the bigger the company, the harder it is to get paid.  It also seems that if I know the people personally, I don’t get paid on time either.  Why is that?  I would think I would want to pay people I know before I pay people I don’t know. 

I usually base my invoicing on project pricing rather than by the hour pricing.  Sometimes I think I would make more if I did charge by the hour, but frankly I am too lazy to keep track.  Also, I usually ask for half the project price up front, and then invoice for the rest on the back end, but not always.  I should really do it more often, as here I am with a client where the project has been completed for four months, but I have yet to see any money.  It’s great for them… they have their project and I guess they think I am nice enough to have done it for fucking free!

Anyway, pay your fucking bills… you know who you are!

Tales of a Graphic Designer: C-O-N-T-E-N-T is I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T

 

So I have a client that needs a website.  As I always do, I try and let the client know that I really need all their copy, graphs, pictures, slides, videos and whatever else they are planning to put on the website first.  Why do I do this?  Because too many times I have been commissioned to build a website, only to be looked at with a blank stare with the CONTENT doesn’t magically appear right then and there.  I am a graphic designer – not a fucking copywriter.  I take your CONTENT, organize it and make it look purty.  I also create all my own graphical buttons from scratch (I know, I know… but it’s kind of a dorky trademark), so it is important to get the organization of the CONTENT right so I don’t have to redo the buttons, which do take time.

Anyway – I get the big promise that I’ll get the copy ASAP.  This means three months later and a week before Christmas.  Ummm… okay.  Like I’m going to drop everything and work on it then when I still have to buy a billion fucking presents.  So, I kind of ignore it.  Then, I start getting emails: “When is the website going to be done?” 

The first thing I do is write up an org chart to show how I will organize the CONTENT based on what they have given me.  I send this to all the parties “in charge” of the website to get the OK on the organization.  The group agrees that it’s fine and I get to work.  This is when I realize that the CONTENT really sucks and I am missing about half of what I need.  I ask for the rest, but am not really getting anywhere.  I’m getting it in bits and pieces while all along getting emails about “seeing” the website.  How can you SEE the &$%#@! website when you haven’t given me all the CONTENT?!  So, I give them a mock-up of the main page, along with the handmade buttons showing the organization we already talked about so they can SEE what it WILL look like once I get the CONTENT and actually BUILD the pages.  I get “concerned” emails about: “Why don’t the buttons work and go anywhere?”

So now I kind of patch together pages with the CONTENT I do have, and put up blank pages where I am missing stuff so they can SEE what I am missing. (I came very close to putting up the little blinking Under Construction sign circa 1993, but I was afraid they’d like it.)   I completely hate putting up incomplete websites because there are always going to be typos, broken links, javascript that doesn’t work, etc.  It’s NOT DONE YET.

Anyway, eventually (literally months later) I get the rest of my content and I post it in the mock site and get no response.  We should be done, right?  I put the website up live on their domain.  This is where the fun begins.  The group starts making changes.  And not just small changes – but changing the names of products, services and even the nickname of the company!  This means I basically get to redo 85% of the graphic buttons I already created.  Then, I start getting the Comma/Dash Memos.  Almost every single page had some sort of comma or dash change.  This means changing things like Annoying, Headache and Xanax to Annoying, Headache, and Xanax or half wit to half-wit. Okay, I get it – we have a Strunk & White English major somewhere on the Committee, but my point is: Why wasn’t this stuff taken care of BEFORE they gave it to me?

Then, no lie, after I complete all the changes – I get another Comma/Dash Memo that basically changes all the previous changes back.  Then I get another memo to say to ignore the previous Dash Changes and Leave Them the Way They Were.  Then, while I am still deleting the all the Third Commas in the Lists of Three Things, I get a new memo that now we are Deleting All References to a Third Company, which is listed on pretty much every page and a few graphical buttons.  My head was literally spinning and I thought I was going to have a seizure of some sort.  Then,  I got a final memo changing all the graphical buttons on the main page.  The ones that have been in the org chart and mock-up since DAY FUCKING ONE.

What’s my point here, besides to bitch and moan?  Well, really it’s that there are some pointers to make your website better and your graphic designer happy, which is good for everyone.  You’ll get your nice new website in a few weeks instead of six months later, and your graphic designer can get back to, oh –  I don’t know, – maybe blogging or something.

  1. One person should be in charge of website content, not a committee.  This person should be in charge of gathering content, editing content, and making sure the content is complete before it gets to the designer.
  2. Know you company. You should figure out what the um, name of your company is and what your products are before it gets to the designer.
  3. One person should be in charge of writing copy. This keeps the style of the writing the same throughout so there will be less editing later.
  4.  Check the mock-up site.  Major edits and reorgs should be done before the site is live.
  5. Send all corrections at one time.  Sending edits onesy-twosy (there’s one of those damn-dashes again) as you see them is confusing for everyone.  
Yes, I know — I need a vacat… oh, wait.   *sigh*

Make My Logo BIGGER Dammit!

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As every graphic designer knows, dealing with clients is not the easiest thing. They seem to think that because they are paying you, they should supersede your expertise with their detrimental ideas. (See my previous post regarding this fun subject.) However, a friend and fellow graphic designer sent me this great new product made for just those occasions when you think that your designer isn’t doing what you’re paying them good money for! It’s called Make-My-Logo-Bigger Cream.

This company has all sorts of great products to get that awesome design you know you want, but your obstinate designer is fighting against. Check it out!!!

(Thanks, Dan.)

War Stories of a Graphic Designer

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What is it about marketing and graphic design that makes every Joe Blow think that they can do it? Is there any other profession where you are constantly second-guessed, overruled, or made to do things that are completely against your expertise and training? Yes, yes — you’re the client. We get that. But, why are you paying my invoices if you don’t want to hear what I have to bring to the table?

I think it must be because good graphic design makes design look easy to do. A well-designed piece isn’t noticed as much as a poorly designed one. And some clients, no matter what, will not let a piece go without thier inane “input.” Not all, but some people feel they have to change something to make them feel superior — even if the input given is actually detrimental to the design. Try walking that tightrope with a client who has no clue that they suck at design.

I had a client once that gave me what I thought would be a great job — a complete branding of a business that was not only sophisticated, but fun as well. After my shpeel about having control over the design and layout, I began on the hardest part– the logo. Suprisingly, this part of the project goes smoothly. I then begin what I condsider the easiest part of the whole project: letterhead and business cards. This is where the trouble begins.

I’m not sure if the guy had been electrocuted or something, but he suddenly became impossible. I would send three prototypes for letterhead, he would pick one — and then, before signing off, sit on it two weeks and then tell me to move some basic design element like 1/8th of an inch or something. Uh… OK, whatever… I do it – send it back – two weeks go by until I get a scrawled note to move the elements back 1/8th of an inch. Huh? Did he forget he wanted them moved before or was he realizing that the first way was better? Or, is he just a control freak and enjoys making me crazy? I do what he asks, he now “loves it” and it’s “perfect”, so I ask him to sign off so we can begin production. I hear nothing for another week or so. Then, I get the dreaded call. He’s been “thinking” and getting all “creative” on me. I am now to add a new very special tagline to the bottom of the letterhead that he came up with all by himself. And, not only is it completely stupid, it’s in French.

I try and talk him out of it, but he’s adamant. And he doesn’t know how to speak French – what he’s written is gramatically incorrect. I try and explain it to him, but he thinks he knows French and wants it to stay as is. I try and explain that it makes no sense and has nothing to do with the branding of the company – he doesn’t care. So, I swallow my pride and put the idiotic, gramatically incorrect French tagline at the bottom of the letterhead and now he says he loves it. I ask him to sign off on the design so we can begin production. I hear nothing for over a week.

Now I get a memo telling me to move the tagline to the top of the letterhead. (This was another tactic – he never would contact me in the same way. One week it’s a call, next time it’s a fax, then it’s an email… What, is this guy schizo?) This now means we have four elements on the top of the letterhead and none on the bottom. I suggest we move the address block to the bottom to even it out again. I get denied. It is starting to look like a third grader designed this. I soon realize the third grader is my client.

To make a long story short – I had to decide if the obscene amount of money this particular client was paying me was worth the bullshit. It wasn’t. I packed up all his files, put them on a CD, sent them back via FedEx along with a check for what he had paid me so far along with a nice, professional letter explaining that I no longer could perform the services he wanted. I just couldn’t put my name on something that I knew was going to look like shit. I never heard from him again, but I did notice that he kept my logo, which was fine by me. But, as I figured would happen, he found someone else to sell themselves for the money, and they created shitty looking marketing materials for him like he wanted. I guess in the end we are both happy?

Where does the line get crossed between what I am being paid for and what the client wants? Aren’t I getting paid to give my professional opinion on design and layout? Is the client always right if what they are asking reflects poorly on them? Maybe – but I can’t work like that, and I don’t (or try not to.)

And, don’t even get me started on working for a corporate marketing department… that’s for another day.