Monday, September 08, 2008

Working for friends can lead to battle.

As a creative person, you will get asked time and time again to create something for friends and close family members. Somebody opens a business and they need a logo, maybe a business card, a small space ad etc.
Of course, they will immediately call you.

Such was my case recently when a close friend joined a new company.
I was brought in to meet the company owner and they decided they wanted me to produce a direct mail campaign.
I asked their budget and they really had no ideas. So, it was decided that I would simply produce some concepts and we'd take care of it when the time came.

This was a HUGE mistake.

I created concepts for the piece over the course of a week and they absolutely loved it.
They would like to run not one, but two of the ideas.
They asked what they owed me and I gave them my price.
It was 15% of what I would normally charge for such a project (and have in the past).
They went ballistic.

You would think that one of your closest friends would accept your price as fair. That they would know you enough not to think that you were trying to rip them off with your fees.

My friend questioned me “what do you think you are, an ad agency?”
“You only worked a few days on this”

My head started to boil.

Just so I get this straight, if I take all of my work related equipment, my computer etc., and move it from my home office into some fancy office space downtown with a big view of the lake, hire an account person and a secretary, then I can legitimately start to charge gobs of money? How does this change the quality of the work I produced? Besides, my full fee is only a fraction of what they would pay if they actually went through an ad agency, with me hired on as an art director creating the work.

The “it only took you a few days” is the number one thing that drives me insane in this business,
How many years of experience does one need in order to produce something in a few days that would take a less experienced creative over 2 weeks? Clients always ask why I don’t charge for projects by the hour? It’s simple. If I work twice as fast as a junior, should I make less money?
I like to bring up a story that I love (and I tell often) in regards to this matter and it goes like this…

A man and his child are walking through the park one day and they spot Picasso sketching a picture. The man taps Picasso on the shoulder and asks if he would mind sketching his daughter. Picasso agrees and produces a perfect likeness of the girl in a few minutes.
The man, overjoyed, asks Picasso how much he would like for the sketch?
Picasso replies “$25,000”.
The man (angrily) “But that only took you a few minutes”.
Picasso – “no sir, that took me a lifetime.”

We, as ad creatives and designers, own computer equipment worth thousands of dollars, we have software that costs thousands of dollars, we have many years of experience, some of us at large shops working on recognized brands, and forgetting all of this, people seem to think we have magic buttons that say “make it pretty” and the work simply pops out.
With this in their minds, the conceptual direct marketing pieces I produced (that should increase their sales tremendously) should cost nothing more than a few hundred dollars.
Unfortunately, as they mentioned, there’s always somebody out there that would eagerly produce something for this price.
I told my buddy to go find them.
Upon further discussion, it turned out that he assumed since I was his close friend, I would swallow the entire bill anyway.

Here’s a lesson for you that I have written about before, and I (hypocritically, for the last time) did not listen to my own advice.
I don’t care what you are doing or for whom you are doing it, make sure you get the client to sign a proper proposal outlining EXACTLY what you will be giving them and for how much BEFORE you start putting pen to paper.
Be it your best friend, your aunt, even your sibling.
And save yourself the pain of watching close relationships come unglued thanks to a measly 15%.

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