Thursday, December 10, 2009
Here we are at the end of another year.
What a year.
For the most part, it wasn’t exactly a great one (on so many levels).
The recession hit quite hard, many of my friends suffered (both in the industry and outside of it), some of my clients wouldn’t spend a dime on any form of marketing (even though they really should have), I lost a client (or two) to ridiculously cheap designers, and I had two close deaths in the family (one suddenly) including the loss of my beloved grandfather who was one of my biggest business mentors.
I can’t say I’m sad to see this year over.
At the end of 2007, after my first year of working on my own full-time, I wrote a blog post titled “The year in review and the lessons I learned”
All of these lessons still apply, and here are some more I learned during the great recession of 2009...
The client that says “thanks for the quote. We are getting a few more and will get back to you” will most likely never get back to you.
It seems that if you write a blog post praising somebody in this industry, people will start questioning if you are sleeping with them (I’m still laughing).
If hundreds of fishermen descend on your fishing hole, it’s time to either pack up, try a different bait, or find a new fishing hole.
When they create a movie based on the fact that people have left your industry in droves (see “Lemonade – The Movie"), that’s typically not a good sign.
With that said, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Corny and overused, but still rings true.
Twitter and Facebook are powerful as hell and can lead to amazing opportunities if used correctly.
Don’t worry about snarky, negative idiots on online forums. They are probably huge losers in real life.
A large client that nickels and dimes you (asks for a reduction) on a small invoice is one you should fire immediately.
Get a great paralegal/collection agent working for you. In Toronto, I recommend Jeff Greenberg. For outstanding invoices and the unresponsive deadbeats behind them.
I have said this a dozen times but here it is again… No matter which new client you will work for, get a retainer before you begin any work. If they are serious, they will oblige.
Never act completely taken aback when a woman tells you her age. Especially someone that has brought you in for an interview. Long story.
Know who your friends are. Know which co-workers are on your side. Make sure not to share too much information with those that can easily become your competitors. If they become your competitors, make sure you get them to forget this rule.
Find a great creative partner. Especially if working for ad agencies. I love mine to death (hi Linda) and I’m lucky to have her.
Shake all negative thoughts.
Stop putting up with, and dealing with bad clients and start focusing all your energy into finding some great ones.
Never stop moving forward.
Do not count on anyone that promises you “more work coming”. Sometimes, that could mean “many months from now”. (Go back one)
Stop contributing to design contests and crowdsourcing sites.
Don’t stop reading my rants about design contests and crowdsourcing sites. ☺
This industry (and life) is full of peaks and valleys. Not every year can be a great one. This year was bound to happen after so many great ones.
Life happens when you are making other plans.
Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. (This one’s a favourite to my father).
And (once again)…
Family comes first.
No matter what.
I think to end this year, I should tell my favourite lesson of 2009. An uplifting story about something I witnessed.
I was in Las Vegas for the 40th annual World Series of Poker (in June) and one night I played in a tournament at the famous Golden Nugget casino.
A player got knocked out (by my friend) in the bubble (the last finishing position before entering the payout structure). The poor guy lost miserably with the best hand. Anyone that plays the game knows the horrible feeling of being “the bubble” when you were just within reach of getting paid.
He shook hands with my friend and shuffled slowly out the door with his head down. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He looked so sad.
About 10 minutes later, he came running into the room jumping up and down and gave my buddy the biggest bear hug with the words “thank you for knocking me out of this tournament”.
When he left the room he sat down (to mope) in the first seat he could find outside the doors. It was the seat of a 5-cent slot machine. After a minute or two of shaking off the loss, and figuring he was already in front of the machine, he put in a dollar bill, took one pull, and won the $6,500 jackpot.
Moral of the story, for every yin, there really is a yang.
And just when you think you are in the worst spot (and your luck is horrible) something great may be waiting just beyond the next door.
Goodbye 2009. Bring on 2010.
Have a happy holiday season (whatever you celebrate), and may 2010 be a great year for you and yours.
Monday, December 07, 2009
A few hours ago, I had the pleasure of watching a screening of a movie that I could personally relate to. Lemonade is about what happens when people who were once paid to be creative in advertising are forced to be creative with their own lives.
With so many people working in the advertising industry in this city, I was really amazed at how few came out. I would have bet (especially since the screening was free) that it would have been a packed house yet only around 100 people were in attendance.
At roughly 40 minutes in length, the film was extremely well done. Music, direction, etc., all came together beautifully to tell people’s stories without any unnecessary, boring filler.
It got straight to the point. Everyone got laid-off, got over the hurt and feelings of being unwanted, and moved on after discovering what was truly important in their lives. If you have ever worked in this industry, hell, if you have ever worked in ANY industry, you should be able to relate and it is really worth seeing the film. Many (myself included), left inspired and questioning what would truly make us happy in life?
So now you are probably wondering why I left steaming mad (as my title suggests)?
The organization that sponsored/screened the film (that will remain nameless) made some announcements after it ended. One of these announcements was about an open "website design contest” they will be holding in the near future. The winner of this contest will get $1000.
Just so we all get this straight…an organization that just screened a film moments earlier about creative people being laid off in the ad industry is throwing a contest that de-values the livelihoods of creative people working in the industry.
We all know how I feel about design contests. I could feel the blood boiling in my head. I bit my tongue trying so hard not to explode when the organizer asked if there were any questions?
I decided to confront her when it was over.
I walked up, introduced myself, and flat out asked how an organization can be so hypocritical that they would hold a design contest after screening this film?
Amazingly, her response was “I know, I know” and she tried to explain how they still consider the contest a “good idea”.
I asked her how it’s a good idea? It’s no wonder people are losing their jobs. If every company that needed some creative work decided to hold such a contest (and it seems as if they are), why would anyone ever need to hire an ad agency? I tried to make her understand that what her organization is doing is contributing to the demise of our industry.
She replied with an authoritative “everyone that submits a design will have their link featured on our website”.
This is a classic line that I hear often. It translates into “do all our work for free, and we promise you’ll get a load of business out of it because we know a lot of people”.
Anybody that has been on the freelance side of this industry will tell you that this line is the standard ‘biggest-load-of-crap’ that you will hear often as justification for free work.
There was something one individual (featured in the film) said that stuck with me.
“Companies don’t need to go to an ad agency anymore. There are plenty of people out there that are great at what they do and are not only willing to do the work, they actually love doing it”.
I quoted this line to her. I asked why they won’t consider hiring a great out-of-work designer to build them a website and pay them the $1000? What I got in return was another justification for the contest. “I believe there is room in this industry for both” she replied.
Why is it so difficult to understand that by holding this immoral contest, they aren’t (as they believe) giving an opportunity to recently laid-off creative people. What they are actually doing is taking advantage of their vulnerability.
Lemonade (and those involved in the making of it) - I give you an “A”. I really enjoyed it.
Organization that sponsored the screening - in my books you should really be ashamed. Go through with this contest and you deserve a big fat “F”.
Now, go hire a recently fired creative that can use the money to feed their children.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
On an industry forum, a new spec contest has come to light. Absolut Vodka is holding a creative contest. The winner gets a whopping $500.
$500 from a company that makes millions. Less than the janitor probably makes per week mopping the floors at their corporate headquarters.
Somebody excitedly posted the link (I've changed the name to indicate my true feelings)...
Absolut Bullshit Contest
Those that follow me know how I stand on this subject. But somebody in the industry wrote a response to me on the forum voicing my disapproval…
“This one wouldn't be bad practice for someone with little to no experience in the real world + you get to work on an Absolut Brief so it's not all bad.”
Here’s my response…
It's all bad. How does anyone get into the real world when the real world is the fact that Absolut (and all the others that do these demeaning contests) are taking work away from their agencies? No work = no agency. By contributing to these contests, what you are in fact telling these corporations is that we work for free. Our education means nothing, our money invested means nothing, our time means nothing.
Go call 20 dentists, have them all pitch to whiten your teeth, and tell them that the winner may get a long term client. "May" being the correct word. Or 10 mechanics can try and fix your car, and whoever succeeds, "may" get paid.
In every industry, they will tell you straight out to fuck off (I believe using profanity is appropriate in this situation).
In ours, the majority of us don't do a damn thing. Except for a select few (and don't think we don't rat these companies out to design organizations who in turn, write and bombard them with tastefully crafted nastiness), we continuously (as an industry) take it right up the ass.
And what's absolutely amazing is that many of us take it with a smile on our face.
I'm going to write Absolut and tell them to send over a dozen crates of different flavoured Vodkas.
If my friends and I have a great time (over the course of around a month), I will be sure to "mention their name" as a winner in my books on Facebook and Twitter. I'll even pay them a little something for their trouble.
Absolut: Please make sure you ring the doorbell when you deliver.
For more info on this subject, please visit
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I asked him about the curriculum and what he told me left my mouth hanging open.
They are teaching old school methodology. Concept driven drivel on generic products that have been done to death year after year since the late eighties. How original…lets create a new print concept for a hot sauce. It doesn’t matter that 30,000 before you also have an ad like this in their book, or that agencies (in the past) have won numerous awards for this client. You are sure to one-up them.
I asked the student about interactive and what courses he was taking?
I asked him about social media and what they have touched on?
“This is the problem” he stated. “I don’t think they are preparing us for what we need to succeed in this industry”.
He is right. Advertising today is not about creating a billboard for a hot sauce. Advertising today is about creating what is right for the client. And every one of them is different. If the client is best served by an ad campaign on a social networking site, then you do an ad campaign that will be successful on a social networking site.
They aren’t touching on web design programs? Not even one day on the basics?
Nearly every creative want-ad in the careers section of industry magazines (in today’s market) wants an interactive art director.
Many schools need to wake up and stop taking student’s money with the false promise of careers in this industry. The curriculum needs to be updated every few years with a focus of what is new and what is coming. Not what was and is now going.
According to this student, the instructors also persuade them to take on spec work for clients to help build their portfolios. This is not the first time I have heard this. In a recent comment on one of my past blog posts, the writer states…
“What really frustrated me was how the teachers at my school would encourage us to take jobs from "good clients" at a ridiculous price to "make our names". I think our teachers weren't aware that it didn't work like that anymore”.
To sum up, what I have seen (time and time again) in meeting with graduating students is that many schools are taking their money, the instructors are tired designosaurs teaching what they knew back when they were at the heights of their careers (decades ago), and they are instilling in these kids a low sense of self-worth. The very people that are supposed to be preparing their students for a successful career in this industry are contributing to the demise and immorality that has taken over through spec work, contribution to contests, and working for little to no money with the hope that somebody may take notice down the road.
If I were to teach (and I have thought of doing this many times), my course would focus on real world business preparation. Many end up freelancing (in one form or another) so I would teach them the basics. How to write a proper proposal. How to create a proper contract and invoice. How to prepare for taxes. Things that hold up in this business. I would prepare students for the real world. No sugar coating. I’d even give a lesson on how to collect from a deadbeat client. If I was to have them work on a client, I’d pick some obscure start-up and have them start from the bottom up.
The last thing I would have them do is create an ad for a generic client, in a tired medium, and tell them to get out there and sell themselves short. If you’re going to teach concepts, make the students adapt their work into executions for different mediums available in today’s world. The ad for hot sauce should not just be a billboard, it should also be applied into some form of a promotion utilizing the internet. It should involve different applications and mediums for a complete execution.
Students, research the school you choose. Research how many graduates got hired in their respective field. Research the backgrounds of the instructors. Where do they stand in the industry right now? Choose your school the same way you would choose your spouse.
Because before you know it, the only thing you’ll be able to do with that hot sauce ad is identify the product easily in the supermarket.
Until next time, keep dreaming.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Recently, I was asked who has had the greatest impact on my career?
Over the years, I have worked with some great and talented people, I’ve learned a lot from several of them, but I don’t think I can really name one person in the workplace that took me completely under their wing. Pondering the question, what I came to realize is that one of my main mentors is actually somebody in this business that I consider a friend. I haven’t worked with her at all. I’ve only met her face-to-face a few times but we’ve just had some great chats over the years and I’ve listened…to EVERYTHING she has to say.
What I learned a long time ago is that this business is not just about the work you create, but also about making the right connections and contacts. Whom you rub shoulders with can be as important to your career as your book. As I have mentioned in past articles, I have found full-time agency work by chatting up Creative Directors at an industry function with a glass of Scotch in my hand.
Social Marketing takes this networking to a whole new level. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. are like being at the cocktail party or award show reception 24/7.
You can introduce yourself to anybody. You can follow their words. You can have many mentors and follow many people.
I have no idea how and when I met Heidi Ehlers, but I knew from the moment I met her that this was one person I would stick close to the rest of my life. In the world of advertising and design (especially in North America), Heidi may possibly be the most important and knowledgable person you could ever know. A former creative herself, Heidi is the owner of BLACK BAG creative recruitment + career management. She’s not just a headhunter, she is THE headhunter. BLACK BAG is about creative talent. Finding creative talent, strategizing careers with creatives, studying what causes the best creative talent to be the best and what causes the hot shops to be hot.
I could go on about her “Diary of a Creative Director” series or “Camp Black Bag” workshops. I could write endless paragraphs about how inspiring she is when listening to her speak, or how many times she has been able to steer me in the right direction. But I will simply end this post with two little words of advice...
If I could only have one mentor in this world, or if I could follow just one person that I believe would be the greatest asset to my career, it would be Heidi.
I think you should be listening too.
On FACEBOOK: BLACK BAG creative recruitment + career management
On TWITTER: BLACKBAGtweets
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Hi Ronnie. We would like to use your creative services but we would like to see some ideas and concepts before we give you the go ahead.
Sure. And since you are a Dental office (and I'm already here), lets go into the next room so you can whiten my teeth. If I like the results, maybe I'll agree to pay you.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Around a year ago, I was busy putting together a new guerilla marketing company that I believe is fantastic for trade shows and on-the-street product giveaways. In today’s digital world, anything on the street and in the public’s face is great exposure and my company sure does draw attention.
Bald models heads are airbrushed with a company brand, product or service and are unleashed on the unsuspecting general public. Imagine 5 guys walking through a packed shopping mall during the holiday season or handing out product samples at a trade show. People can’t help but look. It only makes sense that my company’s slogan is “heads that turn heads.”
Unfortunately, while I was putting it all together, an advertising agency in New Zealand came up with basically the exact concept for a client, it made some news, and I had proof the idea had potential and I should launch the company. To top it off, a media journalist saw my ad online (searching for the models) and decided that it was an interesting story that simply couldn’t wait to be told. I had no choice but to work through the weekend and get everything ready for its Monday release.
The story broke and the phone started to ring. I had 3 gigs booked right out of the starting gate. I figured my company was going full steam ahead. That’s basically when the economy tanked and the projects quickly got pulled because the clients began to “trim the fat”. Bald Media was simply an extra touch. All the “extras” started getting cut out of the budgets from worried corporations.
I have several friends in the staffing and event planning industry and they saw the same thing with their businesses this year.
So I decided to stop focusing on promoting the company, and figured I would lay low only to launch again when the time was right.Bald Media will get a company or message noticed. Especially to large captive audiences. It is not only a fact, it is guaranteed.
The procedure of application is also a crowd pleaser. Having the airbrush artist on-site at an event is an advantage as people will gather around to watch the logo/message being applied. In today’s world of limited attention spans, it is guerilla marketing at its finest. With over 25 models of different ethnicities in my roster, I’m always ready to go.
I teamed up recently with my airbrush artist and decided to do a test street run. We wanted to see what would happen and the timeframe involved in the application process. Since it’s my company and I shave my head, it only made sense that I would be the guinea pig.
We did two artistic versions. One, a company logo for a potential client for the upcoming Canadian Poker Expo ("The Maven" David Chicotsky...who has an online poker training institute), and the other, a generic application for Bald Media.
Upon walking out the door and into the street, the results were unbelievable. I literally stopped traffic as cars slowed down to look at me. I had the airbrush artist grab the video camera and run way down the street to capture the reactions and results for posterity.
If it could generate this kind of response within minutes of being outside on a moderately quiet street, I can only imagine the exposure possibilities for a corporate brand in the right setting.
To watch the application video and street test run, please visit the site…
or on YouTube
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
In my last blog post, I announced that it is time to Abandon Ship.
This did not mean that we should flee the industry, it meant that we need to abandon what we have done in the past and move forward in a new direction.
The design/ad freelance world as we knew it has changed. It is no longer about designing a logo and a fancy business card or producing an ad for your client. It is about offering them the best solution for their business, whatever it may be. A direct mail piece combined with social media or an outdoor billboard with a mobile promotional code, the freelance creative moving forward, needs to think and produce on a much larger scale. The way companies attract clients in the technological world of today has quickly changed.
With this in mind, I am no longer labeling myself as just a creative “freelancer”. I am a creative “brand builder”. In today’s world, if you want to work small and on your own, you need to get over the idea that you alone can offer your client everything they need to grow their business, and you sometimes need to outsource.
Growing up, I watched the older generation (in my life) do multi-million dollar deals on the golf course. They were strictly middle-men. They brought this guy together with that guy and got a piece of the action. I believe that in order to continue working as a freelance creative, we have to follow this route.
If my client needs SEO (Search Engine Optimization), I know somebody who I can bring on board to provide this service. If they need a TV or Radio commercial, I have people in place for that too. And I’m going to make sure that every one of these contacts will give me a piece of the pie for making the connection and bringing them the business.
Going forward, I will continue to do what I love best. Designing logos and creating ads, but I offer my clients more than that. This is what separates me from many “professional” creatives out there. When I am hired, I offer my clients consultation on what they should do (moving forward) to grow their brand. They hire me for my knowledge of the industry and the solutions that are available to them.
Using the same principle I have just described, I have a job offer for anybody that is interested.
Do whatever you like to do every day. Look for a job, paint your house, or spend more time with your kids. I’m offering each and every one out there a chance to make some money. And the best part, you don’t have to do much.
Bring me a client that wants to creatively brand their business and I will give you 15% of whatever profit I bring in. They need a logo? 15%. They need a magazine print ad? 15%. The bigger the project, the more money you will make.
Now here’s the best part…you make the connection, go off and do whatever you want (or even better, go find the next client), and if that client continues to use my creative services, I will continue paying you 15% of all future profit. Find me 3 large clients that are tired of paying over-inflated agency fees, and you may not even have to work this year. I have a rolodex full of freelance professionals in different areas of the industry that can be brought in (as needed) and the sky is the limit as to what we can offer.
I am offering you the position of a commission-based “virtual account executive”.
And everybody and their grandmother can do this job.
Go to a cocktail party and find out that the person you just met needs a new identity for their start-up company?
Go on vacation and find out that the resort changed owners and is looking to advertise?
My strategy is this. Why be a creative person who’s always busy looking for the next project when I can focus on working creatively and have thousands of people out there looking for my next project?
While you are out there looking, I’ll be doing the same. Sending clients that I can’t service on my own to others with which I have partnerships.
Everybody in the circle moving together as one large machine.
This is the future of freelancing.
Who’s on board?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
- Bob Dylan
It has been a whirlwind of a week.
My blog post about the changing of the design industry "we have become cheap whores" has racked up the hits. Never could I have imagined this outcome when I wrote it.
I’d like to thank ISTOCK for their amazing timing this week. They almost single-handedly proved my entire point.
All the comments, forwarding of the article, tweets, and emails have been much appreciated.
So now what? As the song lyrics above say, it’s time to sink or swim.
With anything you need a game plan. You have to lay out the next course of action.
So I’ve begun doing so. Yesterday I met with an old friend of mine. We used to be DJs together way back when music was new and not “Old School” (as it is called today).
His internet company just made an impressive showing on “Profit” Magazine’s top 50 list, and I figured we should sit down together to discuss what is happening in the future of communications. What he showed me in our 2 hour meeting blew my mind and I feel like the days where I hosted a BBS site from my Commodore 64 should be included in the technological dark-ages.
Hopefully, you will follow along with me as I explore new tactics and options. I have places to go, people to meet, and things I must do in this industry and as my buddy instructed me, the first step is to sign up on “Twitter”. I’ve been avoiding it like the plague but if the guy who is considered a leader in online communications is telling me to start there, I’m listening.
Hopefully you will follow along.
Come Monday I’m jumping in head first. The ship as I knew it (and many on it) is going down.
Swim with me.
Have a great weekend.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
For those of you that have been following me, you may have noticed that I haven’t written in months. I’ve been extremely busy. Not so much in the industry (and workwise), but with life.
I have traveled extensively this year. I had family affairs on 2 different sides of the world, I got sponsored and played against the top pros in the World Series of Poker (and made a final table in a large casino tournament while I was there), and I was a guide to 8 men on a canoe trip to North Ontario.
The list goes on.
My point to this is that I had a LOT of time to think. About my place in this industry, about the future of this industry, about what I want to do for the next 10 years.
This week, I turned 40. A milestone. The age where I’m (supposedly) going into my top income bracket yet here we are in the middle of a deep recession. Work has been relatively slow. Friends in this industry have been crying to me. Clients have feared spending money, and all the unemployed have been whoring their services as freelancers.
Yes, that’s right. I said it. Never in all my years have I seen the competition so fierce. Never have I seen people give their services away for so little.
I recently had a client tell me that they found someone to do their monthly direct mail/postcards for $20. The worst part is that this client asked me if I could beat that price (and this is a client that makes over $20k+ in commission per sale).
Are you seriously kidding me? Can I beat $20? Needless to say, I walked away. Quickly.
Our profession has become tainted in the eyes of many thanks to $20 designers who pump out crap with pirated versions of design software.
To an uneducated client, we are all simply Mac Monkeys. To their understanding, what we do is relatively easy. Crowd-sourcing sites, $99 logos for sale, and design/advertising "contests" have quickly cheapened this once-great artistic profession. “I don’t need to pay for one professional, I can hold a contest, and pick a winner from thousands of entry submissions”.
I got into this profession after growing up with Mad Men. I’m not talking about the hit TV show but those same people they portray. I wanted the single-malt scotch in my hand at 4:00pm while I wristed up a concept at my drafting table (and believe me, I experienced this at more than one agency). I sketched naked models for years just so I could nail a pose correctly. I then went to art school for 4 long years and did it some more. You had to be a trained artist to get into this business. I penned an article years ago about my ode to my dying craft entitled “I love the smell of rubber cement in the morning”.
Times changed when the computer came into play. For better and worse. It did however, allow me to land where I am at this very moment, working from a home office.
With the Blackberry, my business changed even more.
I have taken advantage of all the freedom freelancing has to offer. I walk my kids to school in the mornings, I take vacations whenever I want, I go grocery shopping in the afternoon, and all the while, I’m connected to clients, potential clients, project notifications, and my entire virtual office thanks to the little mobile device attached to my belt.
Looking for work and pitching for projects has become a little too easy.
Many design schools became businesses. It’s not so much about the craft anymore, it’s about how many “professionals” they can churn out. Once these “pros” come out, they look for work. Any work. Competing like rabid stray dogs over scraps on a bone.
Name me one single industry where somebody can simply buy some software, hang up a sign, and call themselves a professional without any prior training or work experience? I see it in our industry every single day. And to many businesses and their owners in today’s economy, we are a dime a dozen.
Recently, I got notified from a freelance work site regarding this listing…
The graphic designer will be responsible for the conceptual and creative design for a variety of marketing pieces including: permanent and temporary display renderings and concepts, posters, POP material, on-line advertising, tradeshows, newspaper and magazine advertising, among other printed applications. The graphic designer will also be responsible for some project management responsibilities.
•Develop and design concepts and renderings ( 2D & 3D) as per client request
•Manage multiple ongoing projects with frequent and tight deadlines.
•Work closely with various personnel to complete and manage a project through to completion.
•Strong at conceptualizing, a problem-solver, and creative presenter, coupled with excellent written and oral communication skills.
•Superior understanding of print processes, pre-flight management, and burning files for archiving and distribution
•Must be a quick-thinking, decisive and resourceful team player with the ability to distinguish good design from mediocre.
•Strong organizational/time management skills and ability to understand client needs.
•Succeed and thrive in a highly business/creative environment and take constructive/corrective criticism well
•University degree/College diploma in graphic/industrial design
•1-3 years of design experience
•Proficient in a MAC and PC environment
•Proficient in 3D software a MUST.
•Strong knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite - Illustrator, In-Design, Acrobat/Distiller, Photoshop
Okay, are you ready for this?
Seriously, are you ready?
You may want to brace yourself.
Pay is $2.00 an hour.
No, there aren’t any zeros missing.
Once again, a University degree, 1-3 years of experience, all those requirements (including extensive knowledge in 3D software), and this complete asshole believes that $2.00 an hour is an acceptable pay rate.
I could make more than that by humming into a kazoo in the subway station for 10 minutes.
This job is not in India, it’s not in some third world country. It’s right here, smack dab in Toronto, Canada.
I was furious. I answered the employer in the project question board with the following...
“I believe you have entered the pay field incorrectly as $2/hour is an illegal wage in the province of Ontario”.
What happened next made my blood boil. I was immediately banned from the question board on the website for “derogatory and/or sarcastic comments”.
I wrote an email asking the site how I could be banned for bringing up the legalities of the situation? They responded with the following…
“Regarding the amount posted for this project - as this is a global marketplace, there may be professionals willing to complete this project. Cost of living, and therefore pricing, varies across the globe. While project amounts of $250 or $300 may not seem like much to you, it may be the equivalent of $1000 or more in another country. Also, someone just starting their freelance career may be willing to complete this project. As long as there are professionals willing to complete the project, we do not intend to deny them the work. We certainly cannot force the entire community to abide by the standards of one group or another.”
Seeing as this is a job which appears to be on-site work in Toronto, I replied back, stating the legalities again and that it appears the site has no problem making money on illegal business practices and slave labour.
I quickly got my privileges back.
It is time to take a stand to save this industry. How? I don’t know. We never had standards or set pricing guidelines. We never had a union and for the most part, we have too many out there that are hungry.
The first step would be to stop contributing to Crowdsourcing sites and “Contests” promising us fame and fortune based on our winning designs. They are simply taking advantage of us, our talent, our thousands of dollars in software and equipment, and they de-value what we do for a living.
As the site replied, “As long as there are professionals willing to complete the project, we do not intend to deny them the work”.
We must stop being willing to do the work.
The next step is to start educating our clients. Make them understand that conducting research on their company, conceptualizing and producing an effective look/brand for it (and all the other associated materials etc.) should not cost less than the 2 uneducated guys nailing new shingles on the roof of their house.
Branding a new business and unleashing it into the marketplace should not cost less than a new set of brakes on one’s car.
Until we can get this through their head, we are going to see many more ads seeking trained professionals for these pitiful wages. We are going to see the profession we love become something that just isn’t worth doing anymore.
Going back to my beginning, what do I want to do in the next 10 years? Besides working creatively, I want to make some changes. Stay on top of these things. I want to see all of us getting paid what we are worth.
I don’t know how to go about doing this, I don’t even think it can be done. I just know it HAS to be done.
Because as I type this last sentence, there are now 5 proposals from qualified designers for the $2.00/hour position.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
2009 is the year of the start-up. Or so it has seemed by the numerous requests for corporate identities that I have received this year. Many recently laid-off people seem to be skipping the job hunt and opening shop instead. For years I have had a minimum rate for logo design projects. This year as well, only I have lost several projects to starving designers now offering bargain basement pricing and the growth of “crowdsourcing” sites.
I thought long and hard about this problem and the question that kept nagging me. How can I sweeten my proposals to ensure I win them? Was I willing to take a pay cut? Sure, if I had some help.
The idea hit me one day like a load of bricks. I even had a name for it.
Offer 2 professional designers for the price of one. Even better, I’ll offer the client 3.
I emailed two very professional and seasoned freelancers I know, Brad Choma and Denny Kurien, with the invitation to meet over breakfast.
I shared my idea with them, we discussed it for 2 hours, and left with a partnership.
The “Out of our minds” promotion was born.
Working together, yet separately, we are offering a unique promotion to any start-up for the duration of 2009.
3 professionals working independently on the look of your brand, for roughly the same price you would typically pay for one.
We will share the final concepts with each other and polish them as a team before presenting the client with 6 finished identities to choose from.
Unlike the Crowd-sourcing sites that can see thousands of amateur designers competing by submitting logos in the hopes of having their design selected, “Out of our minds” is unique as it immediately brings 3 extremely seasoned professionals to the table. The client doesn’t have to spend weeks going through thousands of entries in the hope that one stands out.
We research our client’s business. We speak to them directly and we’ve all been working on some of the world’s most recognized brands for a very long time. Anybody starting a business has to have a strong identity in today’s market. They need a look that stands out from the crowd. We’ve just made getting one not only much easier, we’ve made it extremely cost-effective.
3 Professionals, 6 concepts, one low set price.
$2009 during 2009.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I figured, if I’m going to be in an industry where there is no sense of job security, I may as well be a free agent. I already had experience from working full time for almost 10 years, and I also understood how to sell to clients having been in many boardrooms. So, it only made sense to me to go out and find my own clients and stop relying on “here-today and gone-tomorrow” agencies to provide me with a paycheck. I guess you can say that I came to the conclusion that nobody ever really gets rich working for somebody else*.
Flash forward to today.
I’ve been writing articles about my freelancing experiences for several years now and contributed to this blog where I have continuously stressed the fact that this economic storm was coming. Of course, there are many in the industry that thumb their noses at freelancers and consider them not only unworthy, but as those that simply couldn’t “make it”.
My how the times have once again changed.
In the last month, I have received so many emails asking for freelancing advice that truthfully, I am actually starting to despise them. People losing their jobs, people about to lose their jobs. Many scared individuals wondering if becoming a freelancer is also their best and only option? Somehow, I have become the expert that everyone is turning to and I thank you all for it. I truly appreciate the fact that I have become a considered expert in an area of this industry. However, you can kind of understand that I would rather these “freelance” emails come from agencies and companies looking for my services than from those that will end up out on the street as my competition.
So, for those of you now in this boat (or thinking about it), I’m going to (once again) be a nice guy and offer a few bits of advice.
Some agencies do in fact need freelancers at the moment. I am working for one in particular that has kept me very busy. However, the agencies that are thinking about firing staff will keep on a few to handle the work/clients they still have. They don’t need you right now. They may need a freelancer at a later date when things start to pick up. But probably not at this very moment.
My guess is that they are also being inundated with calls from those recently laid off. If you are not already on their roster, you may want to forget this route. You can put your name on their list. But there are a hundred others on it as well. Very rarely do I call agencies looking for work. Most often, they find me.
The one question I get asked the most is “what should I charge”?
There are a dozen factors to take into consideration. What’s your level of seniority? What will you be working on? Which agency/company? Etc. Etc. Etc. I like to find out immediately what their budget is for my services. It changes often. If you are hoping for a set rate/price, and are unwilling to budge, you won’t be working much.
Companies (if they are smart) MUST advertise right now. Your mission is to find them and convince them of this. This is in fact a full time job.
The most important thing I can tell you is this…NOTHING in this business is overnight. If you get a client interested in your services, expect at least 6 weeks (or more) before something is signed and you begin. To put this into perspective, I’ve had a few proposals out since August and I am still waiting to hear if I have a go-ahead. Waiting is absolutely normal. In the meantime, keep going. Keep looking. The proposal you have out there has more of a chance of not going ahead than proceeding. So try and put many out there. I like to equate this to fishing. Keep throwing out baited lines. The more lines you have out there the better your chances. Eventually, one of them has to land a fish. The fisherman that relies on only one rod is going to starve.
Also, keep in mind that once you finish the project, expect 30-90 days before you receive final payment. If you need some immediate cash, insist on a retainer. In all my years I have NEVER received a retainer from an agency. With other clients I insist.
There will be months where nothing happens. If you can’t handle this fact, freelancing is not for you. It took me years to finally understand this. Please read my blog post “Recharging your Batteries”. Develop a serious hobby. You’ll need it. It will help take away from the stress of having nothing going on and hopefully to help find some new contacts. I hand out many business cards on the golf course and at the poker tables. Sometimes these introductions work out, often they don’t. But one thing is certain, you must ALWAYS be selling yourself. If you are shy, or are not good at striking up conversations with strangers, get over this hurdle quickly.
And last, some of us have been preparing for this for quite some time. Think it’s coincidence that some of this industry’s top people evacuated their posts to start up their own companies? Rather than slamming them in the industry forums for having the massive kahonas to take such a leap, you really should have been paying attention to the fact that the rats were fleeing the ships.
Becoming a freelancer is exactly like starting a business. It may take months and even years to get the ball rolling and keep a continuous supply of eggs in your basket. Sometimes, no matter how good the last year was, you will be back to square one and must find new eggs to fill up your basket. It can be extremely rewarding. It can also be a very rough ride.
For those of you thrown recently into the unemployment pool, I’m going to tell you straight out how it is for I have NEVER sugar-coated the truth. Many of you are going to drown. Prepare your game plans. I lost a lot of friends (in this industry) in the last economic downturn.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that when all of this blows over, when things start to really pick up again, there will be jobs that need filling.
In the meantime, I thank you all for your emails and leave you with this final statement as we head into a long downward slide…
Every man for himself.
*This statement does not include those that originally joined a start-up company called “Google”.