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.