Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lessons I have learned in 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.


Anonymous said...

More haste, less speed.........................................

A Fellow Designer said...

Great year end thoughts...and applicable to start a new year (or one month into the year).

Your advice on bad clients is so true. In 2009, I fired a longtime client, one I've had for many years and who nickel and dimed me the whole time. The final straw was his statement, "Design doesn't matter. No one notices design."

Firing him as a client was very liberating. And because he was one of my largest accounts, firing him also forced me to buckle down with an aggressive marketing plan. It's been well worth the effort.