Monday, March 01, 2010

NEVER give up.

It is the first day of March and this is technically my first real blog post of 2010.

I have just had the busiest 2 months of my freelance career.

Like many in this industry, 2009 was a waiting game. It was the equivalent of fishing on a lake with a million other fishermen and no fish to be found.

For over 6 months I pushed, and schmoozed, and made endless phone calls, and typed hundreds of emails, and sent out dozens upon dozens of proposals, the entire time waiting for something to come through. I would have killed for just one bite. I had a lot of bait out there, and it was a waiting game for a strike on one of my lines.

In the meantime, I wrote for creative outlet. I complained about the state of the industry, crowdsourcing sites, stock photography sites selling logos, cheap designers, and everything else that was disgusting me in relation to what was horribly altering this great profession. I got contacted and gave interviews based on these posts, I kept busy, and no matter what, I always kept at it. I constantly threw out new bait and wondered when and if it would eventually pay off?

At the beginning of January, I decided to join my family in Florida for a week on the beach. After all, nobody was signing any of my proposals and nothing was lined up. I had nothing but free time. I was exhausted from plugging. I needed a bit of R&R.

Miraculously, the second my airline tickets were bought and confirmed, every fishing line started screaming.

Everything I was waiting for, everything I had put in motion over 6 months in 2009, hit at once.

I marveled at all the retainers and signed proposals coming in and left for Florida that week with nothing but a sketchbook in my carry-on luggage. I had that sketchbook with me throughout the trip. Scribbling ideas and concepts on the beach, at the pool, at breakfast, and even once while deep-sea fishing.

Unlike any other point in my career, I had to create a work calendar and schedule all the projects into hours for the month.

There were some late nights. There was some head spinning. But I managed to get it all completed to the required deadlines.

This is what I have worked on in the last 6 weeks…

Ad concepts (and much more) for a software client in New York city.

Advertising (and re-branding) for a national bank (working as a senior Art Director through an ad agency).

A logo for an online music store.

A logo for an online music forum.

A logo and business cards for an interior design company.

A complete company identity/branding for another.

Ad concepts for a large consulting firm.

A direct mail piece for a Podiatrist.

A direct mail piece for a high-end fashion client.

A brochure for a security company.

A website for a poker tournament.

B2B ads/spec sheets (for new products) for a leading worldwide electronics company.


I also got called into interviews for several full-time and freelance senior positions during this period. I had to turn down several other projects that didn’t match my skill set. One of which was lead programmer for the world’s most popular online poker site. That contract would have been very lucrative.

The highlight of the entire scope of work was when I was contacted and hired by a company based on my online rants against Crowdsourcing sites.

This company originally had an online contest and received hundreds of submissions resulting in nothing that was good enough to be used. In fact, the submissions were absolute dreck. I was hired to give them an identity they could be proud of. I came through (they liked all 3 concepts) and it will be launched in the near future. There is now one company out there that understands that if you think it is expensive to hire a professional, wait until you give your project to an amateur (or in this case, hundreds of them). You WILL most often get what you pay for.

My point to this post is not to boast but to inspire. To be honest, I am right back to square one. All of the projects are practically completed and I am now back to throwing baited lines into the water.

The point is to keep plugging. Keep fishing. Don’t give up. EVER. It may seem like nothing is happening but all of your hard work is setting the wheels in motion. It may seem like everything is hopeless and redundant but eventually, you WILL get a strike on one of your lines. So keep throwing out lines.

And of course, when all else fails, book a much-needed vacation.


Unknown said...

Monsieur Lebow,

I for one have followed those rants of yours for the past year and admired your conviction and passion. Especially for someone in perhaps, the more vulnerable position of freelance. I've never had the balls to go freelance for the very reasons you scribed below and for that too, I bow to your resolve. Great post. Great story. And you sound like a great guy. Congrat's on your getting your just deserts.

love craig

Eric Gall said...

Hey Ron,

My 2009 was a lot like yours. First six months (apart from a good April): crickets. Then, starting with one client who kept me busy (well, busy enough) all summer (and a couple of one-offs), things started to take off in the fall. By the time the holidays rolled around, I was ready for a couple of weeks off. And then, out of nowhere, 2 jobs landed in my lap. So I was busy right up to the wire. The new year has continued at a constant clip. Like you, I've been too busy to Blog. I think it may be time to wind down my facebook group ("This Recession is OVER!") ...sure feels like it is, in Canada anyway.
Long may things continue this way!

Teri said...

Interesting that you should talk about stock photography. Its going to a stage where you don't even need to be a photographer to be a photographer. And what happens to all the great work of the great?
Well, we thought the same as you, and opened up
Good work, is good work. Lets not get to a stage where its no longer valued.

Ronnie LEBOW said...

I don't have a problem with Stock photography sites. I have a problem with stock sites selling logos for $199 like clip art.

One thing I forgot to mention in the article is that I stuck to my guns in the majority of my pricing. The clients that finally signed with me are of a much better calibre than those I would have had if I lowered my fees to simply compete

Unknown said...

I also am glad you are busy. The fall for me was bad, especially since the photography for a couple of nice jobs was taken from my client, forcing them to work with someone who quoted 30% less,....a 'friend of the client' referral. All seems to be back to normal again and getting busy. Like the world is ok again. Ron Elmy

Teri said...

Never under estimate your value. What's good, is good and stick by it.

Creative Beard said...

Yes, whenever things get slow, plan a works every time!

2009 was a nightmare. I compromised my rates and overbooked myself because of it. After working so many long hours (it seemed Mon - Wed were 7am - 2am for close to 6 mos) and barely supplementing my income, I found myself not invested in the process anymore. I started to worry that perhaps my fire for design had fizzled out. Something had to change...

So far so good in 2010! I'm stepping up my approach and really going after the clients I want. Sure I've lost a lot of potential clients to the lowest bid (i.e. - "my friends brother-in-law" and crowd sourcing sites), but the ones I've gained are so much greater and likely in it for the long haul. I've made my clients understand that design is not a commodity and that they are in essence buying ME and MY process. The best thing: My passion has returned to an unparalleled degree.

It's gets hard, damn near impossible sometimes, but Ronnie you're absolutely right: Stick with it! Brighter days are on the horizon.

Thanks for the post.

Unknown said...

Hey Ronnie,

Glad to hear that your efforts paid off. I am a firm believer, and have been telling my clients and friends for the past year - that Marketing matters. Even in the midst of a slow economy or recession, you absolutely have to continue with your marketing efforts. Continue to keep your name out there. I've told people that when the economy recovers and clients have new budgets and money to spend - they will remember the people who have been consistent in their marketing efforts.

I hope more work starts to come your way. Thanks for your posts and for having a passion about what you do.

Josh Miller