Sunday, July 4, 2010

Justice for all

Consultants admonish designers to work with qualified clients—i.e. those who understand that time + expertise are valuable and deserve respect and strong fees. A recent project precipitated a review of qualifications.

Some of this post is more like me talking to myself—a quasi-declaration of independence. You already know this stuff, but here it is anyhoo—for myself and for any recent graduates out there.

Work is noble. In a terrible economy, projects that pay the overhead are beyond noble into the territory of crucial. Work/income=relief. That said, mutual respect for talent, intelligence, time, and expertise are key reasons to work with a particular company or person. At bottom, a client who doesn't or "can't" pay for extras is essentially robbing time and energy. Especially in a bad economy, no one can afford to be robbed of shekels, morale, or interest.

Of course I realize that people respond to confident behavior and that a designer—or anyone providing a service—must learn to lead. Some clients may not be "leadable" or qualified. So, as I continue to position the office for both good times and bad, here are my key criteria for seeking new clients:
—Respectful and energetic collaboration
—Work (content / form) worth doing
—Remuneration that shows regard for expertise and time
—Mutual respect

Why agree to a project?
—The material
—Client is a great collaborator
—Opportunity to learn something if the fee is low (that's low, not nil)
Note: according to a colleague who works in an internship office at a SUNY college, it's illegal to have unpaid interns unless the intern is earning course credits.
If it's a nuts and bolts reason like paying the rent, is there a fair fee? If not, what's the reason to do the project? Learning new software? PR? A good story (war stories don't really count). It's in my power to just say "no"—or to complete the project and move on and out.

Just for fun (OK, to vent!) I might make a sly tip sheet. The qualified clients don't need the tips; the unqualifieds won't get it. Feel free to add your faves.
—Refrain from calling a designer "dear"
—Avoid the phrase "Here's what we want you to do"
—Do not define an adjustment as a "tweak." A tweak is small only to the party requesting said tweak, not to the tweaker.
—Be aware that getting "a kid in your office" or "one of your students" to do something also involves paying said "kid" or "student"


Suzanne Dell'Orto said...

You can have it quick, cheap, or good. Pick two.

Rob L. said...

In my field, I used to see many unpaid interns (or, they would have a $10 lunch stipend...) and it always infuriated me. I worked through a University internship program when I hired interns & I took the time to involve them in productions and teach them. After all, they were *paying* their school to be there!