on freelancing, or simply, designing for others

One of the things I have had trouble handling is a suboptimal client[1] experience. I try to remind myself these things before signing-up for a new project.

short:

Just one rule, if you hire me as your creative, trust me. [2]

long:

These are the questions I try to get answered with the right reasons before proceeding.

What do you want me to do for you? Figure out if there is some actual thinking involved in the project, not just pixel monkeying. Sure, I know how to use Photoshop, good question, but so does the 13 year old manipulating her mirror self-shots. Clients: Keep in mind the person you are hiring is likely competent. Trying to micromanage every creative decision defeats the purpose. You might as well do it yourself. NO ONE is working for you as a “pixel monkey.”

How long do we have to do it? For some reason, the true time is the estimate x2. That’s just the nature of iterations and that’s cool. But on a bad project… It drags on and on and on. Beware of anyone who thinks “more is more.” Set a deadline and discuss what happens if it takes longer than planned. Clients: You want this result fast? A competent freelancer will make it happen. That’s why we ask about timelines. If you’re equating fast to sloppy, don’t bother dragging the experienced creative in. Hire the 13 year old.

But most importantly: Do you like my style? A surprising amount of individuals supposedly hire based on portfolio and yet, with one critique from a third party, suddenly decide it should “look like Apple.” Not even the most patient take this well. This one is hardest to safeguard. Bring it up, but put in the eject button in case the project target suddenly shifts. Get paid for what you did do and move on. Clients: Why did you hire this person? And is your conviction in your own product so weak that someone else’s one opinion shines over your entire vision?

finally:

I apologize to everyone who’s given me a fantastic freelancing experience. This is post is advice I wish I could give my past self, advice I try to give new(er) freelancers, and solidified resolution to stand my ground in the future.

~

  1. Client used liberally. This easily applies to school organizations, favors for “friends”, or cheap labor styled internships. An unfortunate slew of things young designers and artists put up with.

  2. The legendary story about Pablo Picasso’s one stroke portrait sums up why you should trust your hired creative gun. It’s in the experience.