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Red Flags

Lesson 6 from: Working Successfully with Clients: A Class for Illustrators and Designers

Lisa Congdon

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Lesson Info

6. Red Flags

Lesson Info

Red Flags

Okay, now we're gonna talk about red flags. Are there any concerning red flags about the assignment? So I'm gonna list a few of my favorites, but if you guys or anybody out there has any that they wanna share, I would love to hear what other people's red flags are. So here's a good one. Low pay with promises of exposure, right? We only have $300 to pay you to do this, but we have five million Instagram followers and we'll post your work. And maybe that is appealing to you, but my rule of thumb is if you are an illustrator or photographer or designer or artist, you deserve to be paid for your time, and if they can't afford to pay you, then they need to figure out their budget or not go about asking artists to do work for them. So that's one. Not communicative out of the gates. So they've reached out to you, you've written back, then you have to wait four days for an answer, and then you write them back within 24 hours and then you wait another four days. That's not a good predictor of h...

ow your working relationship's gonna be. Like if out the gates they're poor communicators or it feels like you're not even sure if this thing is still happening or if they're still interested in you, probably going to be like that throughout the working relationship. So pay attention to the initial communication 'cause if it's not very good it might be a red flag that this is a flaky client. Admittance that the project is experimental. So sometimes they'll say we're gonna hire you to do this thing, they're even willing to pay you, and then you get into contract but they admit that the thing, the product, may never get produced, that it has to go through a big approval process, that it may never end up in the world 'cause a lot of times we wanna work on a project because it ends up in a magazine or on a product or out in the world. It's not just, we aren't doing it just for the money, we wanna do it because we want our stuff out in the world. And so sometimes if they admit to you that the thing may never see the light of day, you might still wanna have the experience of doing the project but that might be a deal breaker for you. Doesn't happen very often, but it does happen. Client is not the decision maker. So this happens a lot when you work with an advertising agency or an agency who then works with an actual client. So a lot of times as a photographer or an illustrator or a designer, you'll be contacted by the agency who wants to hire you to do the work for the campaign. Ultimately, maybe Joe or Marie who hired you love your work, they think you're amazing, they love your eye, they love everything about you, and they convince the client that you are the right person for this job, but ultimately they don't get to decide that whatever you're doing is gonna pass muster, right? Or that it's gonna make it or gets approved. Ultimately the client gets to decide. So sometimes these layers of decision making that happen where the client loves you and if everything you do they'd approve, but ultimately they have to take it to a jury of their peers or to a client. That can get really messy and hard. That's why it's really important in your contract, and we'll talk about this soon, to have rounds of revisions or changes stipulated in your contract. That you're not gonna do more than three or four rounds of changes because often times if the client is not the decision maker, well in this case the client is the decision maker, but the person who hired you is not actually the one to decide whether your work gets approved or not, can make things really, really complicated. Client is being really vague and can't give clear art direction. This is a big one and I have a story for you that I'm going to share. So in a little bit I'm gonna talk about bidding on a job because sometimes you'll get an email from folks who say, "We'd love for you to work on this, but." Or, "We're interested in you, can you give us a bid?" But that means they're also reaching out to other people for bids on a job. They want you to quote a price. We'll talk more about that later. I had a situation like that recently. So it was a little weird because it was a big company, they make paper plates, paper cups, usually their designs are super traditional. So she writes to me and she's like, "We would like you to bid on-" I think she gave me the number of designs and how much I would charge for each paper plate design. And the more I thought about it I thought, my work, I can't imagine it on their brand. Like I couldn't see my work on their brand. Their brand is very traditional, my work is not traditional. So red flag right? I asked her, "How do you envision, "I know I haven't made the quote yet, or made the bid, "but I wanna have some questions first. "How do you envision my work landing on your paper plates? "Can you give me some examples of the fork in my portfolio "and how you imagine them being used on this product?" She could not tell me. And she admitted, to me, that she reached out to me because she really like my work and she was really trying, she was new to the company and she was trying to change things up and make their designs more innovative, but ultimately she wasn't gonna be the decision maker. There was some very traditional people in the company who were gonna decide, so this was gonna be a stretch anyway. That even if my bid was accepted and I did the work that the work might not never get produced. So like in some ways this is an example of every red flag that I've talked about already. She wasn't really the decision maker, she couldn't really express to me what she wanted from me, she just happened to like my work, but couldn't necessarily visualize how it would be applied to the product and her company. So I politely, I thanked her for her time and for her interest in me, but I didn't even go to making a quote and bidding on the job because I could predict that this was gonna be a painful experience. As Heather my producer here at CreativeLive says, "Clients who don't know what they want "won't be happy with what you give them." Clients who don't know what they want, won't be happy with what you give them. So it's kind of like if the client can't tell you what they want you to do, can't give you clear art direction from the get-go, you're in for a rocky road potentially. So get clear on art direction and get clear on what it is you're supposed to do before you sign the contract, so that you're walking in to a situation where you're clear and you have some agreed on things. Does that make sense? 'Kay. Pro tip, don't be afraid to ask questions if you aren't sure about something. So it might be a red flag, but it might also be that you haven't asked the right questions. So ask more questions. Especially if you have a funny feeling or something isn't clear. I know it feels like often we're being a nag, or asking too many questions, or being that annoying person, but better to ask more questions up front than to sign a contract and be in a situation later where you're working in a situation where you're like, "Oh, I should of worked this out before." Or, "I should of asked about this." It still happens to me to this day. I'm always, always learning. Also if you're having cold feet keep your own insecurities in check. So sometimes we get cold feet and we want to decline a job and that's because there's too many red flags, or the fee is terrible, or we don't have time, or we're nervous that it's way, way, way too far out of our comfort zone, which is fair. Remember that the client reached out to you because they saw something in your portfolio that they liked and they saw promising. Even if it is out of your comfort zone it always serves you to take the job. I guarantee the learning curve will be worth it. So better to ere on the side of saying yes especially, when all of your other ducks are in a row, than saying no. Remember when you're feeling cold feet, to think about, "Is this because I'm feeling insecure?" Or is this because the client can't really tell me what they want? And discern between those two. If all else fails, sleep on it. So sometimes we wanna immediately say yes to an opportunity because we're so excited somebodies reached out to us, but you definitely wanna gather all the information before you say yes. Even if it's your dream client. Keep your distance, be formal, it's a business relationship, it's a job. Sometimes we wanna say no immediately because something sounds too scary or overwhelming, but you always wanna take the time to detach yourself and consider all your options, ask a lot of questions, and ultimately obviously you get to say no if it doesn't feel like the right fit for you, for whatever reason.

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Ratings and Reviews

Caroline Fidelaire

Great class packed very useful tips for entrepreneurs in illustration and design and great email examples on how to: - respectfully and gratefully communicate with clients in the diverse phases of the production line - negotiate a contract and your fees - how to proceed to bidding for a work contract Lisa is a wonderful speaker. A wonderful class well worth its 3 hours length.

Scavenger Annie

Right from the start of class Lisa offers up her pearls of wisdom. Absolutely jam-packed with information on working with clients, illustration agents & art directors in the commercial world. All very relevant to other careers in the creative realm too, especially when Lisa talks about the language & negotiation of contracts. Clear, concise teaching & my fingers are burning from typing so fast as I made notes! A wonderful class that has motivated me to pursue commercial illustration with my brand Northern Bird Designs. Thank you for the top guidance & inspiration Lisa! Looking forward to the next class on managing workflows.

Neelam Kaur

Lisa has immense knowledge about the industry and she shares the same with Artist Community in the form of Books, E-courses, Workshops. This class is jam-packed with great information which as an Freelance or as an New Illustrator we struggle and feel we had someone to help us understand. And I must say, the Skillshare & CreativeBug Classes other than Creative Live Classes, she focuses it all from an artist standpoint. As a Freelance Illustrator Artist I struggled managing the other aspects of my Art Business which I feel so confident after this class. And most of all I know my worth! Thank you Lisa!

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