What to Look for in an Assignment
Now we're gonna talk about a different example, but we're gonna talk more about what to expect when a potential assignment or opportunity lands in your inbox. New example of an outreach email here. My name is Suzanne Jones, I'm the Creative Director and- Oh that should say at ABC Dishware. See there's a typo and that's also true. The client emails will realistically have typos, we are all human. We are interested in having you create a collection of dishware for out Fall 2019 line. If you aren't already familiar, ABC Dishware is a nationally recognized affordable brand, available in stores like Target and Nordstrom and in independent gift shops around the country. We think your aesthetic and quirky sense of design will be the perfect fit. If you are interest in this project, which would begin in about three weeks and take about six weeks to complete, please let me know by Friday and we can discuss fees and terms. In the meantime, also please let me know if you have any questions. Best ...
regards, Suzanne. Okay, so you actually have a bit of information here, don't you? But there's still not enough to say yes. So generally, at a minimum, you'll get the person introducing themselves and the company, a general sense of the project or collaboration that they're interested in working with you on, and a request for you to respond about your interest. Sometimes that's all you get. So that you'll have to 95% of the time ask a few question, okay? So now we're gonna talk about how to respond to an initial inquiry. First of all, going back to our rule of thumb, you always wanna respond within 24 hours, unless it's the weekend, okay. Before you respond, you wanna read the email carefully and gather the information they offer. And sometimes that email's gonna be long, like longer than the one we just read from Suzanne. Sometimes it's literally like shorter than the one from Dante and sometimes it's so long that you have to read it four times because they literally have given you the creative brief in the initial email. I got a email the other day from a publisher about book cover and it was a pretty quick turnaround time, which is probably why she gave me all the information up front. Normally, they'll gauge your interest and then send you all the details, but she put them all in the email because they need it in like three days or something. And of course I had to say no because I didn't have time, but I had to read the email like three times to even get to the part where she mentioned the deadline and then I was like I can't do this anyway. But sometimes emails have a lot of information, but there's usually still questions you have to ask. Then you wanna make a list of the missing information and use that to formulate questions in you email. So sometimes I just jot these down in my notebook. Some general questions you wanna ask yourself when looking through an initial email inquiry. Okay so first, quantity. How many illustrations or designs are included in the project? Can I get a sense of their complexity? This is really important information because it's gonna determine a couple of things. First of all, how much you're gonna be paid, how much you should be paid. Quantity matters. Like how much work you're gonna be doing matters in terms of free. And how long it's gonna take you to complete the assignment. And sometimes the quantity impacts whether you're gonna wanna take the assignment at all. Like if it's something ridiculously large, you might be really excited but it might also be like no, I can't do that. So, quantity matters as one of the questions Don't assume it's just one illustration or one design element. What exactly do they want, especially if they don't tell you. Creative brief, is there a detailed description of the art direction for the project. We're gonna talk a little bit more about creative briefs later, but essentially a creative brief is a description of the art direction for the project. And sometimes they very rarely will include the creative brief in the original initial email or even attach it but sometimes the outreach email with literally be like: Dear Lisa, I work for XYZ detergent company and we are launching or no, we're launching a- or I work for an agency that's working with XYZ detergent company. We're launching a big campaign and we'd like to you to illustrate the project. I wanna share the creative brief with you, but I need you to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement. So, a Non Disclosure Agreement means that before you sign a contract and you take the job, they'll share the creative brief with you, which is all of the creative direction for the launch or the campaign or whatever the product, but they want you sign that you're not gonna say a word about it to anybody. So you're sworn to secrecy basically and that's partly to protect them so if you decline the job and you don't take it, or even if you do, you actually can't talk about the product or your illustrations until the thing is released out into the world. So, I've have to sign, see I've been at this career for 11 or 12 years, I've have to sign probably five NDAs over the last 10 years, ll years. It's not super common, but when you're working with a bigger company or a company that wants to keep the project secret, you often have to sign them, especially before they'll reveal the creative brief to you. So that's a completely normal thing and don't feel freaked out about signing them. Okay, you also want to know about phases and deadlines. What're all the various phases of the assignment and the associated deadlines. And this is something we're gonna also dive into a little more later but making sure you have time to complete the assignment, is incredibly important. So, understanding when things are due, how many things are due, when they're due, is super important because you have to have enough time in your schedule to do a good job and complete the assignment. Fee, what's the fee for the job? And again, I asked in one of my examples earlier, I asked that straight up. It's okay to ask straight up if they don't- And sometimes they'll come right out and tell you. And we'll talk more about fees in a minute. Sometimes they'll like want you to quote a fee, which is always (laughing) the most stressful situation, which we'll talk about shortly. Regardless, you wanna get clear on the fee and the fee needs to feel fair to you before you accept a job. So more on that soon. Here's another one that's really important and I don't think people ask enough about this. What's the appeal or interest of my work to you? Like, sometimes they'll come out and tell you. I mean even in the Susan Jones example, she said I really like your quirky sense of design, but what does that mean really? I often say like, what things in my portfolio are you drawn to, okay. Can you say more about what it is about my work or style that makes you want to work with me? Are there specific designs or illustrations I've already developed that you're drawn to? This is really important information for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's gonna give you a better idea, if you wanna take the job, if it's something you can get excited about. I work in a lot of different styles, some of them I'm more excited to do than others, right? I often get asked to do work that I was well known for five years ago, but I'm not interested in doing anymore. Like I used to paint and draw a million portraits of people and I got so much work painting realistic portraits of people or drawing them and I still get asked to do that work, but I am not interested in doing it anymore. So, it's always important for me to know like what is the job and what is it that you want me to do. And it give you a better idea of like what is, like getting clear on why they wanna hire you is really important. We'll talk more about that in a little bit. File format, this might seem obvious, but what format do the files need to be submitted? Anybody wanna take a stab at why this is important? Yeah.
So you know how to start your work?
Yeah, so you know how to start and also if you are an analog illustrator, somebody who only like scans their work and maybe finishes it up in Photoshop, but it turns out the files need to be Vector and you don't work in Illustrator, you need to know that before you sign up for the job. I once, early on in my career, got asked to do a job that I was really excited about and my agent was, at the time, like wrapping up everything in the contract for me and then we discovered, right before we signed the contract, that they needed the files to be delivered in doc Vector. I now have learned to work in Illustrator because this happened to me a couple of times. I was like I better learn this program, but in the beginning I didn't know how to use it and guess what, I had to decline this job. So, file format is- and it was a non-negotiable. Sometimes it's negotiable and so, if any time you learn that a file format is required that you're not fluent in, always say I wanna do this work is it okay if I use this one and how can we make this work? And sometimes they'll work around your sort od technical limitations, but really important. Now I'm like preparing files for animation, for example, is a kind of a different process than just turning in an illustration. So, getting clear on what they need is really important too. I think less important for like photographers, but for illustrators and designers, most designers use the same programs, for illustrators this is a really important one. You don't have to cover all of these questions in your initial response, but as I said, within the first- before you accept a job, you need to think through all of these things. Too many questions? Ask the client if they wanna get on the phone. Again, always a great option. Okay, if you do email a response, always begin your email with thank you before you launch into your list of questions. Thank you for thinking of me or I'm very honored you reached out to me. Alright, next we're gonna talk about digging into the information you've gathered about the assignment. So, you read the initial email, you sent a list of questions, they wrote back with answers, maybe you even got your hands on the creative brief or some version of the creative brief. You wanna know as much about the creative direction as possible. Questions to ask yourself. Skill, do I feel prepared to take on this job? Am I interested in doing this job? Do I have a bottom line for a fee? Are they paying me what I think my time is worth? Do I have time to complete the assignment? And lastly, are there any weird or unsettling issues? And we're gonna get into red flags in a moment. So skill, let's talk about skill first. Do I have the technical skills to complete the job? So, this is basically what I was just talking about. Like, is it an animation? Is it a style of illustration that I've never done before? Is it a file format that I'm not familiar, or an application I'm not familiar working with? You wanna make sure you have the technical skills. So, super important to do that. Here I'm not talking about creative skill. They're reached out to you because they think you can do the job. Always remember that, okay? So, in this case we're just talking about like whether you can complete the assignment with your technical skill. Most of the time the answer's gonna be yes, but it's an important question to ask. Interest. Does the assignment sound interesting to me? That matters. If the assignment isn't interesting to you, especially if it's something that's going to last four to six weeks. What could happen? You're gonna get completely bored and unmotivated if it's doesn't sound interesting to you. You can never predict whether a job is really gonna be interesting to you. Sometimes they sounds really exciting and end up being horrible (laughing). And sometimes you think it's gonna be boring and ends up being really fun. Is this an idea I can get behind? A concept I can get behind? Am I excited about working with this client? Is this something that I'm gonna wanna like put in my portfolio? Does it align with my values? Am I gonna be embarrassed that I worked for this client when I'm ready to show it? Is this work I wanna do? Is this interesting to me? That matters and that should influence your decision. Money. Do I feel good about the fee they are offering? Time. Do I have time to complete the assignment by the deadline? Okay, you have to have time in you schedule to do the work or you're not being fair to the client.