Business 101: Get Paid First [CENSORED]

If you are looking for the original posting of this it has been removed. The business operator asked me to take the business name off of the post. This is a censored version.

I don’t know about you, but I hate the business aspect about being an independent designer. Writing invoices, bill collection, contracts and the like are not my specialty. Sometimes, hell most of the time, I get so excited about starting on a new job for a client that I neglect to go through the motions and secure a deposit. The fact that 70% of potential clients need a rush doesn’t help either. They are usually in such a frenzy that I try to get them what they need as soon as possible. Living in a small town and getting paid is not usually an issue. Every once in a while you will deal with some asshole that screens his phone calls and drops off the face of the earth, but not usually. If only I had listened to the words of wisdom from my screen printing mentor the following story might have not happened:

“An error on your account doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.”

Last summer I was contacted about creating a logo and printing it on some shirts for the reopening of [CENSORED]. [CENSORED] said that they were in a big hurry to get things done and needed a rush turnaround on the shirts. I met up with him as soon as possible with a product catalog gave him prices and shirt options and then discussed the logo they needed. I went home that night excited about gaining a client that I knew would  be around for a long time and would need a lot of work as they are planing on franchising. I started working on a logo immediately and sent him a low-res version of it to gauge his feelings on the direction I was going in so that I would waste time on something he hated.

He responded that he liked it, but not much else.

I figured that he was busy trying to get things ready for his opening and would of course ask for the shirts to be done in a day. So I called and sent him emails every other day to remind him that he needed to confirm on the number of shirts and the logo before I could continue with the job.

Eventually the restaurant opened and I was never contacted. I didn’t even know they were open until I drove by it one day and saw a crappy version of my logo staring back at me from the front door. I couldn’t believe it.

[CENSORED] had paid someone else to copy my intellectual property, which they did poorly, when he could have just paid me for the original. Why would someone do this? So far it is the first time this has happened to me and I intend to not let it happen again. So far they have lost a chimichanga loving customer, but I hope that they lose so much more.

You guys think I have a case?

Return on Design

This is an article that was forwarded to me by one of my clients. The article was written by Seth Godin a marketing guru of sorts who writes all sorts of books and blogs centered around marketing and whatnot. I am not sure what she is trying to hint at but it is interesting information. Hopefully she considers me to fall under a positive return and isn’t passively-aggressively telling me to get my shit together! How do your clients think of you? Do they consider you a waste of money? Take a glance at the article and give it a think. In these had economic time you are really going to have to sell yourself and your talents to wrangle up some clients.

Return on Design

by Seth Godin

Return on investment is easy to measure. You put money in, you measure money out, divide and prosper.

But return on design? (Design: graphics, system engineering, user interface etc.)

Design can take money and time and guts, and what do you get in return? It turns out that the sort of return you’re getting (and hoping for) will drive the decisions you make about design.

I think there are four zones of return that are interesting to think about. I find it’s more useful to look at them as distinct states as opposed to a graduated line, because it’s easy to spend a lot of time and money on design but not move up in benefits the way you might expect. Crest might have a better package than Colgate (or the other way around, I can’t remember), but it doesn’t sell any more units…

Negative return. The local store with the boarded up window, the drooping sign and the peeling paint is watching their business suffer because they have a design that actually hurts them. Software products suffer from this ailment often. If the design actively gets in the way of the story you tell or the utility you deliver, you lose money and share.

No impact. Most design falls into this category. While aesthetically important, design in this case is just a matter of taste, not measurable revenue. You might not like the way the liquor store looks, or the label on that bottle of wine, but it’s not having any effect on sales. It’s good enough.

Positive return.
We’re seeing a dramatic increase in this category. Everything from a bag of potato chips to an online web service can generate incremental sales and better utility as a result of smart design.

The whole thing.
There are a few products where smart design is the product (or at least the product’s reason for being). If you’re not in love with the design of a Porsche 911, you would never consider buying it–same as an OXO peeler.¬† The challenge of building your product around breakthrough design is that the design has to in fact be a breakthrough. And that means spending far more time or money than your competitors who are merely seeking a positive return.

Knowing where you stand and where you’re headed is critical. If you have a negative return on design, go ahead and spend enough money to get neutral, asap. But don’t spend so much that you’re overinvesting just to get to neutral. Watching a local store build an expensive but not stellar custom building is the perfect example of this mismatch.

If you’re betting the whole thing, building your service launch on design first, skimping on design is plain foolish.The Guggenheim in Bilbao would be empty if they’d merely hired a very good architect.