When You Are Your Own Client, Who Are You Going To Make Fun Of At The Bar?

by Jim Coudal

22 Reader Comments

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  1. …to get a residual check every 13 weeks your design was in use. But it aint gonna happen. There are lots of pricing guidlines and policies about licensing that seem fair-minded and make sense for all the parties involved but, in my experience anyhow, they rarely come into play for design and advertising.

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  2. Been there with mister: www.mr-edgar.com
    Now, doing that with madam : www.madamedgar.com

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  3. I’ve never bought the idea that designers who go off to start their own products is because of “passion”, and I’ve been in web design a lot longer than the author of this article.

    If you were so passionate about design, why stop doing it to produce a bunch of t-shirts or some cheap software? Why not keep designing?

    sigh
    We’ve heard it all before – “I was on six figures before the bubble burst” – “my clients betrayed me” – “nobody recognizes real talent anymore”.

    Here’s the bottom line folks, and you probably won’t like it. Those of us with the requisite talent and who worked hard did very well out of your companies going bust, and continued producing the quality and functionality that our clients loved, and which your clients turned to when the chips were down.

    Sorry.

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  4. You have a point.

    Then again, it’s a survival thing.

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  5. Think of us the next time you’re revising the revision of the idea you presented but were sure they’d never approve. You know, the one with the unreasonable deadline and budget.

    The idea was never to ‘stop’ doing design, it was to give ourselves the freedom to do the design we wanted to do. More power to you if you find that freedom consistently in client work, it’s a beautiful thing when it happens. We just found that despite our best intentions it doesn’t happen enough. Guess we’re selfish that way.

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  6. “Think of us the next time you’re revising the revision of the idea you presented but were sure they’d never approve. You know, the one with the unreasonable deadline and budget.”

    We don’t do that. It’s easy to get around: we don’t present bad ideas and we don’t take on unprofitable jobs. If you do, you deserve everything you get.

    As to creative freedom, I don’t believe that I’m too good for my clients. Whether they are international corporations or one-man startups, if they hire us, they get nothing less than 110% effort start to finish. It sounds from your posts a lot like you found that too hard, and quit to work for a client you knew you could please: yourself.

    Am I wrong?

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  7. Creating our own products and businesses allows us to be very selective in the client projects we do take on. Nobody is too good for anything. We just want to strike a balance between running a successful business so we can all pay our mortgages and tuition for our kids and still do a wide variety of creative work that we enjoy and believe in. It’s pretty simple really.

    Because of it we get to tour Europe with The Pixies, create features and competitions that thousands of people participate in, make movies, meet and share ideas with people from all over the place and get into interesting back-and-forths like this one.

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  8. Too often I see designers motivated only by the bad things and frustrations of the industry – difficult clients, long hours and so on.

    If they want to hang out with models, name-drop bands, garner a cult following, be regarded as a “guru” or whatever, then they should go ahead and do it. It’s not difficult. I used to do it but stopped because it left no time for interesting stuff.

    To be honest, if I was in your position I think I’d find it impossible to do anything useful. My motivation as an agency designer is external – the client’s needs and future. If I was only answerable to myself, I’d make a miserable boss and just bunk off to have fun all the time I reckon. What’s your secret?

    ;)

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  9. Great article, I’ve been in the web design industry now for about 2 years (full time) or 4 years all up. Coming from a trade background as a carpenter I thought it would be much easier than it has been to build the foundations for a solid business, but I have to say the design/new media industry is far more complex than the building industry.

    I originally got out of the building industry because I love to be creative, and working off someone else’s plan just wont allow for that, funny thing is I’m now finding the same barriers with (certain) clients in this area of expertise (I’ve been building websites for longer than 4 years;).

    It was only the other day after talking with some associates we all started to realise we need to do more than just design for clients, we need to start producing tools that we need and that we can give to others who need the same functionality. So we have now set out a new strategic plan that will hopefully do all of what you have clamed possible in your article.

    I’d just like to say thankyou for this article, as I has inspired me to think even harder about this issue, and may just be the linchpin that has been stopping the progression.

    Cheers!

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  10. Thanks Jim, well said.

    I think designers can use their way of working to create great product companies. However, this does involve learning a little about marketing, sales, operations, strategy, etc… maybe unpalatable business stuff folks avoided by becoming designers. As long as we’re willing to pursue career growth it’s possible.

    Earlier in the year I gave a presentation called, “Can we run the company?” that discusses this
    http://noisebetweenstations.com/personal/weblogs/?p=1583

    …and will be giving a short workshop in October in NY to try and seamlessly combine the product design and revenue design aspects of making a product…
    http://noisebetweenstations.com/personal/weblogs/?p=1735

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  11. “We as creatives shouldn’t need to justify what we charge…”

    I’m a little put off by this statement.  If you can’t (or worse yet, won’t) justify what you charge, how do you expect your clients to justify paying you?  In every business, no matter what you do, if you can’t justify the cost to your customers then you might as well start filing for Title 11.

    Hope I haven’t taken this comment too far out of context, as I agree with the rest of the statement.

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  12. Not only, as Jason says, do you need to justify what you charge, but how about the product as well. I know people who sell things that they don’t beleive in.  This is not a good idea!The customer will pick up on this faster than you think.
    “Ally”:http://www.massageleader.com/massagechairs.html

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