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12/24/14

Creativity as a Business part 3

Sorry it took me so long to get to part three (a year or so, in fact). Here are parts one and two.
Thankfully, the workload has been pretty hefty, and we’re still in business, so I got that going for me! I get asked a lot for advice on this topic, so here’s more.

Never do business with (or try to make money from) family.

Nothing can make a family reunion/social function more awkward than running into your sister/brother/aunt/uncle/cousin/etc. that you had a bad business dealing with. Not that they are bad people or had a bad project, but family relationships hardly make an ideal business relationship. The issue is that they come into a business relationship with you on uneven footing. They ALWAYS want more work for less money than you are used to. Often as a creative, they have NO idea what it is you do for a living in the first place. They remember that you drew all the time as a kid, but there’s always a disconnect between you as a nine year old drawing with crayons and now as a thirty-nine year old professional artist.

The conversation tends to go like this: "Oh you get paid to draw now? That’s so cute. Can you design a logo for my (insert project here)? You want HOW MUCH? But I’m FAMILY!”

The fact that they are family has nothing to do with how much time it takes to do their project. And TIME is always the key factor in how you charge for a project. Any time a family member asks me to do something and they offer to “pay for my time” I refuse the project all-together. It’s just not worth it. Not because I don’t love you or I don’t want to help; I just don’t need the headache if you don’t like the work or if you feel like I didn’t give you enough of a discount. I will ALWAYS refer these projects to someone who I feel will do a great job and hopefully at a price they’re willing to pay. Hopefully, that makes the family reunions easier for all parties!

Never do business with close friends.

This is a TRICKY one. Basically, if you have a friend who’s as close to you as a family member see above. If they are too close to lose as a friend, NEVER do business with them. If you you choose to do business with them anyway, remember that business can END a friendship. If you feel like your friendship can withstand a bad business dealing, then go ahead with that mutual understanding. I have many friends, many of which I’d call close. In my career, I have MAYBE two or three close friends that I do business with.

It’s OK to become friends with clients.

Sometimes people feel as if they shouldn’t become friends with those you do business with, but the opposite is often the truth. I have many clients and over the years I’ve become friends with many of them. This is a natural progression that happens often in business. A long-term client relationship is a lot like dating. You have to know and like each other enough to “stay together” for a while. Your clients are calling you for work as it suits their business needs and depend on your creative work to aid their objectives. Often the results you create make a career difference to them. That’s a lot of responsibility to give to someone they don’t know very well. Be sincere, be friendly and take a client out for coffee or drinks every once in a while. Your phone might ring a bit more often!

Be Sociable.

This one goes for ALL of your business associations, not just clients. Regularly meet with your friends/former co-workers/potential partners for lunch or dinner. And MAYBE pick up the check from time to time. It’s not that you’re obligated to do so, but it makes it a lot easier for someone who knows you to give a nice reco to a potential client or to bring you in for a project when they know you’re a cool guy (or girl). Always be a nice person, always share what you know how to do, and openly recommend gigs to your friends, even if you think you may be perfect for that gig too. Most importantly, always mentor those who are younger than you. I can’t tell you how many former interns and junior designers I’ve worked with who have become design directors at other companies later. They remember the other senior creatives who took a minute to show them how to make a layer mask in Photoshop.

Don’t be an asshole.

Business relationships begin as personal relationships. You actually will get a lot further in business being a decent human being than by being known as a jerk. If you’re good at what you do and those who know you have confidence in you, you’ll get called for gigs way more often than by being a talented asshole. Your ego should drive you internally to make the best work possible. Your ego should NEVER repel people away from you. That is literally the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

That’s it for now. Thanks, and enjoy your new year!

Dave