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Graphic Design...there's so much to learn
Monday, 31 March 2008

Mood:  sharp
Topic: Business Practices
Today I decided I would rant about what happened last week when I went to upgrade my McCafrey Anti Virus software. Once a year I renew my subscription for this moderately affordable, apparently easy to use mainstream virus protection software however it is a bit of a ram hog. I ususaly do it online with a credit card and never had a problem before. I signed up to protect my 3 computers with various OS.  I went through the whole process took about a half an hour (thinking this is great my system will be protected, I don't have to go to a store, they will send me the cd for an additional 12.95 plus the additional 10$ per computer and I can get to work). I was having problems accessing the files for download...fooling around took another half an hour. Meanwhile I had lots of design work to do and I was starting to get really frustrated. Then I'm routed to the trouble shooting area through a url. I wasted oh about another half hour there.  I call their customer support which clearly instructs you to go to the trouble shooting page prior to speaking with tech support...been there done that. I wait...listen to the 9 or 10 options having to listen to it twice because I forgot what the first few were. I  press the appropriate option...a voice recording on the other end  lets me know that I am in cue for the next available representative yada yada yada...thankfully the wait wasn't as long as I expected. Ran through the whole problem with the respensentive...wait while I check your file, gave them the pertinent information took another I'll say 7 or 8 minutes (I'm sure they have an accurate up to the second of that on record somewhere). The problem is apparently fixed. I get off the phone and  go back to the download area to get the program. It finally downloads and that's when I find out that not only is the anti virus software no longer compatible with window 98(my oldest operating system) but it wont install on my XP. So now I have waisted almost 2 hours. I call up again and it takes a little longer this time to get the next representative. Of course I'm getting all worked up about this.  I remind myself that the rep shouldn't be blasted for something that isn't really their fault. Finally I get to talk to a sales rep they transfer me to tech suport. I ask them why doesn't my software install(that's because I have to go and remove the old version in order to install the new one and he sends me 2 pages of instructions for the removal process-not easy to follow reads like stereo instructions from the 60's. My next question is why is it only for xp and vista?- he says please hold and  I will ask my supervisor. The reponse was there are no longer any options or update downloads for my older OS...And finally I ask what am I suposed to do now without anti virus protection on 1 of my 3 computers that are sharing a network? A few seconds go by, no response...Doesn't that defeat the purpose to getting virus protection?. The rep finally came to his senses and remembered his training when in doubt apologise for the inconvenience and then very politly told me that McCafrey no longer supports that OS(windows 98) anymore. Apparenlty older operating systems are not worthy of virus protection. They are being phased out by the sotware developers-I don't think that they are making this decision based on supply and demand. There's alot of people out there with older OS and it would be in the best interest of the software deveolpers to cater to them. They are missing out and loosing customers.  What has happend to making the consumer happy?. Just keep producing and producing till we're buried under a pile of electronics and plastic. Nothing should be built to last anymore. It not about consumption. It just cheaper to throw it away. I also have a beautiful lazer color printer that 's more expensive to order a part for than to buy a new's a 30lb paperweight. I asked the rep what am I suposed to do?...He didn't know nor did he make any suggestions(that's not customer service). I told him I was very disapointed with McCafrey (he apologised again) and I asked for him to please cancel my upgrade and remove the costs from credit card which will not be applied till the next bill so they are making intrest on something I didn't technicaly buy(isn't that like stealing?). I informed him that MCafrey lost a client, he didn't seem upset at all.  I filled out the questionaire of why are you discontinuing the use of our software...I told them very nicely;  I want my 2 and half hours back with intrest. If the site had the operation specs and instalation information readily available I never would of waisted all that time. And that's something you can't get back... Now I'm getting the same protection with a Sharewear program at a fraction of the price and quite glad to be done with a company that clearly does not care about it's consumers.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 6:02 PM EDT
Monday, 14 January 2008
Always give them more!
Mood:  bright

SO you've found a new client and you are all geared up for the first project that you gave a more than reasonable quote. Do you A) give them only what you quoted for or B) additional options?
Every designer has thier opinion on where they stand on this issue and I am no different.  Yes it can be time consuming and time is money but personalized service can lead to money as well.
Sometimes giving them more doesn't necessarily mean additional hours without pay, more designs or marketing options. Sometime it means little things like a simple organisation system that they can put into place to keep track of things like an excel file (takes 10 mins to set up). Or going to a meeting prepared for almost any situation. In the end it's a wow factor. Word of mouth is sooo important today and this little something extra can lead you to all kind of wonderful opportunities. I am not saying promise the moon and the stars. Be willing and open minded to take that little extra step.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 12:47 PM EST
Monday, 24 September 2007

Topic: Business Practices
It has come to my attention that apparently I am only dealing with the 15% of the business population that are not mature or do not conduct business fairly. I shouldn't let those ruin it for the rest. At this time I find myself slightly disturbed by this small percentage as it seems to make up at least a small portion of the companies I deal with. So what do I do? Look for other companies and keep plugging away and try not to be bothered by thier lack of immaturity or thier inability to take responsibility for thier actions and move on. I try to pick my battles carefully. Somtimes it's just easier to give in even though I may be right. I guess It's all a matter of persepctive, somewhere in the midddle is the truth and you can't make everyone happy.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 9:30 AM EDT
Friday, 21 September 2007

Mood:  quizzical
Topic: Business Practices

Is there anyone out there that practices fair business practices anymore? Or does everyone pass the buck? What happen to common courtesy, conducting business on a professional level, with respect,  honesty, keeping agreements even if they are verbal, being paid your worth, taking constructive critism without taking it personally and owning up to your mistakes? Is it that people are worried about  how it's going to make them look? Are they affraid of being thought of as weak or imperfect? Have people forgotten that it takes a bigger person to admit that they are wrong and it's better to be a part of the solution instead a part of the problem? Unfortunately it's all about the all mighty buck. Doesn't quality count? Pride in a job well done? It seems that today most people are operating with a huge chip on thier shoulders. I know society isn't going to be fixed in one blog.

I had someone the other day solicite me  for business a second time when originally I said no thank you but I will keep you in mind. His marketing approach was that he changed his website and asked what I thought about the changes. I responded to his request. I was honest,  professional and constructive in my opinions. He wrote back and told me where to go; hey his right not professional behavior and me being a persepctive client (maybe I had a little too much time on my hands that day). What happend to the client always being right?

HEY DUDE Note to self: don't ask for an opinion if your not really ready to hear it.

Dreamy expression on my face "What I would give to work with companies that belive in fair work practices."

No games, no bullshit, just, honest, and reliable work for a reasonable price. In this day and age it's tough enough just picking up clients never mind the dreamy ones. Even though it has been quite the rocky road with some of my less reputable clients who shall always remain nameless (that's another practice that I don't agree with, is name droping period especially in the name of discrediting, very infantile). I usually deal with it by saying we had a difference of opinion and leave it at that. It solves absolutely nothing by bad mouthing someone. Those bad apples still haven't changed how I do business. Some might think I am an idiot; but I sleep really good at night. Yes I am more careful about the contracts that I pick up but everything is upfront and there is no small print. If a perspective client does not want to give a deposit or negotiate to some kind of consensual agreement for work, chances are you don't want to be doing business with them in the first place. I know you're the starving designer living off of kraft dinner and your thinking it would be nice to eat steak for a change. It's a $150.00 more than what I am making now. What if you don't get paid it's a $150.00 worth of time, effort aggravation and stress that you didn't bargain for.
What ever happen to a polite phone call, sorry we are not interested?
Some of these companies have been in business for over 25 years. That's 25 years of shody business practices and why? Because people let them get away with it.  I will not stand for it! If more people stood up for a little business integrity companies would be forced to change thier practices. But I am just a lowly graphic designer what can I do? We are the ones that design for those who have the buying power ... now let's take it back.

I know not realistic but it was a good thought.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 12:27 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007 2:20 PM EDT
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
Beware of wolves in sheeps clothing baaad
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: Looking for work

As a freelancer you are constantly getting your information out there. Do you pause to think that it may be problematic for you? Probably not; I didn't. More often than not people are out to get what they want without paying for it. I really dislike thinking that everyone is out for themselves but I don't want to be taken advantage of either. So what do you do when you answer a vague ad in the newspaper for a job offer and you ask a few questions on the phone and your curiosity is piqued. You change your schedual to accomodate the new prospect, prepare your portfollio and research the company as best as you can before the interview. Once there you immediatly realized that you have been dupped just short of a scam, you cut your losses and head home. I was so angry that I wasted 3hrs for nothing, reschedualed my day and left my resume with refrences there. This is the risk we take for the possibility of work. Could I have avoided this pit fall, more than likely. I turned up no research on the company and found that it was at someone's home, don't get me wrong she was a very nice lady but it could of been much worst. Talk about under false pretenses.  Not to say all companies that work out of thier homes are shisters but it's more likely that they are.

Everytime we send out our resume or c.v we are taking chances. We give out links to our websites, personal telephone numbers, e-mail addresses. Nothing is private today, information can be taken, images stolen our niche capitalized on, our references prayed upon, and our business image sullied. Nothing you can do but disable the right click, and prepare yourself  just in case. For example some people looking for freelancers want you to do a test or trial I always prepare a pdf secure file so that they can view it but can't use it or manipulate it without a password. You never really know what kind of individual you are going to be dealing with.

Very recently we took on a storyboarding project on a volunteer basis with the knowledge that it could turn into a full time paid venture. The individual that we were dealing with seemed quite personable, knowledgable and reasonable. The project seemed like it was really working out and this person almost seemed like a friend.  It all ended when I was out of town on a Saturday with my family and I was unreachable. This sent this person into a tantrum, he left all kinds of messages on our cell phones, house phone, e-mail and a couple of not so kind messages out of frustration. To my surprise I was actually shocked that this was happening. As the professional that I am the sign would of been ready on time. This was a volunteer job!  I could understand if I were a brain surgeon on call and there was someone waiting on the table with thier brain exposed and I didn't call back. What bothers me the most is that this person burned his bridge when it wasn't necessary(I can't wrap my brain around that, it's just bad business). Unfortunately there were few good people on the other side that we would of like to keep in contact with.

We take personal and professional risks everytime we reply to a job posting.  I think I'm doing pretty good with only 6 wolves in sheeps clothing for 15 years in the industry. It's the cost of doing business I guess. Does it change how I work yes and no. I ask way more questions now, keep business personable but not personal, always protect my work, take a deposit up front and I always keep in the back of my mind that it may not work out. What still stays the same is my passion for design, good business practices and I chalk it all up to learning experiences.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 9:51 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 1 April 2008 10:18 AM EDT
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
Don't let that big one get away
Topic: Marketing Yourself

In my everyday exsitence I come across many individuals looking for work. Generally they are other freelance graphic designers looking for scraps or what we call overflow work. Ideally I would love to be able to give out stuff to other designers because it would mean I am soooo busy. Unfortunately I have never had that opportunity. I would venture a guess that most freelancers don't either. We take on whatever good propects there are. The competition is fierce. So when a designer who has a firmly estatblished company like mine comes to me for work what does this tell me? We are starving artists once again. The in house design boom has demolished the art studio perspective client base; it's like fishing with dynomite. Our local pool has dried up and we are forced to becoming a global entity in order to survive or to become scavengers.

So What can we do about this? The only thing we can carve out our little niche, find a full time job or leave our line in all the time; just waiting for that bite and pray the big one doesn't get away. 

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 12:22 PM EDT
Friday, 19 January 2007
resesrch, research, research

Something I noticed since I started teaching graphic design at the  Rosemont Technical Center is that by nature we do not research, we take things at face value. Questions are seldom asked, do we not question why we do the things we do?

This is why research is such a huge part of helping you market yourself more effectively, whether your going for a prominent design position, freelancing or just starting out. Please take my word that asking questions never looks stupid unless you didn't do your homework and you may be evaluated on the questions you didn't ask.

Imagine going into an interview and the HR person knows less that you do about your persepctive employer(ok maybe it's slightly exagerated but possible). The web is a wonderful way to research perspective clients or employers, however not everyone has a website. This is where government agencies come in handy like which is a data base of registered companies in Canada  as well as city portal cites or general search engines. So you never know....sometimes it can lead to bigger and better things or save you from getting a job that may not be your cup of tea afterall.

Don't be afraid to call the company and ask questions prior to your meeting (even a secretary may have a moment or two to answer a few questions, remember to ask if there's a better time to speak with them) ...ask around to friends or relatives if they have heard about your prospect to help you evaluate and add to your "homework" of research;you can never be over prepared.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 9:58 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007 10:20 AM EST
Monday, 18 September 2006
Should I juggle while I do everything else?
Mood:  d'oh
Topic: Freelance VS Fulltime

Another great thing about working freelance is generally you get paid your worth.

Not like that poor old slob that's going to put thier c.v. in for that first art director's job(from hell) that requires very little previous experience. Does that seem a bit odd?
No experiece necessary for a job that you have to manage a department, speak and write 2 languages fluently, be able to work under extrem conditions and deal with problems efficiently and proffessionaly all for the bargain price of minimum wage? What has happend to quality in the work place?
I would imagine that this wonderfull establishment wonders why they can't keep the place staffed with good employees. It gives  a whole new meaning to multi-tasking.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 9:41 AM EDT
Thursday, 17 August 2006
Where school leaves you...

School leaves you in a great position new hopes, possiblities, a fresh start...after a summer of relaxing before you jump into the work force. Prepared for your new career and future?....not always so. Yes education is parmount however by today's standards the technology is changing faster than some of us can keep up with it.
The one thing that never changes in this industry is work experience, professionalism and your portfolio.  You need at least 2 of these to make any headway. If school didn't provide you with a well rounded portfolio (very often not) then you have to see where the gaps are and fill them in. To be employable you have to be prepared to go out for that luggage design job just as easily as a design studio job. The compettion is fierce. Sure work experience whatever the endeavor is experience and ads to your  bank of skills...however there's no need to include all your previous work experience. For an example if your applying for a design position it is not necessary to list your experience working in an abottoir, not unless you designed thier bouchering posters. That's a common mistake that I see on a regular basis with many students just getting into the work force. They have no clue of how to proceed-where to start thier efforts, how to write a cover letter/thank you letter, telephone follow up on a job lead, look for perspective employers, conduct a portfolio vewing, how to market themselves in general; ironicaly they learnt how to market it not apparent where the lines seem blured?
An explanation for this may be when commercial arts split into 3 categories some important business skills were left out. A commercial artists was expected to be a business savvy individual, an Illustrator, Graphic Designer and a Marketing specialist all wraped into one. Once you start working you realize that there's somethings they just didn't teach you in school and unfortunately it ends up wasting you alot of time with trial and the end it's all up to you. I figure in this day and age they would at least prepare you for the competition, how to stand out and follow up. When I was in school it was understandable that there would be gaps in my education for the Graphic Design field was so new - now there shouldn't be an excuse.

Need help with your c.v or building your portfolio?
For a minimum fee I will get you on the right track.

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 9:45 AM EDT
Wednesday, 28 June 2006
Evolution or Still Stuck in the Primordial Soup

Is this really a better way of doing business and looking for new designers/designs or is it as archaic and demeaning as the dark ages? This trend that I have noticed in the last couple of years primarily used by the less reputable companies and I'm sure many a designer has encountered this at some time in thier career. It started in the fashion industry to foster creativity, a mase and a free data base of new designs.
Essentially it's a cattle call for designs that only cost the price of a help wanted ad in the local paper. Ironically most companies think it's like pulling the proverbial canvas over the designer's eyes in order to keep it fresh and ahead of the rest... oh but they are sooo wrong. One day they will come up against a designer that will call them on thier ill gotten designs and take them to court and in the end they are worst off. Not only are they using rough designs but they will have to pay court fees and will have to pull the product(s) which  they had just spent thousands on to produce...belive me word carries fast when designers do not get paid for thier designs. Disreputable in one arena more than likely disreputable in another = bad business.

In Canada the law is that unless agreed to  "design rights automatically belong to the artist unless those rights are released". Trust me much easier just to pay for the trial the event the company decides to produce the design(s).

So designers... I say beware!...ask the questions I didn't ask at the initial interview.
Why do you need a freelance designer? 
Are you currently using an in-house designer?
What are you planing to do with the designs?..

Posted by eclipsgraphics at 11:40 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006 12:25 PM EDT

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