#35 Doing favors for people vs. Never making any money.

I only have so many nerves left. And a designer friend hit one: design abuse.

Remember, 50% of people who approach me for work are not qualified clients. My designer friend was showing infinitely more tolerance than I would for a request to surrender all of the work she had done for a client.

What they’re asking for is a “free style guide.” I produce those for money. Even if I already did the work and it’s all packaged up and ready, I’ll hand it over for $900. That is my price. It’s my “creative mind” they’re buying, not just graphic components. It stings just enough that they’ll value the information and respect it.

A qualified lead has 1) the right timing, 2) the budget, 3) the right application, and 4) works within your specified limits and skills. That doesn’t mean you can’t do favors for people. But you may be wondering at the end of the year why you didn’t make any money,

You have to say, “No.” Not all of the time – but 50% of the time. Price tags are the best way to control those who would abuse us. And we’re prone to being abused. Many designer are introverts who work for extroverts. We can easily become doormats or hostages trying to please people. And sadly some people can never be pleased. We never should have taken them on in the first place. I screen all my clientèle with two quick personality tests. They actually feel like they have qualified to become my client. They are special. They have become part of the project team. They realize I won’t tolerate certain behaviors. We have an understanding and they realize I can walk away if they aren’t pleasant people.

From what my designer friend described, she *likes* this client to a degree and want to stay loyal to them. But they must not think much of her. Because it’s plain, they’re using her and taking advantage. They are NOT even willing to trade something for her services.

I’ve had some experiences where people want me to design something and they say they have no money. So I say, “What do you have to trade?” They usually are speechless. So I make some recommendations, “I see you have an iPod. My kid would like to have an iPod. Will you trade for that?”

Oddly, some people will not give up anything even if it’s junk. Suddenly, that old lawn mower or junker car or clunky computer has more value than what work they want from me for free. And that is the problem. They *want* it but don’t really *need* it. Otherwise, we’d find a fair trade. I’ve traded a lot.

So yes, I tell people to hit the road if they can’t pay the price or trade. I know that sounds rude or brutal but we, as one-person studios, cannot save the entire world from themselves.

Half of my prospective client are not qualified leads. I do not accept everyone as a client. In fact, I make them take a couple of fun tests to see if they are a good match.

Any client that thinks they know more about design than me is in the wrong 50%. If they do know that much, why are they hiring me and then bossing me around? I tell them to find a designer up to their “high standards.”

I have the right to refuse service to anyone who’s unpleasant.