It’s not often that after a meeting with a client (in today's case to discuss stationery design) I just want to give them a good old fashioned slap across the face. I’m not one for violence I’m one of those people who gets worked up, imagines punching someone, then backs down and ends up folding like a cheap suit.
For example, if someone cold-calls me, it will take nothing short of an unfounded accusation of theft, murder or fraud followed by a stream of abuse from them before I will cease to be polite and actually summon the courage to hang up on them. I mean, that would be rude, wouldn’t it? I had politeness and civility thrashed into me as a child, and I find such habits hard to break.
I find myself, therefore, a soft target for cold callers who I just can’t hang up on. I had a Wall Street stockbroker on the phone yesterday… and the day before… and the day before that. He wanted me to buy shares in Apple (which actually might be a good thing to do prior to their releasing the iPhone G3). I’m not one for gambling though never risk what you can’t afford to lose. That’s what I told him. It didn’t get rid of him.
I suppose what annoys me most about persistent sales people is not the fact that they call; but the fact that after trying absolutely every line in their script, when they finally realise that they’re not going to get anywhere, they stop being polite. “Oh fine. Good luck then. Bye” was the way my new stockbroking friend signed off.
Anyway, back to the stationery design meeting I had this morning. My biggest failing as a businessman is that I take things too personally. Always have. I despise the “it’s not personal, it’s just business” mantra that you tend to hear shortly before losing your house and all your possessions. For me, there’s nothing more personal that messing about with my business, and therefore by extension, my income, my family and everything else that money affects.
Some people just don’t think that graphic designers should (or possibly need to) earn a living. How many times have you heard (assuming you’re a designer) “eight hours to create that? I could have done that in five minutes”. Actually, I’ve never heard it first-hand, but it’s the kind of urban myth that actually does happen, and it gets a designer’s back up like nothing else. “The best designs are the simplest” is one appropriately polite retort. “You do it then” is what I really want to say.
So back to the couple I met this morning. They’d just started a new business and said they had never dealt with graphic designers before. They just wanted to talk about a stationery design - a business card and letterhead. It soon started to sink in that it was going to be an enormous waste of time.
At first they were just talking about printing; not a mention of stationery design. They were practically peering around the studio for the big machine with the big green button that you pressed to produced instant business cards. “So what sort of logo do you think I should have?” was one question.
“So you don’t have a logo?”
“No could you just chuck one together and slap it on the stationery design?”
“Er… actually, logo design is something of a separate discipline to stationery design... if we’re talking about logo design as well as stationery design, there’ll be additional time required…” I hadn’t broached the subject of time at this stage; I was frantically trying to think of a fair price that they wouldn’t consider too expensive.
Whatever I quoted I knew I wasn’t going to get paid for all the time put into the job by now it was a case of damage limitation. Just wanting to get them out of the office and down to the Post Office’s instant business card machine, I suggested that two hours’ design would be the absolute minimum I’d be prepared to charge. Printing would be extra.
They couldn’t believe it. “Two hours?” they gasped in unison. Then looking me straight in my no-good, cheating, taking-advantage-of-startup-businesspeople eyes, one of them said “do you really need two hours to put some text on a page? I mean, what if we were to draw a picture of exactly what we want, and then you copy it couldn’t you do that in a fraction of the time?”
It seemed to escape their notice that our meeting had already taken an hour and a half. Anyway, it was around this time that the red veil descended and I just agreed to everything in order to get rid of them. I think I agreed to charge for half an hour in the end. My second main failing in business is my inability to turn work away. I need to learn to “just say no”.
In a bizarre attempt to justify the low price (and their theft of my time), they told me that last time they had anything designed, some poor sod had put a free visual together for a limo business they were running. They took the visual away, told him they didn’t like it and wouldn’t be requiring his services. “We’ve been using the logo ever since”, they laughed.
Where’s Karma when you really need it?