What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever said to a prospective client?
“Sure, I’ll add that with no extra charge.” About six years ago, when I was a freelancer I was working on a website for a client who had a small transport company. It was just a standard website – a small number of pages, a few photos and a contact form. Simple. When the job was done, the client asked me about getting a business card designed and I naively offered to do it for free, thinking it would be a quick job. The client then got this idea that he wanted to have a bus with airplane wings, because his main business involved going to and from Dublin. It turned out to be a nightmare that dragged on and on. I spent more time on that bus than I’d spent developing his website. To make it worse, he ended up using it as his business logo. I designed his logo for free without even realising.
“Because you’re a charity, I’ll totally do a full rebrand of your identity for free.” When I was just starting out, I was given a job by a local charity who wanted a full rebrand of its identity, stationary, the lot. They promised to ‘recommend me to some people’ in return. Me being young and naive, I did the rebrand. But although they were happy with my work, I never heard from the charity, or got any recommendations. In the process, I learned one of the many lessons designers need to learn the hard way: never do any work for free, even if the client does promise something vague, like exposure, in return. The charity made me sign a contract, part of which said I couldn’t use the work in my portfolio. Another lesson learned: always read the contract, and challenge anything you don’t agree with.
“You need a professional to do that.” Back in the early days when I was starting out as a freelance motion graphics designer, everything was going really well. I was booked every single month with various studios. I was gathering real experience and building up my portfolio. I was living the dream. One day, I was booked by a high-end ad agency and I really felt like I’d made it. The producer approached me and asked me to do an animated piece that I thought would be tough to do well within the timeframe. I replied: “You need a professional to do that.” To date, those have been the most ridiculous words to ever come out of my mouth, considering I was the one they’d hired as a professional. Since then, I’ve always applied a filter of engaging my brain first before speaking. Words are powerful.