This is the “Old Man” speaking here. I’m the senior graphic designer with 40 years in the ad business so, put down the sandwich and listen up.
In my day (before total freelance beckoned late in life) I used to hire folks like you! I’m that smiling, not-too-bad-a-guy who looked at your portfolio and kept looking up at you in this “really ?” way that made you spill your guts about what you wanted to be paid for the measly job I had to offer (so I could determine if you had what it took to land the really big, measly job), and what you’d settle for just so you’d appear reasonable. There are budgets to consider. Time constraints. You know. If you’ve been around that particular block more than once you’ll recognize me.
Which brings us to the topic … audacity. My mother used to call it nerve. Most folks say balls. Sorry. Hope the kids are in bed as your read this.
Having convinced you of my great background in advertising (you are convinced, aren’t you?), let me stop all the embellishment and tell you flat out that audacity is probably the next largest commodity you have for hire in your arsenal. When freelancing I always let the client know I am thinking with him and, being audacious, thinking ahead of him. Being a hired gun for a project is great but, you don’t want to say goodbye after you have completed your task and have your check in hand (well, unless your client is an absolute jerk).You really want to expand your reach into the project/piggy bank. If you’ve been hired to illustrate one ad, design one logo, layout one web page … look for more.
Perhaps your client will be the likable old guy I am who appreciates stupid questions like, “would you mind if I drop off a few more ideas when I come by tomorrow to pick up my (measly) check?” How many folks are going to say, “uh, no”? Example: If your client is a clothing store that picked your name out of a phone book, out of a hat, or off the internet to design a St. Patrick’s Day ad, how badly are you going to be hurt to walk in with your portfolio plus an idea for their 4th of July Sale? Prepare when possible. Actually read if necessary! Audacity. Sure, the marketing director probably has his/her ideas lined-up way in advance and they won’t mind telling you they have (silly pudding). BUT … what if your idea is better than theirs? Want to lose future income by not trying, not asking? Yes, you do run across the occasional cretin who steals from you. Yes, you will throw some perfectly good ideas down a rat hole. Hey! Stop crying. Good God, man. Buck up! You won’t always win. But, sometimes you win big time. You really do!
True story: I was once commissioned by an art director to do a pen and ink illo of a local bank for a newspaper ad (remember newspapers?). Nothing great but, it paid nicely. After meeting with the AD and suggesting a series of illustrations, I walked away with a much better slice of the bank’s ad budget, a heftier portfolio, and … because I had been ballsy enough to suggest something that made the AD look good, an invitation to the next creative meeting for another client of the agency. Some folks appreciate nerve.
So, there. Small word, audacity—but the potential rewards are staggering … just don’t stagger too much. You don’t need to have your blood alcohol checked while you’re in the middle of a project. It just looks unseemly.