I’m a freelance graphic artist, and so many times, I find myself falling back into being freelance graphic production, or something else I don’t wanna be…
Now – that certainly beats the pants off being a freelance ditch digger or a full-time burger flipper. But damn it – that’s not why I started this gig. I wanted to spend my days doing things that don’t suck.
I’ve taken hiatuses before – from work, from t.v., from personal grooming – but this week, I’m taking a hiatus from doing work that sucks and that goes against what I want to do with my time. I’m worth more than that, and you are too.
I’m not saying that I’m the second coming of the design messiah – what I’m saying is that my time is better spent actually advancing my art and my career. I’ve done enough boring design work, enough production-level stuff in my life and I’m purposing myself to find more interesting, more fulfilling, more important work to fill my week.
If we all had our druthers, we’d be working on high design every moment of every business day. No more “Yeah, I can do that” type stuff that we know will pay the electric bill. No more stuff that we can bang out quick, make a buck or two.
So – I’m declaring a “No Suck” week.
I’ve got lots of projects and clients that need my attention – and I’m sure you do, too. Inevitably, we all wind up taking some projects that are beneath us or that just plain suck.
There are a few ways of looking at sucky projects:
- The work doesn’t really suck, our attitude towards it or our concepts suck. I’ve found that a lot of projects that I think suck don’t really suck – it’s just the way I’m looking at it. I want to be more of an illustrator and artiste – and the projects that to me suck the worst are the ones that don’t allow me to pick up paper and pencil. Truth is that I CAN pick up paper and pencil on damned near any project. So – I do. If you have a project that you’re certain blows – try looking at it from another perspective. Try to inject your perfect working scenario into it. Try to make that project into a dream project. You might take a little more time doing it than you originally expected, but heck – you might just have some fun, and you will probably end up with a killer end product. That never sucks.
- The project sucks. Just plain sucks. We’ve all had ‘em, and we’ve all actively pursued them. You can do some adjustment to suckitude with your approach and work ethic, but there are projects that just suck. Not much you can do about it other than avoid, turn down or return the project to the sender. That takes a lot of fortitude, especially if you’re in need of dough. But – how much is our integrity worth? How much is our sanity worth? Certainly a lot more that $15 an hour…
- “Thrill of the hunt” type projects. The “Hey – I landed 14 new projects today – and it’s not even noon!” type projects. Never mind that they’re designing lousy projects for lousy clients at a lousy rate of pay. WE LANDED ‘EM! Those usually really do suck, as you have a tendency to go outside what you’re comfortable with – either monetarily or scope-wise. RUN! RUN FAR AWAY! Quantity does not substitute for quality. Work-or-other-wise.
- Unethical projects. Don’t do them. Define your code and stick to it. If you’re ashamed of something you’re doing, you really shouldn’t be doing it. Thursday Bram wrote an excellent article on that here. I don’t need to say more…
- Projects that are beneath you. I’ve been doing the design thing for many, many years. I don’t need to take entry level junk projects. It only leads to frustration and distracts me (or you) from the ultimate goal, which is to grow a killer design career. Don’t do it. Times can be tough, but again – what’s your integrity and sanity worth?
So – how do you avoid these sucky projects? Test each project with this list before you take it:
- Does it have the room (in the budget or in the scope) for me to have some fun and inject my own work into it?
- Is it ethical?
- Is it something I can believe in?
- Does it pay enough? (Yes – this is a legitimate concern. You have to get paid properly for your time)
- Is the client a decent enough person?
- Will I want to put it in my portfolio once completed?
- Will it take too long to see completion?
- Does it help further my goals or my career?
If you can’t answer in the affirmative on each question, you’re running into the distinct possibility of suckitude. If you’ve already taken the project, you can still test it. If it doesn’t pass muster, give it back to the client if you haven’t wasted too much of their time.
If you can’t answer each question with a “Yes,” examine your motives for considering the project. If it’s still worth it, take the project. If, after all the questions and the examination, you still take the project – you have no reason to complain. It’ll either be a good project, or you just need to be quiet and do it…
Of course, there are projects that look sucky to begin with and turn out to be fun. Likewise, there are projects that sound great and wind up killing a good time. But – if you do your homework to begin with, you can usually expect a lot more and a have a better time.
Try it for a week. You might just have a great week. You might just turn out some great work. If nothing else, it’ll give you a little better understanding of what you do and why you do it.
Now, back to non-sucky work.
(Oh – and the image isn’t mine. It’s just one of the best record covers ever…)