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Warning: Be Careful Who You Hire

Aug 17, 2007
In order to see things from different perspectives, I have been known to 'experiment' at times.

When I was 19, I wanted to see how handicapped people were really treated. I went to Manhattan with a girlfriend and 'posed' as a blind person for a day. It was an extremely enlightening experience. Only a 'non-New Yorker' will stereotype a typical New Yorker as being heartless for that day proved to me why I am proud to be a New Yorker. I had strangers help me on all counts with not one person taking advantage of me. By the end of the day, my belief in mankind was reignited.

In the '80s, I was an Art Director within the music industry but misplaced; my music of choice is either show-tunes or swing, however my placement was within the heavy metal division. To drown out the, pardon me, c#*p, I constantly was hooked into my Walkman (does anyone remember those? ... really???) playing MY music therefore unaffected by the glorious talent of such, well... The Sex Pistols for one.

Getting the 'experiment itch' once again, I wanted to know exactly how this music affected it's listeners so, for one week, I put away my Walkman and purposely listened to every heavy metal CD delivered to my office. Oh, there were doozies and I was yearning to belt out some Evita tunes, but, instead, decided to be patient with my little experiment.

By weeks end, I felt blue, negative, moody and was convinced that this music absolutely does affect our youth. Bang, bang, you're dead. Crazy? Look at our youth today. Believe me, after that week, my office belted out Frank, Judy, Sammy and of course, 'One Singular Sensation' so loud because ... that's who I am and artists take liberties in being who they are whenever they can ... ahum.

Well, age has not mellowed me and two weeks ago it was once again: 'experiment time'. This experiment involved me placing myself in my clients place. I am presently building a separate business, which basically needs a few things done before it can be officially launched. Taking myself out of the designer and ad agency role, I began to search for freelance web and graphic designers to finalize my project. I am pleased to say that I took my own advice: I did interview each person before I hired and was truly blown away. I must say that their websites were outstanding -- actually far superior to mine; but I have never really relied on my website to get clients in the first place.

My first encounter was with the graphic designer -- far more poised than I was my first observation. (Although I have already created my own branding for this business) I stated to her that I didn't have a clue about what to do first and really needed her help. Without asking me a thing about either my business or trying to get to know what kind of person I am, she confidentially told me that she would have roughs to me within one week. I departed a little nervous because she was extremely expensive and I didn't want the clock turned on for naught but I had to remind myself that this was just an 'experiment'.

My next order of business (I was told) was to contact the webmaster, who also was a bit pricey and he would start laying out the skeleton of my site. Now, I thought to myself, how on earth can he put up a website before I was branded? Since the webmaster and the graphic designer had no connection, I was clearly confused but.... Well, 'they knew best', I tried to tell myself as I was silently calculating prices in my head. His timeline for a rough was a little bit longer and he adamantly stated that he only communicates through e-mail. Well, that's a problem, because I do not prefer to communicate solely by e-mail, but, again, I was trying to be a 'good client'.

Now bear in mind, I had already branded myself and produced products over one year ago. The process took a great deal of research and planning as I seriously took into consideration the demographics this business would be reaching. Not one vendor, however, was interested in the details.

To quote Ricky Ricardo, 'The time had come". Sure enough I got to see all comps within the timeframe promised. Ok, I thought, maybe I was wrong because they are honoring deadlines here. I worked myself up to get extremely excited which my husband always tells me is my problem: if I would just learn to enter situations having no expectations I will not be disappointed, but do I learn? Never.

Poised, graphic designer: logo and branding comps lifeless, typeface boring and had I chosen any of her comps, my business would surely be forgotten within five minutes. No appeal and obviously, no research. This design team gave me what THEY WANTED not what was in the best interest of their client (me). When I tried to explain that none of the comps reflected anything of what I envisioned, there was no discussion of going back to the drawing board. Three comps were what were put in the contract and I had to choose either comp 1, 2 or 3. (Even if I hate them? And at THOSE PRICES???)

As a designer I can affirm that rough comps are just that: rough and are open for discussion and re-rendering and re-working if necessary. Type is chosen for personality, not from a standard list and color-- don't even get me started on color but at this juncture, I was simply the 'client' who clearly did not know best.

Webmaster was no better. His research provided me with a template design. How do I know that? Because this is my business but I was not at liberty to tell him through my experiment. The roughs he provided me were nothing that I could ever use and worse, he was fighting me that I didn't know what I was talking about. Obviously, there was no relationship thing growing here. On and on he went tooting his horn about his clients, his success and all the praise he has received over the years. (yawn) Hadn't anyone ever told him that work done 15 minutes ago is already history? The bigger question is what are you doing today?

Once he remarked on his strong marketing background, I could no longer contain myself. I then asked him why he never once had taken the time to discuss what type of business this is to be as well as who the audience is?

Long story short, they were fired, of course but I sympathized deeply with all the trusting people who rely on professionals to help their business. Vendors such as what I quickly described is what gives my business a bad name. These were not professionals, these were egomaniacs who nickel and dime clients because they know that they can get away with it. Let it be known, as well, that neither companies were paid a dime.

Word of caution: never trust a website to describe a firm's ability. Anyone can put up a quick storefront and portray their business as the 'best'. Ask for references and take your time before hiring anyone. Scrutinize any contracts and insist that you receive all original artwork that was produced for your project. If a designer/artist retains all rights, move on and find someone else.

Once a vendor is hired, insist on becoming part of the process. Expect to input your opinions and insist on learning. And, yes, if someone does not work well with you fire them immediately because they are not who will bring your dream to the next level. Relationships are the key to all partnerships and if it ain't working from the start, it never will.

The best to each of you and may your journey be enlightening, encouraging and educational!
About the Author
Judi Lynn Lake successfully runs her own advertising agency which handles everything from logos, branding, videos and websites while continues to work closely with self-published authors from design to promotion. To learn more visit http://www.judilake.com
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