$10,000 Budget? No Thanks, I’ll Pass.

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You know how it goes. Potential client makes first contact. “I found you on [insert social media, website presence here] and love your work! I have a great project that I think you would be perfect for!” Excitement and enthusiasm are rampant. Dreams of fame and glory dash throughout your brain. You come back down to earth and start your client in-take process. You do have a client in-take process, right?

So the creative brief was sent, the client took time to fill it out with all sorts of great information. Really took their time. Always a good sign. They are taking this seriously. One of the sections of my creative brief is a budget range. Always ask for a budget! They checked $10,000 for what appeared to be a small brochure style site for a new food product they were bringing to market in a few months. Even the timeline was generous. This had all the makings of a great project both financially and creatively. Score!

You do have a client in-take process, right?

We took an hour or so to go over the brief. One by one with each question. Great answers, we were clicking personally and professionally on all levels. Then we got to this question:

“Will we be using an existing brand or do you also need me to create an identity for you or your project?”

The client stated “Oh we have a logo already. I am so sorry for not sending that up front. I thought I had.” And proceeded to send me a PDF file with the logo that had been already created for them. And my heart dropped through to the floor.

It was by far the worst logo I had ever been given by a client. Truly horrible. It wasn’t even a logo. It was a mess of colors (at least 10), badly executed hand-drawn lettering, gradients and drop-shadows galore. It looked as if a sparkly unicorn threw-up 1986.

My first reaction was to run. Far, far away. Screaming. But this is where you step up to the plate and be a professional. You are doing no service to the client if you do not speak honestly and respectfully to them about what you feel needs to be done for them to have the greatest chance for success. This is the conversation that followed…

“I have been looking at the logo you sent and I was wondering if you would be open to discussing it? I have some concerns regarding it and your brand positioning.”
“Logo is finalized. Happy to discuss but will not be changing.”
“No real need to discuss then if it is finalized.”
Discussing the brand stretegy [sic] as a whole framed by the logo as one element of the brand is something we should do. Ie [sic] We can use your ideas to help strengthen our brand image even without touching the logo.

Ugh… All the life and promise of this project was sucked out of the room. I knew right then and there I did not want to work on this project at all. How they wanted the site to look (which was on point) and who their demographic was did not match with the logo and overall branding at all. It was way off-base and obviously no amount of convincing was going to work.

So I contacted the client and kept it professional and short.

I have to be honest in that I am just not feeling it. It is trying to do to way too much and anything on the page would be fighting with it. It would be a nightmare from any other kind of production standpoint as well. I know you must have put a lot of market research into your product and brand but I feel that based on that visual, and the creative direction this part of the project would need to gel with it, I am not going to be the best person to take on the project. Best of luck to you and feel free to use the creative brief we worked on together to find someone who can better meet your needs.

I immediately felt better. Like a weight was lifted. It was the right decision. And what was interesting was that not once, not even for a second, did I think of taking the project for the money. Keep in mind I am a solo designer. Shop of one. That one project would have lasted me for months of living expenses. But I would not have done my best work. I would have mailed it in. Taken the path of least resistance yet again and I was on my way to not wanting to be that person anymore. (Read my previous post Just Create to reference what I am talking about.)

I know… sometimes you need the money. You have to eat, live and enjoy the little things in life. But you need to stand your ground if at all possible. There has yet to be an instance where I have regretted saying “No” to a possible project. Without fail something better suited for me has always come along. And by better suited I do not mean the same or even more money. Nope. Since then I have not quoted on a project near that budget. But the ones I have quoted on have been a helluva lot more fun and more fulfilling than just increasing my bank account.

And remember, you don’t have to have a client or a project to do your job. Make your own project. Put it out there. That will be worth a lot more than $10,000 when you look back on your life.

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