May 10, 2010

Just imagine that you are a hitman, and work that way.

Imagine for a moment that you are a hit man, or a hired goon of sorts.  You've been assigned a target.  Do you:

a.)  Find your assigned target, and dispose of said target in a timely and efficient manner


b.) Find your assigned target, dispose of said target in a timely and efficient manner, then think to yourself who else your employer might not like, dispose of those people as well, then think about who else you could  get rid of that might look good on your resume (what? she got Nine Lives Louie?  But I thought he was impossible to kill!) and dispose of them too. 

I'm guessing (hoping) that your answer is a.  You do the task assigned to you, no more, no less.  This is a good way to work.  Sometimes, in very special circumstances, it is fine to go over and above what is expected of you.  Like if you're trying to snag a really great promotion, or you want to do a really fantastic sample piece to impress a potential client.  However, constantly putting more into your work than is expected of you (or more than you're being compensated for) can quickly start to work against you.  We all want to look like fantastic skilled professionals, always outdoing ourselves and blowing our competition out of the water.  But when you do extra work, 2 things happen.  First of all, your time is money, and by putting extra time into a project you are essentially working for free.  The free hours you dumped into one project could have been paid hours you spent on another project.  Secondly, you run the risk of setting up unrealistic expectations of yourself.  If your clients come to expect all kinds of freebies and extras, they may devalue your work and will expect the same kind of perks with every project.  If you were a hit man and you wasted 3 people for the price of one to be impressive, then next time your client wants someone whacked, they're going to expect to either pay a third of the price or get another 3 for one. 

I feel like I'm in that situation right now.  I'm working on illustrating a coloring book in which the illustrations are supposed to be VERY simple.  So, I quoted the job based on how long I thought these simple drawings would take me.  But when I got down to it, I started doing some really detailed images and trying to come up with some really cool ideas.  Well, now the job is taking me way longer than I anticipated, and I feel unfairly compensated.  It's totally my own fault, and I can't go back now and say "uh, I'm doing more work than you requested of me, so can you pay me more than we already agreed on?"  The time that I'm putting into these elaborate drawings is free time I'm giving to my client, and in the mean time I can't even buy myself a pair of socks.  I should be putting my hours where they count instead of putting myself in the poor house to impress my client and have a good portfolio piece. 

I'm not saying not to give 100% to every job you do. Doing shoddy work, as I stated in my last post, will make you look like a crap sack who isn't worth hiring. But doing too much work may make you look like a pushover who can be taken advantage of.  Perhaps I need to take my own advice, and work like a hit man.  BANG,  BANG,  BANG.   3 simple drawings in an hour or two, just what I'm being paid for.