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.

May 5, 2010

Have conviction (not a conviction, the character trait)

An important lesson I've learned over the years is that you should choose your challenges wisely.  You aren't going to win every argument you get into, so only get into it when it's something you feel strongly about.  My mother got it right.  She didn't care for the way I dressed as a teenager, but knew it wasn't important so she didn't fight with me about it.  There was, however, one pair of size 36 second hand beige wool old man pants that she hated.  She felt strongly about it, and refused to be seen with me in said pants.  It was important to her, and she stuck to her guns, thus she was never seen with me in public wearing the old man pants (she would use her knee high horse-decorated upholstery riding boots against me, and we would both end up changing outfits as a truce). If she had fought with me over every ugly sweater, or every time I wore hiking boots with a dress, she would have been one tired lady.

The same is true when agreeing to do things for others, whether it's a favor for a friend or a job for a client.  If you say yes to every piddly little thing, you're going to be one tired lady too (or a tired gentleman).  Don't accept any challenges that you don't know for sure that you are able to, or have the desire to see to the end.  To be respected as a professional, it's imperative that you put as much effort into every job you do as you put into fighting for your right to party.  The more half assed jobs you do, the more you look like a crapsack who isn't worth hiring.  Don't take chances pumping out sub-par work, you never know who might see it and how it might affect your reputation!  In my past, whether I was working as a filing monkey (hate) or a screen printer (love) I always put the same amount of effort in: all of it. 

Some important things to consider when deciding on whether or not to say yes to the request are:
  • Do you have time for this new project as well as other projects you're already working on?
  • Can you finish it by the deadline set?
  • Is it worth your time? (i.e. will you be getting paid enough for the time you put in)
  • What does your gut tell you?  Do you really want to do it or not?
If the answer to the last consideration is yes, then all the others might not matter much to you.  The final question is usually the most important to me.  We've all thrown common sense out the window at least once to help out a friend, or do something really fun right?  If the answer to ANY of the considerations is "NO", you should seriously think about saying no to the request, or else you better have a really good reason for agreeing to the task.  If you do end up accepting the challenge, then see it to the end!  Just think, if my mother lacked the conviction to continually say "No, Jillian, those pants are ugly and you look like a homeless 68 year old man who crapped his pants" then she would have had to be around a 15 year old girl who looked like a homeless 68 year old man who crapped his pants.  It would have slowly chipped away at her happiness and life force, just like doing a job your heart isn't in chips away at yours.