Yeah I admit it; I am sort of a Star Wars geek, to what degree is still left open to debate. I do still have all of my old Star War toys (my Grandmother who bought most of them insisted I take good care and hang on to them). To my defense of not being a compete sci-fi nerd:
- I've never dressed up as a Star Wars character (although I've always wanted a blue lightsaber)
- I don't even like the last 3 movies Lucas made - rubbish
- I actually don't currently own any of the Star War movies on DVD or Blue Ray
All of that said, a few days ago while my mind was wandering I discovered an odd comparison of a scene between Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan in the original Star Wars movie and the changing landscape of freelance design. I know it sounds odd but give me a chance; I'll "tie" them together. (Uh...I made a funny there didn't I?)
If you're familiar with the movie skip down a paragraph...this back-story section here is for the less nerdy or younger generation that hasn't yet seen the original Star Wars movie. I am describing the negotiation scene in Episode 4 (Star Wars) between Han, Luke, and Obi Wan in Mos Eisley Space Station. This scene would be similar to a freelancer interviewing a few prospective clients in a Starbucks.
Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan: two men living on a desolate world, "Tatooine" suddenly find themselves in a distressed position whereby they need immediate transportation off of the "Wow, this place really sucks" planet and into outer space to rendezvous with rebels who share the same cause. Desperate to find a willing and able pilot with spaceship to assist them, Luke and Obi Wan find themselves in a cantina negotiating with a Han Solo - a space pilot who coincidentally is a desperate character in his own right. The three of them are sitting at a table trying to determine if they can cut a deal or not.
Check out time code 4:48 - 5:58 in the video below:
Han: $10,000...all in advance
Luke: 10,000?!?! We can almost buy our own ship for that!
Han: But who's going to fly it kid...you?!?!
In this analogy we (freelancers) are Han Solo: we've got a product/service that we're willing to offer to clients (Luke and Obi Wan) for the right price. With me so far?
Luke, (like some clients both you and I have met), is staggered by the cost of the service, he immediately blurts out that he doesn't need a professional, doesn't need to pay an "outrageous" fee - Luke foolishly feels he can do it himself (keep in mind that while Luke isn't an idiot, he has NO experience flying a ship like the one their talking about). Luke isn't willing to pay for Han's expertise as a space pilot, instead Luke feels that all he needs is a ship - he can do the rest on his own.
Hmm, is this starting to sound like some of the clients you've met now?
Does it feel more and more that clients are less willing to pay for expertise and more like they can do it themselves?
Going back to the Star Wars example, in response to Luke's ridiculous comment Han comes back with a zinger that I believe encapsulates the way the freelancing industry is heading and how freelancers will be able to continue to be successful, "But who's going to fly it kid...you?!?!"
With all of the discount web/branding templates, tutorials, spec work web sites and cheap drive-through logo companies and freelancers who'll work for nothing, it's easy for clients to feel like Luke - there's no need to pay for expertise, all they need to be successful is a second-rate brand, web site...or spaceship and they can do the rest themselves.
They're wrong, most companies that try to go it alone in terms of marketing and design without an expert helping them will fail within 2-3 years, so there's an opportunity for skilled freelancers who can offer consulting (and marketing) advice rather than just pretty design.
To be successful as a freelancer now, not only do you need to have a good "spaceship" by offering appealing design (which I've just mentioned is readily and cheaply available in template form), but you need to be able to provide a client with expertise as a consultant that will help them achieve their objectives...in the Star Wars example, the objective was fast, safe travel, for your clients it's more revenue and more clients...can you help them do that? If you can, you have a bright future in freelancing.
Hope you enjoyed the analogy, if you did please pass it along!