300 dpi, high-resolution, vividly sharp photos, a library of vector images, the “go-ahead” to splurge on metallic spot colors, a four-page comprehensive report on exactly what the client wants and doesn’t want included in the project, and the client is allowing us to decide how much print space we’ll need to create our masterpiece – it’s a dream project, isn’t it? With a grin from ear to ear, we self-assuredly exclaim to the client, “I am going to create something really special for you!”
Just at that moment, the Marimba tone on the iPhone goes off – the 6:30AM alarm is ringing. It was just a dream – sort of. You still have the client and project to do (both are good), but the 300 dpi photos are actually 150 dpi, and some of them are out-of-focus, others have poor exposure. The four-page client information sheet is actually a few notes the client scribbled on the back of a napkin (in English, you’re guessing). The client is a on a shoe-string budget, so there will be no metallic spot colors, and you’ll need to keep the project to an 11”x17” bifold. You sigh to yourself, try your best to put on a smile, and know that you confidently say to the client, “I am going to create something really special for you!”
While it might be different for a few of you, most of us working as freelancers are not going to have ideal materials, instructions or budgets to create something wonderful. We still have to. If being in this position has left you dejected, I have good news for you.
There are always a handful of small business clients that only hire designers that work on high-end projects. These clients don’t care as much about price – they know what they want, and they pay for it. There aren’t a lot of the folks, are there? The rest of the clients out there desperately need help, don’t have huge budgets, aren’t sure what they want, and can’t provide you much in terms of graphics, photos etc. Herein lays your opportunity. These clients need designers that can work wonders with “junk.”
Whether you’re a freelancer or a designer working for a company, management loves resourcefulness and practicality. If you’re able to create a masterpiece out of little to nothing, if you’re able to select the right creative direction with little instruction, and you’re able to scrounge around and find/take high-res images that you can use in your project, you are (or will) be in demand.
Anyone (well, most talented designers) can create a top-shelf project when everything aligns perfectly, but how many can do it when they’re not given much to work with? Over the years, I’ve learned to be resourceful in creating projects. I’ve done this not because of some great talent, but out of necessity. I had to learn to work with little because my clients didn’t have extravagant budgets. Sure, I’ve harbored jealously towards artists that consistently get a $10,000 creative budget to complete their work (dirty rat bastards), but I’ve also learned to parlay my resourcefulness into getting both clients and jobs in a challenging economy.
If you’ve learned to work with nothing, or junk, make sure you bring this to light when talking to a potential client or employer. Tell people that you can, and have been, wonderfully successful, even when conditions aren't ideal. Remember, that everyone’s looking to save money, show explain to clients how you have a history of saving clients money (and still Turing out a terrific project). Next, and more importantly, give the prospective client or employer a GENERAL* idea of how you’ll be able to save them money. In this economy, everyone’s looking to save a buck. Show people how you’re able to do it, and still create some inspired work.
* - Avoid being too specific with your ideas, at least until you’ve formally been given the gig/job. Remember, the client or employer may end up taking your ideas and end up hiring someone else. Give them a small taste of what you can do to save them money, but save the really good stuff until you’ve started to get paid.