Linda Formichelli rocks!
Her articles are always bang on, especially her latest on direct mail. I ought to know because I design Web sites and the best way to announce them, bar none, is through direct mail. Postcards usually do the trick. Your newsletter is one of many I receive and one of the few I actually read, and Linda's columns are always the best. Let her know.
Not A Crackpot or a Junkie
I liked Linda Formichelli's column Why The Web Sucks. I thought it was informative. Hope you never give up hope; it's one of those things that never runs out. Oh, and I'm not a crackpot or a junkie -- just surfin' 'round 'bout for a bit is all.
I appreciated what San had to say about individual and even artful mail in Putting Your Stamp On It. This technique can be used by "real companies," too. When I had a client sending no more than 300 direct mail pieces, I would sell them on having their receptionist put big, bright commemorative stamps on them -- better odds to get the envelope opened, and nobody responds unless they at least open the envelope. That was when I had my marketing consultant hat on -- before I wore my art hat.
Sharing the Pains, Problems, and Victories
I recently sold my successful remodeling company to my two sons. Not being the retiring type, I started a new company specializing in servicing condo associations. One employee and I serve about 95 associations. Since my sons specialize in projects over $50K, I also do remodels under $10K. Most of what both my sons and I do is consultative selling and designing in our realm of remodeling.
My point is that I've always felt a closer alignment to IPs than to typical remodelers, especially because of my repeat or continued client relationships, as with condo associations.
Anyway, just wanted to share with you the fact that some of us in other service industries experience the same pains, problems, and victories as do typical IPs.
Thank you for your column about nightmare clients. It is something you need to print out and keep in a drawer, and pull out to read for support when this cruel world comes your way. After all, we are IPs with no bosses or co-workers, and that means we have no one to unload to -- unless you have a great significant other. Thanks again.
San's Theory of the Hairy Arm has definitely given me reason for pause. I am a part-time freelancer and a full-time creative director/director of marketing. I've been asked to make many revisions (mostly subjective) that I thought were stupid. Some I later agreed with, and others I chalked up to the client's need for self-indulgence.
Linda Formichelli's At a Premium was a great column. As a freelance writer, I'm always looking for ways to increase my client base. Linda gave me some good -- and non-traditional -- ideas for getting my name out there.
Nancy Austin's column about promotional products was too general. Although well-written, the article does not contain enough information or case studies specific to advertising or graphic design.
We do explore specific fields more closely in our Boss-Free People profiles, though, and we're working on an article about freelancing in the advertising industry.
On the Verge
Eric Adams' column Dealing With Nightmare Clients was sent to me by a fellow IP designer at the perfect time! I was on the verge of tears because of a client. Most of the description of the nightmare client fit mine. Thank you for the words of encouragement and, even though it was not specifically for me, the support.
Sherri P. Morrow
Short and Sweet -- Sort Of
This shit was so funny!
Ending the Nightmare
Eric Adams' column Dealing With Nightmare Clients was full of well-written insights. The opening paragraphs about the traits of a nightmare client were not exaggerated. I'm currently dealing with such a client and have been banging my head against the wall because of them.
They enjoy changing something for the sake of seeing what it will look like in a different perspective, only to revert back to the way it originally was. I have circled the project's finish date on the calendar and am looking forward to that day.
Walking the Ethical Line
Let's Get Ethical was an excellent column on a subject that is too often ignored. As a one-industry specialist with access to a fair amount of confidential client information, I have always had to be careful about walking an ethical line. It has put me in the position of sometimes having to turn down business because of potential conflicts of interest, but I've found that existing clients appreciate the loyalty. Nearly all our business has come through existing client referrals.
Finding the Perfect Gift
I just read and thoroughly enjoyed Nancy Austin's column on promotional items. From time to time I've toyed with purchasing such items, but not taken the step. One problem: the quantities required for such doodads are way beyond what I need. Also, other than pencils and pens, nothing seems appropriate.
Though I'm now an IP (an editor and writer), I once toiled in community journalism. As a feature editor, I received a number of items designed to lure me into promoting various events and causes in my twice-weekly newspaper. Over 16 years, there were only a few hits: a promotional poster for an exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art (now framed and in my family room); a yellow rubber duck from a tour company called Ducked Unlimited (now residing in my shower stall); and food. The Girl Scouts could always be counted on to drop by several boxes of cookies in March, along with well-written press releases. Perhaps the oddest gift (because there's no connection that I can figure) was an annual one-pound box of See's chocolates from the local Self-Realization Fellowship. I'm not even sure what their brand of religion is, but I admit it made me think of them more favorably.
When I give gifts to clients, I really enjoy trying to match the gift with the person. For four years, I've worked closely with a project manager to produce an annual report. Each year I have gotten her something as a thank-you. This year it was a $50 gift certificate from giftcertificates.com. Last year it was a cookie bouquet from Blooming Cookies. Before that it was a book the woman said she wanted to read, along with some bath salts and lotion. In the time we spend together, I stay alert for clues about what she'd like this year.
Like the freelancers interviewed in Living With Irregularity, I've sometimes had difficulty convincing people that my IP status didn't immediately make me a bad risk for a loan. Soon after I started my freelance writing and graphic design business in 1983, I applied for a bank loan. The loan officer was clearly concerned about my employment status until I reminded him that any salaried employee is one decision away from losing100 percent of his or her income, while my income came from a number of sources. Even if I lost a client or two, I still had income from other clients. In that way, I was actually a better risk than a wage slave.
He approved the loan.
Delivering Bad News With the Red, White, and Blue Monster
Peter Economy's column I Hate to Tell You But... reminded me of a similar incident that happened to me.
I design litigation graphics for a client who is a professional witness for construction litigation in San Francisco. The clients who order litigation graphics are notorious for having impossible deadlines. These clients also love to make changes to the artwork up until the eleventh hour.
Anyhoo, my client was driving me insane with his last-minute changes to the litigation charts that we were preparing, and I was just about to leave for the day when he called one last time.
After requesting about four hours' worth of changes, he informed me that he needed the final output in his hands for court the next day. I would have to FedEx the final pieces to my client at the courthouse. I glanced at my wall clock and realized that Federal Express would make its last pickup in one hour. Knowing how important these charts were for my client, and that he was due in court the next day, gave me the sweats.
I called Federal Express and checked to see if I could have a special pickup arranged. After a lengthy conversation (which took up valuable time), I found out that there was no way the Red, White, and Blue Monster was going to help me. The clock was racing, my mouse was blazing, and my eyes were watering, but I completed the charts. There was no time for a final review. I waited for what seemed like an eternity for my printer to output the charts. I asked a colleague to fill out the Federal Express label from the information in my Rolodex.
Finally, I packaged the entire presentation up and ran to the Federal Express drop box on the corner, just in time to see the truck pulling away. I chased the truck for a block and a half before catching the driver and turned over my package. I was proud.
Well, like our illustrious Mr. Economy, I, too, checked up on my package from the Federal Express Web site, and I was relieved to see the package had arrived in California. However, I was shocked to see that the package was going to be delivered to Newport Beach, not San Francisco. Immediately I knew that my colleague had pulled my client's home address from the Rolodex, and that I was in deep trouble. Just then, the telephone rang. It was my client checking in from the plane as he was preparing to land in San Francisco.
"I hate to tell you but..." is how I, too, began the conversation. As my client feigned a heart attack over the phone, and after he berated me for my mistake, he asked what we could do to fix it. I immediately called Federal Express and found out where the truck was making its next five stops, and at what times those stops would be made. I then called my client's wife and had her go and meet the truck to pick up the package. Meanwhile, I found a delivery company on the Internet that was willing to drive to San Francisco to deliver the package to my client's hotel room.
The court case started on time, and they called my client as a witness the following day. He had his charts with all of the necessary changes.
It was then that I learned that your client won't mind the bad news... as long as you tell him what you are going to do to fix the problem.
Jerrett Lee Dornbusch
Waiting for the Perfect Time Can Take Forever
Beth Pinsker's article Fantasies of the Galley Slaves held special interest for me. I'm still working for a large corporation during the day, and running my Internet consulting business by night. But while reading the piece, I couldn't help but wonder -- why are these aspiring IPs waiting until everything's "just right"? After all, when one takes the leap into the IP arena, one is immersed into a world of constantly changing problems: "When do I get paid? Where will my next client come from? How am I going to pay my mortgage?" These questions and countless others run through my own mind almost every night.
Pinsker writes: "For [Jackie] Ohringer, the amount of capital she can raise will determine how long she has to stay at her current job. If it turns out that she has to raise the cash on her own, she might even stay at Time-Warner until her earliest retirement age, 55 (by which time she'll have put in 30 years)."
This strikes me as a very peculiar viewpoint to be coming from an aspiring IP.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After
I have a question regarding Peter Economy's column How to Give Bad News to Your Client. After breaking the bad news to his client that the package that he absolutely, positively had to have in Aspen was spending the day sightseeing in downtown Denver, what solution did Peter end up offering him?
Peter Economy responds:
The good news is that I was able to recover from my FedEx faux pas,
and turn a not-so-happy client back into a happy client. The trick?
I faxed the entire document (50 pages? 60 pages?) to him at his client's
facility. While he didn't have it first thing in the morning, as I had
intended, he did have it by early afternoon. This ended up working out
all right for him, which meant it worked out all right for me, too.
Never Work With Children or Animals
The Ten Commandments was a great article. It was enjoyable and a good reminder for me not to get too complacent. And it's all true!
The first commandment reminded me of the time my cat was in my office while I was on the phone with a client. The cat was fooling around with the phone cord while relaxing on a chair... until he got his head stuck between two of the slats on the chair's back! I had to twist his head sideways and raise it to where I could push it back through the space, all while trying to listen to the specs for a new project I was about to quote on.
I missed some statements my client made and had to ask her to repeat them. After finishing the call, I laughed so hard it scared the cat again.
Bravo for Nancy! I agree with her thoughts on promotional products. As a former IBM communications exec, you can't imagine the crapola I've received from vendors. It was especially disheartening when it was very tacky and expensive! I, too, have a few items I've saved, but keep the vendor name turned toward the wall. The worst things I've ever received were engraved items with my name spelled incorrectly. No wonder corporate folks so often refer to this stuff as "trinkets and trash."
Get a Promotion
I disagreed with Nancy Austin's column Promotional Products: the Horror, the Horror! I'm still convinced that the right promotional item is one of the most important tools I have to market myself. Contrary to what others might say, I can prove their success with numbers... and dollars. I have been pushing for a project from an editor for months and have included my promotional item with every letter. It so happens that I got a book contract yesterday as a result!
Promotional items are the only way to go!
That's What Friends Are For
Pump You Up was a great article. Knowing Jon, this is a very accurate and truthful profile. I am ever so happy to read about such an amazing person.
Jon is a personal friend and as wonderful as you describe. Thank you for your interesting article.
Don't Worry, We Won't Tell Your Boss
It's Good Friday, cold and rainy, and I'm working (or at least supposed to be). Finding this site has made my day. San cracks me up! I've just found another good waste of the company's time. Until they catch me, that is... at which time, I may be coming to you for a job!
Anyway, I just wanted to let you how much I appreciate the humor and insight in these columns. It's nice to see that there is someone who shares the same ideas (warped as they may be) about working and the workplace and is willing to express them openly.
The columns I Don't Get No Respect and Two Kinds of Fear? really hit home. I've been trying to muster the strength to leave the cozy (but not so lucrative) nest that I've got here for about a year now. A few more columns and I may just get there. Thanks for the inspiration, and keep it coming.
I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon your magazine today and read some of the columns by Linda Formichelli. As a freelance artist whose friends and acquaintances consist almost completely of "full-timers," I sometimes feel a bit isolated in my experiences. It was so nice to discover writing that not only makes me feel less alone here in my little home office, but is also so well-crafted and funny! I'm putting you on my list of favorites. Thanks, and keep it up!
Heading Off the Dry Periods
I'm writing in response to Michael Nadeau's article on the retention of clients. Mr. Nadeau is on the money with regards to the importance of maintaining some form of communication with long-term clients. Those inevitable dry periods, the bane of the professional consultant, demand periodic communication if the consultant is going to have continued value to the client.
Mr. Nadeau wrote: "I decided that I could have dealt with two key issues more effectively: the client's lack of responsiveness and the unpredictable workflow. The trick in both cases would have been to deal with the problems before they occurred. Wiser, I now understand that there will be communications and workflow issues with all clients. It's important, therefore, to anticipate them during the contract-negotiation process and to deal with them in a pragmatic, tactful way."
One way in which I've attempted to safeguard my business/client investments is to negotiate the maintenance contract in such a way that it shores up my company's financial foundations, without causing too much undue stress or tension for my client. All my contracts extend for at least six months, with the contract coming up for either renewal or dismissal, from either party, at that time.
Timothy G. Ouellette
A Fan of Biblical Proportions
I loved Audrey Glassman's article on the Ten Commandments of business etiquette. A very humorous and hip way to remind folks of business taboos and boo-boos.
Carol Davis Luce
by Lawrence San
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