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Be Less Terrible at the Business of Design49:34 with Meagan Fisher
In this talk, Meagan will share the things she's learned about getting the work you want, ensuring a project is a success, and getting paid for it when you’re done. Before you think “well that sounds soulless, I’m going to the Tower of London tour during her talk,” she'd also like to tell you that thinking hard about how to manage her business has made her a better human being outside the office too. So come share in a celebration of us all being slightly less terrible.
[MUSIC] 0:00 Hi guys! 0:06 Thank you so much for that intro, Oliver. 0:07 And thanks for coming out today, I am super excited to be here. 0:09 So just keep that in mind when I say that I was a little bit nervous about 0:15 giving this talk because typically in the past when I've been invited to speak, 0:18 I talk about the things that I'm pretty comfortable with, 0:23 which are sort of the design process. 0:25 You know, working in the browser, things like that. 0:28 What's new in CSS3, kind of design theory stuff. 0:30 And I decided today that I was going to talk about something that's actually kind 0:35 of the hardest part of design for me. 0:38 Which is business. 0:41 [LAUGH] so this is actually the most frustrating part of the work I do. 0:43 And I decided the best way to handle that would be to just dive in fully and 0:48 give a talk about it. 0:52 I had to work really hard to sort of embrace and 0:54 love the kind of business side of design. 0:56 And for the reason for that is when I first got started, 1:00 this is sort of what I thought it meant to be a web designer, right? 1:04 You're this kind of starving artist, creative genius that works in 1:07 your underwear by yourself all day and you don't really have to talk to people. 1:11 You just get to kind of make beautiful pixels. 1:14 And that sounded very good to me. 1:17 But it turns out web design is actually about a lot more than that. 1:20 It's really all about relationships and communication and empathy. 1:24 And all these kind of, like, messy interpersonal things. 1:28 And eventually, I wasn't really satisfied just working in my underwear anyways. 1:32 We all kind of reach a point where we want our career to be satisfying, and 1:36 we wanna make money on it. 1:39 And, that means just embracing the fact that, you know, 1:41 as Mike Monteiro says, design is a job, it's really a business. 1:44 So I should start by clarifying what I mean when I talk about the business of 1:50 designs, since that's a pretty vague title. 1:53 I actually purposely left it vague, because when Oliver asked what I 1:56 wanted to talk about, I was like, business things, you know. 2:00 Business-y stuff. 2:03 And embarrassingly [LAUGH] when I was trying to sort of 2:05 narrow it down what that would mean, 2:08 I actually Googled what it is that people learn when they go to business school. 2:10 Because, I didn't go to business school and 2:14 I was curious what that curriculum looked like. 2:17 So, here are some of things that kind, 2:20 came up when I searched what do people learn at business school. 2:22 The funny thing is these are all the kind of like terms that make me cringe, 2:28 that make me want to avoid ever calling myself a business person in 2:33 the first place because this stuff is really hard for me. 2:36 [LAUGH] You know, it took me a while as I said to sort of warm up to 2:40 the fact that this is really essential to having a career in web design. 2:45 And kind of as I mentioned the reason for 2:49 that is because a lot of the, the kind of major questions of how do you make money, 2:51 and have a successful project, and plan it well. 2:56 Really involve the kind of interpersonal relationship stuff. 3:00 So I wanted to talk about it today and 3:05 just be as honest as possible and share really some kind of 3:07 funny stories about failures that I've had in the business part of web design. 3:10 So we can hopefully all laugh at them and learn from them and 3:16 then also wanted to share my favorite internet pictures. 3:19 So hopefully that will be fun for us all. 3:22 [LAUGH] so four of the kind of things that I wanna focus on when I'm 3:26 talking about this are, you know, finding the people who wanna pay us, choosing who 3:29 we wanna work with, setting up a project for success, and executing it well. 3:34 So those were sort of the kind of main focal points I took 3:39 from that huge screen of business-y terms. 3:42 As I said, I wanna start out by sort of talking about, 3:46 how do we actually find the people who are willing to pay us for our work. 3:49 This is the thing I get asked the most about especially by people who are first 3:53 thinking about going into freelance work, you know, maybe for the first time or 3:57 kind of new students who are looking to, to find a full-time job So 4:00 yeah, it's something I, I spent a lot of time thinking about. 4:06 And there's a few things that have really helped. 4:08 The first one sounds kind of obvious, right? 4:12 Ask for help. 4:14 It seems pretty simple and 4:16 straightforward but I find it's actually kind of a, a challenging thing to do. 4:17 A lot of us don't want to admit that we're not just, you know, drowning in RFP's. 4:22 And it's, it can be kind of awkward to reach out to our like peers and 4:27 say, hey does anybody know of anybody who's looking for design help right now? 4:30 Or development help or whatever the case may be. 4:34 But actually asking for help is pretty good for the soul and it's humbling so 4:37 it's something that I think you should all kind of start practice, 4:42 practicing doing now if you're not already. 4:45 Because it turns out later in your career you're also probably going to be 4:48 sending out emails to those same people saying, you know, I'm trying to 4:50 hire a design team, and do you guys know of any great designers that are available. 4:54 So, even if now you're the one saying, hey, I need design work, down the road 4:58 you're going to be looking for help with actually hiring the design team. 5:03 So perhaps you've heard that, so you might as well start practicing now. 5:06 And the best way to do that is to sort of reach out to the people who are in 5:11 your network. 5:14 Think about companies that are always on the lookout for design help. 5:16 Reach out to developers you know who might wanna be partnering with designers in 5:19 some of the apps they're building. 5:22 Or just the designers you know who are super talented and 5:24 probably have way too much work coming in or way too much on their plate. 5:27 I'm not gonna attempt to awkwardly move the microphone, so I can drink water. 5:31 So, bare with me. 5:35 [LAUGH] Oh, that wasn't bad. 5:37 In the past, I've done that, and it's like horribly screeched. 5:40 So, that's what I worried about. 5:44 Anyway so we have to network, but our ability to do so 5:46 kind of assumes that we actually know people that we can reach out to. 5:51 Or we have to ask for 5:55 help, but that assumes that we actually know people that we can talk to. 5:56 Which is not really a fair thing to assume, 6:00 since we all spend most of our days working alone on the internet. 6:02 So what this means is that you have to do the kind of most dreaded, horrible, 6:06 businessy thing of all. 6:10 Networking. 6:12 You knew it was coming. 6:14 And to be honest I actually have been and 6:16 still sometimes am, very uncomfortable with the idea of networking. 6:19 I feel like I'm gonna be, I'm gonna end up somehow talking to like a weirdo or 6:23 I'm gonna be the one that's the weirdo. 6:27 Or I'm gonna get drunk and say something really embarrassing. 6:30 And the truth is all these things have happened and 6:33 probably will continue to happen. 6:35 But the other amazing thing that happens when you put yourself out there and 6:37 meet people in the real world. 6:41 Is that you kind of find people who are your tribe and, and 6:44 putting a face behind the, the avatars can make a really huge impact on your career. 6:47 So, these are some pictures from different sort of 6:52 networking-y things that I've done or that have really impacted my life. 6:56 The first one is actually a group of Rails developers that I used to hang out with 7:01 in Orlando, back when I first got started about ten years ago. 7:06 So I actually had no interest in learning Ruby on Rails, and I still don't. 7:10 But I would go to all the Ruby on Rails meet ups, because that was 7:15 the most active, like, tech community in Orlando, where I was from. 7:18 And so the funny thing is I would just kind of show up and be like, hey guys, so 7:23 do you need any design help with those projects you're working on? 7:26 And that was actually where I got a lot of great work. 7:30 But not only that, 7:33 not only would I ask them if they knew of anyone with work available. 7:34 I would also sort of talk to them about you know, what are some of 7:36 the challenges that you come up against when you're working with designers. 7:40 And what are some of the major like pitfalls that you've found? 7:43 And that allowed me very early on in my career to be able to kind of 7:46 empathize with the development side of things as a designer. 7:50 And I think that gave me a big advantage going forward because I 7:53 understood how we could all better work together. 7:57 So that was just from going to those goofy meetups. 8:00 The the second picture is actually me folding t-shirts at a Bar Camp Orlando. 8:04 I was too nervous to speak at it. 8:09 [LAUGH] but I offered to go and fold t-shirts. 8:11 And the funny thing is that I showed up and 8:13 while I was there kind of handing out swag and stuff like that. 8:16 I met somebody who was friends with Dan Cederholm. 8:20 And I had mentioned to him that I was thinking about moving to Salem which is 8:23 kind of near where Dan lives. 8:27 And so he actually put us in touch. 8:29 And it's very funny because, again like I did not want to go to this bar camp thing. 8:31 I was like, I'm, I'm not gonna be able to talk to anybody, I'm too nervous. 8:35 But it was because I did that that I eventually got to experience like one of 8:38 the most rewarding parts of my career. 8:42 That third picture is actually Dan and 8:45 I hanging out at a precursor to Dribbble meetups. 8:47 Back in the day before those were even a thing so that was cool. 8:51 And then the last picture is me with my best friend, 8:54 who is a friend and developer. 8:57 And I actually met her at Brooklyn Beta, at the very first one. 8:59 And I didn't want to go to that event. 9:03 I thought, everyone in Brooklyn was gonna be way too cool for me, and 9:06 way too hipster. 9:09 And I was like, I'm gonna go out and have one drink and 9:10 then bail on the whole thing. 9:12 And I actually met Jackie there. 9:14 She came over and started talking to me about CSS. 9:16 And I moved to Brooklyn six months later, and we became best friends and still are. 9:18 So my point is, even though it's very awkward and you might have to talk to 9:23 weirdos or you might get drunk and embarrass yourself you should definitely 9:27 show up at networking events cuz you never know how it's going to change your career. 9:30 The other thing I'll say is if, 9:33 even if you don't want to leave your house, which is fine I kind of get it, 9:38 you should always strive to just be nice on the internet. 9:41 You can kind of accomplish the same things and 9:45 build those same relationships by just like not being a dick online. 9:47 That's one of the first things I look at when I'm hiring a potential designer. 9:52 I probably weigh their portfolio just as much as I weigh sort of 9:56 what their online presence is like. 9:59 Like, are they very active in the design community? 10:01 You know, have they ever open sourced anything? 10:04 What kind of comments do they leave on Dribbble? 10:07 Like, are they snarky? 10:09 For example, this is a comment I got very recently on one of my Dribbble pictures. 10:11 Why do I have a feeling I'm seeing a typical TemplateMonster template 10:17 from 2005? 10:20 And I showed this not just to make you guys feel bad for me but to say that it 10:22 can be actually very hard to continue putting yourself out there online. 10:26 Especially when people, you know, in every community, there's people who are kind of 10:29 snarky and want to like cut you down for whatever you're doing. 10:32 And I think it's really worthwhile to continue to sort of network, 10:37 cuz like I said, you will make those connections and 10:40 a lot of the best work I've had has come from me posting my stuff on 10:43 Dribbble even though sometimes people will comment and be like, meh, or whatever. 10:46 So basically, yeah, just be nice on the Internet. 10:51 And the last thing I'll say about, like, the way to get work 10:54 is obviously referrals are the absolute best way to get new jobs that you'll find. 10:58 [LAUGH], so, all the best, you know, a lot of the best plans I've had 11:03 have come because other people that I worked with referred me to their friends. 11:08 And if you work on a project, and it's a success, don't feel bad saying, hey, 11:13 would you mind you know, referring me or being a reference for 11:17 me on the next thing I work on. 11:20 Cuz a lot of times people are more than happy to do that. 11:23 So let's say you've done all these things. 11:28 You've gotten referrals, you've networked. 11:31 You're not a dick on the internet and people really wanna hire you. 11:33 The next toughest thing you have to think about is how do 11:36 you choose from all the people who now want you? 11:39 Right, cuz it can be difficult. 11:42 There's a lot of questions you have to consider here. 11:45 Which is like you know, how much work can I do? 11:47 Who's gonna be a good fit for me? 11:51 Who can I offer the most to? 11:52 So the thing I wanna start with is talking about how much work can we 11:53 actually take on? 11:58 [LAUGH] I feel like this cat all the time. 11:59 [LAUGH] I'm looking at like, you know, my potential projects. 12:02 I'm like I can do it all. 12:06 I can have it all. 12:07 And that was actually a tough thing for me when I first went back to 12:09 freelance I thought, you know, I really wanna like be good at this. 12:12 And crush it and have like a ton of work coming in, 12:16 so I'm just gonna work like 80 hours a week. 12:19 No big deal and actually that kind of backfired because at one point, 12:21 I had two projects that I was doing at the same time. 12:27 Both started with a P, the company name started with a P. 12:29 And the project managers for bose proj, both projects were named Nick. 12:32 And, I'm sure you can all see where this is going. 12:37 I was working, you know, 80 hours a week trying to like, 12:40 really kill it with the whole freelancing thing, taking these projects on. 12:43 Not getting a ton of sleep, feeling somewhat disoriented, and 12:47 I sent the wrong mockup to the wrong Nick. 12:50 And it was so embarrassing, I felt like I'd been caught having an affair cuz he 12:54 was like, what am I looking at? 12:58 And I was like, nevermind, delete the email! 12:59 And I realize you know, that's, like yes I want to bring in a lot of work, 13:02 but of course you have to balance that with like being, getting enough sleep and 13:07 having the space in your life to be able to run the kind of like, 13:10 professional business that you want to. 13:14 So it's, it's all about finding that balance. 13:16 I realized I'm sort of a one project at a time person. 13:18 That's the most I can do. 13:20 I'm not gonna talk about this too much because I know Denise just covered it 13:24 very thoroughly and well. 13:27 But I, you know, as I'm, as she pointed out, 13:29 there's that kind of emptiness, you know, around the content that we all think 13:32 about with our designs is just as important in our lives, right? 13:36 Like you need that kind of clarity of mental space around the work 13:40 you're doing to be able to do great work. 13:43 And companies that understand how design, how design works, and, and really value it 13:46 will get that, and they'll, they'll give you the space to have that in your life. 13:51 And if you're looking at potential employers or working with clients, and 13:55 they're discouraging that, then that's an opportunity for you to talk to them about 14:00 sort of the creative process, and I mean it's not even just for designers, right. 14:04 Like everybody needs that, that work life balance to do their best work. 14:08 But that's something to be mindful of cuz definitely, like for me, 14:12 like I said when I was first going back into freelance or 14:15 you know, especially when I was first starting out you, 14:17 you do have that tendency to feel like you just want to jump, jump all in. 14:20 okay. So, once you've figured out, sort of, 14:25 how much work you can do, and how much work you should be doing. 14:27 The next thing that I would, 14:30 I would wanna talk about is, who you should be working with, right? 14:32 And that's a very tough thing. 14:36 It's easier to talk about it in terms of who you shouldn't be working with and 14:38 sort of what the red flags are for clients to avoid. 14:41 So, the way I think about bad clients is that they typically tend to fall on 14:46 a spectrum. 14:50 And one end of the spectrum we have what i like to call the mess. 14:52 This client does not have their act together at all. 14:58 But they think that design is gonna be the big thing that's gonna sort of 15:00 save their business. 15:03 So they bring you in in the hopes that you're just going to some how pull it 15:05 all together for them. 15:07 Here's some examples of what you might hear from someone who's the mess. 15:10 This is one that we probably all heard some variation of before. 15:15 I can't exactly describe our business model, 15:19 it's sort of like Pinterest meets Secret meets Foursquare. 15:20 This means that they probably have no money or if they do now, 15:23 they are going to run out soon, and 15:26 the project is gonna be aimless because there is no real clear business goal. 15:28 Here's another one I've heard before. 15:34 The CEO has a different vision than I do, but 15:36 I think if we work together I can convince her I'm right. 15:38 [LAUGH] this is gonna be sort of like being caught between two 15:42 parents who are inevitably going to get divorced. 15:45 But you're like the child in the middle that they're using to sort of, 15:48 like, fight over you, you, fight with each other, with. 15:51 So yeah just avoid those, 15:55 those kinds of situations where there's a lot of internal tension. 15:57 Here's another one that I'm sure we all heard before once the design is in place, 16:02 we'll start to think about content strategy. 16:06 This means, obviously, that they have no idea what it is that they wanna say. 16:09 They're hoping the design will sort of provide some container that they can put 16:13 poorly structured or written content into. 16:18 So that again, is an opportunity to either educate them or just walk away. 16:21 So on the one end we have the mess and 16:24 that's kind of what we've been talking about. 16:28 On the other end of the spectrum, there's the narcissist, right? 16:29 [LAUGH] and this person doesn't really think that designers have anything to 16:34 actually offer them. 16:38 They're just kind of looking for like arm candy, right. 16:39 Like they want you to make them look good. 16:42 But that's kind of all they think design is about. 16:44 So, so 16:47 this is something that I've heard from a lot of people on this end of the spectrum. 16:48 You are very lucky to be working with us. 16:52 This is such a good opportunity for you. 16:55 [LAUGH] How many of you guys are familiar with the concept of negging? 16:57 Has anyone heard this term before. 17:02 Oh, not many, thank God. 17:04 But a few. 17:06 Okay, it's a thing. 17:07 It's like this gross pickup artist community has this thing where they're, 17:08 like, if you kind of insult a woman at the bar, then she'll be, 17:13 like, more likely to go home with you. 17:16 'Cuz she'll feel so lucky, that like, you're interested in her. 17:18 And I feel like that's, this is like that, but in business. 17:21 Where they're like, you're not that great but 17:25 we're willing to take you on, because this is good for you. 17:27 So you just walk away from that situation. 17:30 [LAUGH] Here's another one. 17:33 I know exactly what this site should look like. 17:36 I just need someone to bring my vision to life. 17:38 Basically, this person thinks that you are just like a Photoshop machine that they 17:41 can just like cram colors and 17:45 fonts into, and then you will just like shit out beautiful designs for them. 17:47 [LAUGH] And yeah, I'm sure that's something we've all heard before. 17:52 So that's again just like somebody who doesn't quite understand the role 17:57 of design. 18:00 And depending on how far along they are in, in their delusion, you can either 18:01 try to educate them about what it really means to be a designer or, just walk away. 18:05 There are other clients. 18:11 [NOISE] So [LAUGH] I've learned all 18:12 these things about which clients to avoid like the hard way. 18:14 You know, as I said I've been doing freelance where I can. 18:20 Working for different agencies and, and 18:23 even at full time positions kind of on and off for about ten years. 18:25 And I wanna share one story because this actually happened pretty recently. 18:29 Like you'd think I know better by now but, here we are. 18:32 It's pretty embarrassing but there you have it. 18:36 So, this was right when I first went back into doing freelance work. 18:38 I had just left Charpie where I was working for two years and 18:42 I was like, all right, back into freelance, gonna take it by storm. 18:45 You know like, I can do anything. 18:49 And one of the first clients that reached out to 18:51 me was this very cool sounding startup. 18:53 They were working in sort of the health space which in America needs a lot of help 18:55 as you may of heard. 19:00 And yeah so I was like oh this is so noble. 19:01 Like you know bringing healthcare to the masses, 19:04 it's gonna be really exciting and there were some early red flags. 19:06 So like, you know, I hopped on the phone with them and, 19:11 and sorta had them talk to me about their process and their team. 19:13 First of all, they had a very unreasonable scope. 19:18 Like, they wanted to completely redesign their site. 19:20 It was like a 30 page site. 19:23 They wanted it to be responsive and everything. 19:24 And, I think they had like a four or five week time line right, which is ridiculous. 19:27 So that was a little bit of a concern, of a pin point and 19:33 also they had so many stake holders on the project. 19:37 There were probably seven or eight people on that first call. 19:40 And it was like very clear that they didn't trust any one person in 19:43 the company to make a call about the direction of the site. 19:46 So they all had to be there to like check and 19:50 make sure that nobody had like tried to override anyone else's goals. 19:52 So early on I sort of could sense that there wasn't really any 19:56 trust within this team and that it was gonna be a difficult. 19:59 Project but then I did a follow-up call with their project manager, 20:02 who is like this very suave guy. 20:08 Like, he's a silicon valley guy. 20:11 He spends his whole days talking to investors. 20:13 And he was telling me how important design is to them as a company and 20:16 how they were gonna change the world with their, with their app, 20:21 and how they were gonna just, we were gonna make so much money together. 20:24 Obviously it was a disaster. 20:30 So yeah, after I had that call with that guy I was like, all right, 20:32 I should give it a go. 20:35 Like, this all sounds very exciting and noble, and I think I should do it. 20:36 So, as you might guess, it was a complete disaster. 20:40 For one thing, the feedback they gave was like so conflicting and, and 20:44 so far apart that it was almost impossible to sort of synthesize it into one, 20:49 like, visual experience. 20:54 I'm gonna give you some examples of their design requirements one this came straight 20:56 from the CEO was that we had to have wood textures all throughout the experience. 21:02 Right? Which is not something you see a lot of 21:08 in design nowadays. 21:10 Like he said, the wood was the ultimate symbol of health. 21:11 [LAUGH] so, that had to be in there straight from the CEO. 21:15 Their sort of creative director person would give me the feedback that, 21:21 their text needed to be smaller. 21:25 And I was like, all right well it's already at like 16 pixels, but 21:27 we'll see if we can like swing a 15 or 14. 21:30 And she just kept being like we have to fit more text. 21:33 Make it smaller. 21:36 But I was like this is a site that like you know is targeted at seniors. 21:38 Like, huge, huge issues we would talk about that a lot. 21:42 One of their core brand colors was yellow, and the way that 21:46 their art director I believe wanted to manifest that was via sunflowers. 21:50 She was like we can express the core brand color of yellow by putting sunflowers all 21:56 over the entire design. 22:00 So. 22:02 Another core brand color was teal. 22:04 They wanted teal to be the background color for all the modules but 22:06 they wanted the text to be set in white. 22:09 [LAUGH] So I don't know if anyone can even read that. 22:11 The other thing was the accent color was red. 22:15 [LAUGH] So, the whole design was just full of these like bright red elements on teal. 22:18 And eventually, okay, so after about eight or nine rounds of revisions where I 22:25 was resisting and they were insisting and back and forth. 22:29 This is actually where we landed, with a mock-up. 22:33 Which it's a little hard to see here because of the contrast, but 22:36 you'll see it in the slides later. 22:40 it's, it's like not terrible, right? 22:43 It's probably not like the worst thing that's ever been on the internet. 22:44 But it's really not great. 22:48 Like I think no, nobody at the company felt good about it. 22:49 I certainly didn't feel good about it, because it looks like what it is. 22:52 Which is sort of this amalgamation of all these competing requests and 22:55 it's like a Frankenstein. 23:00 It's very hard to read. 23:01 You couldn't really experience the content well. 23:02 But, I was also just so stressed out, because we had such a tight deadline and 23:06 this was like my first project back to freelance and 23:09 I just wanted to get it out the door. 23:11 So we, you know, we were mostly happy with this page. 23:13 We are about ready to move on. 23:17 Actually when the, when the creative director I mentioned earlier just sent me 23:20 another design one day at like two in the morning. 23:23 And said like, this is what we're going with. 23:25 And it was just like sunflowers and red text. 23:27 And I was like, I can't do this. 23:30 So my solution. 23:32 Well, okay I actually thought the problem was me, 23:36 right, like I've been working a full time job for a couple of years. 23:39 I was like, maybe I just don't know how to make this planet happy, 23:42 maybe it's my fault and there's something I should do differently. 23:46 So, I brought in a friend, that I have worked, who is a great designer. 23:49 Then subcontracted parts of the project to him so that he could help me out. 23:53 And this obviously turned out to be just like a huge disaster and 23:59 made things worse, because the last thing we needed on a project like that was for 24:03 more people to be brought into it, right? 24:07 But I, I made the same mistake as the client. 24:10 I thought, oh, you know, 24:12 design is going to somehow address these structural issues. 24:14 And if we just have one more designer, and 24:17 the designer is just a little bit better, then that's gonna somehow solve the fact 24:19 that this is really just a broken team that doesn't know what they want. 24:23 [BLANK_AUDIO] 24:26 So, this is my first project out the door going back to freelance. 24:27 And that kinda what I felt like. 24:32 [LAUGH] You know, I felt like I was already blowing it and it was 24:34 such a huge disappointment that my first project back to have been such a disaster. 24:38 But I quickly realized this was probably one of the best projects I've had in 24:44 my career because it actually taught me so much. 24:48 Before I did this, I was in this really weird place of kind of being in 24:52 an imbalance between feeling very arrogant about my work but also very insecure. 24:56 So, on the one hand, I believed that just via my, my pure skillset with, 25:01 with creating designs I could solve these huge company wide problems. 25:07 I was like, I'm such a gifted creative design genius that, 25:12 that's gonna fix the fact that they don't know who they are or what they want. 25:14 And then on the other hand, so 25:18 there was like that aspect of arrogance, but then on the other hand I felt so 25:19 insecure about myself that I couldn't say to them, like, you guys need to regroup. 25:24 The problem is not me, it's you. 25:28 You know, like you need the time to rethink what it is that you're trying to 25:29 say and what your goals really are. 25:33 So, working on that project really taught me an important lesson which is we're only 25:35 gonna do our best work when we're in that space between humility and confidence. 25:40 yeah, so it ended up working, it ended up being a really important lesson. 25:48 All right, so we talked a lot about what, who not to work with. 25:53 The next kind of question that usually comes up, or it came up for me was, okay, 25:57 so how do I know if I'm getting myself into, like, a really shitty situation. 26:01 You know? A lot of, 26:05 every project is gonna have its problems. 26:06 Every team has, like, its weird flaws that you can't always anticipate. 26:08 And it turns out, the answer to, like, uncovering who the good clients are is 26:13 actually kind of a, a disappointing one I've discovered that paperwork is 26:17 actually the key to figuring out who the right clients are. 26:22 And bear with me for a minute. 26:26 Cuz I know that sounds unlikely, but 26:28 this is actually something I never really wanted to do. 26:30 I've always been kind of a hippie about it. 26:32 And I thought, you know, oh, we don't need to do, like, a proposal. 26:34 That's so much paperwork. 26:38 How unfun. 26:39 Like, let's just chat. 26:39 Or we don't need to fill out a questionnaire. 26:41 And I've, I've come to realize that actually the really awesome thing 26:44 about doing the questionnaire, the proposal, 26:47 the contract, the, the deposit is that you can sort of think of these as like way, 26:50 challenges that clients have to go through before they can level up. 26:56 And sort of like the grand prize at the end of all the paperwork is 27:00 that they get to work with you. 27:03 But the interesting thing is that during this process, 27:05 any red flags that are going to come up will usually get raised. 27:09 So as I said, 27:11 sort of the first thing I do is send out this questionnaire to every client. 27:13 It's constantly changing and it's pretty long. 27:18 So I'm not going to go through the whole thing. 27:20 But I, I will show you guys, 27:22 or I do have the link for it so everyone can access it and check it out. 27:24 But I'm just gonna share some of the sort of favorites, parts of it. 27:28 One of the biggest questions, or sort of things you need to figure out early on 27:31 is just who the heck is this client and, like, what are they really about? 27:35 So some of the things that you might ask to sort of uncover this is, 27:40 you know, describe your company and your service. 27:43 And you'd be amazed at how many people can't even coherently do that. 27:46 [LAUGH] and that right away. 27:50 That's like question one. 27:52 Can knock out a ton of people. 27:53 Because they, as I gave that example earlier. 27:54 They say, oh you know, it's Foursquare meets Pinterest meets whatever. 27:57 And it's like oh, you can't describe your business without like looping in 28:00 the names of four other businesses you probably don't quite know who you are yet. 28:04 Another important, you know, 28:10 part of this question is, just ask them who are the stakeholders. 28:11 And if there are nine people that you have to go through for 28:14 every stage of the design process. 28:17 That's a huge red flag. 28:18 And, and you already know to walk away. 28:19 [LAUGH]. 28:22 Another question is, what's the deadline and why? 28:23 If it's like an arbitrary deadline, with no real purpose or 28:26 event or any like sort of importance to get it out the door at a certain time. 28:30 That's another red flag, and then you also wanna ask, what's the budget? 28:34 And if people can't answer that question right away, and 28:38 competently, and comfortably. 28:40 They're never gonna be, or they're gonna have a hard time talking to 28:42 you about money for the rest of the project. 28:44 And maybe they don't have any. 28:47 That could also be what that means. 28:48 So another really important question is just, 28:52 why are you even doing this project in the first place? 28:54 It's really valuable to hear them sort of define what the, 28:57 what the motivating, motivating factors are before they dive into a project. 29:00 It helps you understand the client better when you ask them, you know, 29:06 what are your dreams for this site and, and where do I fit into them? 29:09 [BLANK_AUDIO] 29:12 So, yeah, you just wanna say sort of, like what are your major goals for the project. 29:13 Where, where do you see me adding the most value to it. 29:17 And what's motivating you to do this right now. 29:20 Another important part of the questionnaire is just how can we 29:23 even do this right? 29:26 You wanna kind of wrap it up by saying, what does success look like for you? 29:28 And also kind of an important one that added later is, like, 29:31 what are you afraid that's gonna, of going wrong? 29:35 What do you sort of anticipate the, the pain points being for us? 29:38 And that can be really illuminating. 29:42 Cuz people will write back and say you know, 29:44 my project manager has had a bad experience working with designers before. 29:46 And tends to be very, like, on guard and hostile towards them. 29:50 Or sometimes they'll write back and just say you know, 29:53 our developer doesn't want to write any CSS. 29:56 So we need to work with a designer who's like happy to do that. 29:59 As I said, this is available to check out online. 30:04 So if anybody wants to scope out the, the questionnaire I use, you're hap, 30:06 you're welcome to use it yourselves. 30:10 Another thing I'll say too is this is sort of targeted towards people who are doing 30:12 freelance or client work, but I feel that a lot of these questions can also be 30:16 relevant in your full time position when you're just kicking off a project. 30:20 So the, the same kind of things of like what does success look like for 30:24 this project? 30:27 What are the things you anticipate going wrong? 30:28 Those are the kinds of questions you wanna ask even if you're just in a, 30:30 in a full time position as well. 30:33 So after the questionnaire we have the proposal. 30:36 So that, if, if you've gotten through the questionnaire and 30:40 they've answered all your questions and 30:43 you don't, and no red flags have been raised then that's awesome. 30:44 It's like okay you've ascended to the next challenge, which is the proposal. 30:47 [LAUGH] and this is actually a huge pain in the ass on our side to do. 30:51 I always kind of dreaded doing them. 30:55 Because basically, in the proposal you're kind of pretending that you 30:57 know exactly how the project is gonna go. 31:00 And sort of confidently presenting them with this outline for 31:03 what you think is gonna happen. 31:06 So you might, in the proposal you might outline sort of what the major 31:09 deliverables are gonna be and what you think the process looks like and 31:12 kind of explain to the client the way you tend to work. 31:16 So the goal as I said of the proposal is generally to be like don't worry, 31:21 I got this. 31:25 You're sort of trying to take what you've learned from the questionnaire and 31:26 say, I understand what your goals are and I have a plan in place to achieve them. 31:30 The funny thing is, so whenever I send out my proposals, I'm always explaining my 31:35 process and it's always according to like sort of the latest and 31:39 greatest at least a part, articles from like. 31:43 You know, I design in the browser. 31:46 I do mobile first. 31:47 Like here's how I incorporate content strategy. 31:48 And the funny thing is like that's what's in the proposal, 31:51 but I've pretty much never worked on a project in, in my whole life that, 31:54 where everything has gone according to that. 31:58 There's just, there's so many unknowns, right, going in. 32:02 And that's just sort of a fact of the, of the industry. 32:05 yeah, art direction on Mobile First can be a really difficult thing to do every time. 32:10 Some clients just really can't get, sign up until they see it in the dust hopper. 32:14 Same thing with designing of the browser. 32:18 Some people just need those like, 32:19 beautiful high fidelity mock-ups before they'll get on board. 32:22 And I used to really beat myself and the clients up about this. 32:24 I was like, don't you understand though, 32:28 like we need to work according to the best practices. 32:29 And they would actually like send clients, like links to all these article and 32:31 be like read this, understand why. 32:36 Or I would spend a lot of time trying to educate them. 32:38 But, since then I've sort of gotten to be a little bit more compassionate and 32:42 understood that all these things. 32:45 An ongoing process, right? 32:47 Like explain to clients how to work with responsive design and 32:48 why it matters is a relatively new thing. 32:51 And it's gonna take time to educate. 32:55 And before that the things that we talk about at these events, like, 32:57 sort of infiltrates the rest of like the internet universe. 33:01 So just be patient with yourself is all I'm saying, and, and don't feel terrible 33:05 if you don't get to do it the right way every time, cuz you probably won't. 33:08 okay. So another big 33:15 question in the proposal that I get a lot, how long is this going to take? 33:16 Or that's the other thing you sorta want to outline for people. 33:18 Estimating projects is really hard and 33:22 I'm not gonna pretend that I can do it right everytime. 33:24 But one thing that's been very helpful for me is to sort of plot out exactly how 33:27 many hours I could imagine something taking, in the worst case scenario, right? 33:31 Like if I have to do two revisions of every page. 33:36 So that sort of where I start with and 33:39 then still multiply that number by one point two times. 33:41 My best friend Jackie actually gave me that tip. 33:46 She's like every time I worked with a designer, and they've given me an estimate 33:47 for how long their designs are gonna take, I automatically add 20% to that, and 33:50 that seems to give me about a good budget, for how much time I'll need. 33:55 And that's been really effective for me, so that's how I do it too. 33:59 Oh. 34:02 That's the slide about that. 34:03 [LAUGH] With that dog. 34:04 [LAUGH] Anyways so the next thing you want to 34:08 have in the proposal is sort of your fee summary and schedule. 34:11 This is very important. 34:17 People tend to not want to talk about money or 34:18 just kind of be kind of vague about it. 34:20 Actually it's, it's really helpful if you just outline for 34:23 a client exactly when they can expect to be billed. 34:25 And not only, like, this is how many hours they think something will take if 34:28 you're billing hourly, but like why and how you came up with that rate. 34:32 Really break down the value of each one of your deliverables and 34:36 explain how it's going to be important to their business. 34:39 And then say this is how often you have to pay me. 34:42 If people are unwilling to pay you if they, 34:44 if they give you any, like, shit about giving you a deposit. 34:49 If they don't wanna pay, you know, if, I usually tend to break down projects into, 34:53 like, four stages. 34:57 So I'll get a deposit, and then bill after each stage work goes through. 34:58 If people are giving you shit about that, that's like another red flag. 35:04 Sorry. You don't get to pass go. 35:08 You don't make it to the next level in this process 35:09 because obviously that's super important. 35:12 If anyone hasn't seen that dog by Mike Monteiro called fuck you pay me, 35:14 you should watch it. 35:17 Cuz he is like the patron saint of freelancers. 35:18 And in getting paid for what you do. 35:23 So I have a proposal template I kinda work with. 35:26 Like I said, each proposal is super-different, but if anybody wants to 35:29 use this, this is a jumping-off point for your proposals feel free. 35:32 And again, similar with the questionnaire, I found in even in the full-time jobs that 35:37 I've had in the past, it's very helpful to kinda have something like 35:41 a proposal together when you kick off a new project with your team. 35:45 Sort of [LAUGHS] when I worked at Sharpie the content strategist I worked with there 35:50 called it the manifesto for each project. 35:53 But it's just kind of the major goals that you can expect to hit. 35:56 It's outlining why you're even doing this thing in the first place. 35:58 So you have something to come back to at, you know, two in the morning, 36:02 when you're freaking out because you can't make a decision about, you know, 36:05 the content or the, the design. 36:09 Anyway. 36:11 So proposals are helpful for everyone, not just freelancers. 36:11 Sort of the last stage in the paperwork process is closing the deal. 36:16 This is, you know, the contract. 36:20 And you wanna make sure that the contract is something you understand and 36:22 can talk about. 36:25 I used to use this like very legalese heavy one, but a friend of mine paid 36:26 a lawyer to do, and then he was like, oh, you can just have this. 36:31 And I used this years ago, and somebody was like, what is this one line about? 36:35 And I realized I, like, had never really understood what it was about. 36:38 So anyways, I don't use that contract anymore You basically just wanna make it 36:43 something simple, you can explain what's gonna happen when things go wrong you 36:47 know, what the client owns and what you don't. 36:51 And if anyone hasn't seen in, 36:54 definitely check out the contract killer by Andy Clarke. 36:55 It's just the greatest contract template in existence and 37:00 it'll save you a lot of time and stress. 37:03 So yeah. The other thing I would, I would say is if 37:07 you're not, if you're somebody who's newly looking for full time work you can kind of 37:10 go through all this process as well by explaining to people who are considering 37:14 hiring you full time that you'd love to do contract work for them going in. 37:20 This is actually how I've gotten every full time position I've had. 37:24 Because I, it kinda saves a lot of risk on both ends, right? 37:28 Like you want to make sure you're a good fit for the company. 37:32 They want to make sure you guys are gonna mesh well as a team. 37:34 So don't be afraid to just say like, 37:37 hey I'd love to do a contract together for a month. 37:38 And clients, or companies, and, and for you that, that works out really well. 37:41 So. 37:48 Once you, once you're on board for a project sort of the next 37:49 biggest challenge of course is how do you actually keep the stakeholders happy 37:53 throughout the course of the project and this is really the hardest part, right? 37:57 Well as a wise man once said, [LAUGH] the key to 38:02 keeping people happy on a project is to stop, collaborate, and listen. 38:05 Good clients are really looking for a partner in their designs, right. 38:11 They don't just want somebody where they are gonna hand over a mostly completed 38:14 fully wrapped up project, and then you're gonna apply visual style on top of that. 38:18 Like that's not what being a designer is about. 38:22 They want someone who's passionate about the project and 38:24 who shares in sort of a mutual respect for the work that they're trying to do. 38:26 This is a quote I read somewhere on, 38:32 on some like, sort of funny inspiration blog or something. 38:34 But anyways I, when I soon as I read this I wrote it down on a post it note and 38:38 like stuck it up on my wall by my desk. 38:42 Because it's been hugely influential when I'm, 38:44 going through those like feedback calls, that are sort of painful. 38:47 To listen is to lean in softly with a willingness to be changed by what we hear. 38:50 And this has made all the difference for 38:56 me because I would always go into calls where I had just presented a client with 38:58 a design and then I was, I was getting their feedback. 39:02 Wa, like, feeling very rigid, right? 39:04 Like, I already know what the best approach is or, or feeling sure that I do. 39:07 And it can be difficult to sort of let go of that fixed feeling of like, 39:12 this is the right design, this is the right approach. 39:16 So, really just listening to what the clients say because they do at the end 39:20 of the day understand their business and probably their users better than you do. 39:23 And they do have valuable input obviously. 39:27 This again is, is one of the hardest things. 39:31 Right? 39:34 [LAUGHS] sitting there and getting those critiques or explaining to 39:34 every single one of the stakeholders why you've made the decisions you've done. 39:38 it, it's probably the toughest part of the job for me. 39:42 Like I really just want to push pixels around and make them beautiful or 39:45 that's the way I used to think about design. 39:49 So, learning these communication skills is, is hugely important. 39:51 But it is challenging. 39:55 One thing that's really helped me with all of it is just to communicate. 39:57 Basically constantly on a project like way more than feels natural. 40:01 I, you know, if it were up to me and I was left to my own devices a lot of times I 40:06 think I would just sort of hole up for the week and like struggle by myself. 40:09 And I've learned instead to really do those constant check ins. 40:13 It shows that you respect the client's history with the product and you want to 40:17 get their input on it you know, constantly on the way you're thinking. 40:22 How many of you guys do, work at a full time place where you do standups, 40:27 or are familiar with this? 40:32 Okay, cool. This is kind of I 40:34 guess this is like a pretty popular thing. 40:35 We did these when I worked at [UNKNOWN] and 40:38 I kinda hated them actually cause they're really first thing in the morning and, 40:40 so it meant that I always had to be on time, which I'm pretty bad at. 40:43 And I couldn't have my coffee but since I left [UNKNOWN] 40:46 it's something I've wanted to, like I've done on every freelance project I've had. 40:49 So for those who don't know, a standup is basically just, at the beginning of 40:54 the day, for five minutes, everybody on the team will kind of stand up and 40:57 say what they worked on the day before, what they're planning to do that day, and 41:01 what they need from anyone, if anything. 41:04 So it only takes a few minutes, but it's super helpful. 41:07 And I actually do this even on like freelance or 41:10 remote projects where you know, whether it's like popping on IM and 41:12 just kind of giving everybody a rundown of where I'm at or sending out a daily email. 41:16 yeah, it's just hugely helpful in, 41:21 in keeping everybody feeling like they're in the loop. 41:22 Clients really love it. 41:26 So here's another kind of funny quote about empathy and 41:29 it's something [LAUGH] that I spend a lot of time thinking about. 41:32 It's harder to empathize with those who appear to possess more power, status, or 41:35 resources than we do. 41:39 And again, this is something I think about because I think there's a tendency 41:41 in sorta the designer-client relationship to get into these sorta power plays where, 41:44 you wanna be withholding and not show the design unless you feel like it's perfect. 41:49 Or you know, they're gonna put their foot down and 41:53 sorta insist on a certain approach. 41:55 And once you kind of get into that power struggle, it's really difficult for 41:58 you to, like, empathize and respect each other's viewpoints. 42:01 So there's some things you can do as a designer to kind of avoid getting 42:05 caught in that tangle. 42:08 One of the things I've found that's been really helpful, 42:11 is just being honest with clients. 42:13 Stop trying to be right all the time and 42:16 admit when, when you're up against a challenge. 42:18 Even if it's something you don't think they can help you with. 42:21 Like you're struggling with what kind of button style to use. 42:23 Just letting them know that you're suffering for their design, or 42:27 for their product, it like turns out clients love to see that. 42:31 I mean usually they're you know wearing themselves out and 42:35 they've been burning the midnight oil, developing this product and to know that 42:37 you're right there in the struggle with them actually gets them really pumped. 42:41 Even if it means you're gonna be handing in a design a day late or 42:45 something like that. 42:48 So yeah, just basically don't be afraid to admit when you're stuck on something. 42:49 It's good training for humility and also it can be 42:55 helpful to just sort of hop on the phone with clients and talk it through. 42:58 This is a project a part of a project I worked on recently. 43:03 It was one of the P projects I mentioned earlier called Piqora, and so there's this 43:06 day where I was supposed to send them like some suggested styles for the home page. 43:12 And I had spent six hours stuck on choosing a stock photo for 43:17 the home page banner. 43:21 I don't know if any of you have ever been in this position but 43:23 you can go down this very dark hole when you're looking for stock photos. 43:25 Especially when the art direction is like, we want a woman who 43:29 seems vaguely professional doing something kind of with technology. 43:34 Like, there goes my day. 43:38 So that's where I was at and the client had, or, you know, Nick, our, our project 43:41 manager had sent me an IM like, hey, how are those home page mock ups going? 43:45 And I was like, oh God, leave me alone, stock photos. 43:50 And then he sent me an email like, hey, do you want to hop on the phone and 43:53 talk about the home page mock ups. 43:56 So, I took a moment, 43:58 I remembered all my notes to myself about humility and honesty. 43:59 And I said Nick, can we just hop on the phone, 44:03 cause I have like 15 stock photos I need you to look at [LAUGH] and we did that. 44:05 And it was very funny. 44:10 It was called our day of, we called it like the afternoon of banners. 44:11 And here's like some of the billion that I created. 44:14 I put them all in a slideshow. 44:17 And by the end of the call which really only took like 30 minutes and I got some 44:19 very clarifying like much more specific feedback about what he was looking for. 44:24 And Nick, not only did we like have a better direction for the home page. 44:29 But he was like, oh my god, 44:33 it must suck to be a web designer and have to look at these shitty photos all day. 44:34 [LAUGH] And it was like, such a great moment of empathy, right? 44:38 Like he understood a little bit more of what it was like for 44:42 me to try to get through my job. 44:45 And, and not only that but just like it saved me so much time. 44:47 Cuz I could have easily been stuck looking at those photos for longer. 44:51 And he was like, oh yeah, just do the one of I don't know if it's in this loop. 44:55 There's like friends holding an iPhone. 44:59 It was the one we went with. 45:01 So the other, 45:04 another sort of like empathy quote that I keep in mind a lot is behind intimidating 45:05 messages are merely people who are appealing to us to meet their needs. 45:10 This is something I 45:14 repeat to myself constantly when I am in those feedback sessions. 45:15 So on that same project for Piqora, for a while I was creating these very beautiful, 45:19 detailed high fidelity wireframes for them. 45:24 And one day we were, we were going through it and 45:28 Nick was like, you know I think I'm just gonna take over the wire frames from here. 45:30 [LAUGH] And I was like, what? 45:34 Because you know I had really invested a lot of thought in, in these. 45:37 And he, and in the past I feel like I would have been like, 45:40 look, that's not your job, that's my job. 45:43 Back off. 45:45 Like, I'm doing the wire frames. 45:46 But instead, I took a moment and said, okay, well, what do you feel like you 45:47 would be better able to express if you were doing the wireframes? 45:50 Like, what are we missing right now from this communication? 45:53 And it turns out, oh, so just to back up for 45:57 a minute, this is the wireframe Nick sent me. 46:00 [LAUGH] So in comparison to the ones I'd been doing, I was like, 46:02 I don't know what you want me to do with this. 46:05 And it was definitely one of those like crisis moments where you're like, 46:09 I can't handle this. 46:11 But it turns out he really just was trying to express, you know, 46:13 there's a flow to the product and I feel like that's not coming through. 46:16 And so that was really a moment for 46:20 me to realize that there was just some unmet need there. 46:22 It wasn't that he didn't like the wire frames I was doing or 46:25 didn't think I was doing my job well. 46:28 It was just that he wanted us to get the, the experience across, 46:30 with this flow of the product. 46:33 And that wasn't something that had come through. 46:35 So, I need to wrap up cuz I think I'm cutting into your break. 46:38 I know this isn't to talk about productivity or process. 46:41 But really quickly I 46:45 wanna share two things that have been super helpful for me. 46:46 Sort of in thinking about the way I approach my work. 46:48 One thing is that, in the past, 46:52 we typically have wanted to kind of wait around for the idea to come to me. 46:54 And this was something that, you know, 46:57 we talk a lot about in design, waiting for the inspiration. 46:58 And the thing that I've tried instead that's been hugely helpful is just 47:02 telling myself, like, I am going to make the shittiest, like, 47:06 piece of crap design that I can in the next 20 minutes. 47:11 And instead of saying like I have to spend today making a perfect design. 47:14 I'm like what's, just like the worst thing I can do in 47:17 20 minutes that's gonna get the ideas down on the page? 47:20 And usually that alone is enough to get me going. 47:23 And that 20 minutes turns into another 40 minutes and so on. 47:26 So next time you're stuck do that. 47:30 The other thing I would say is don't always just 47:33 give your clients what they want. 47:36 This is something that's very tempting to do and you'll totally get paid for it, 47:39 and it'll be easy. 47:43 And sometimes that's really all you can do is give people what they've asked for. 47:44 But if we wanted to just sort of cash a check and go home and, you know, 47:49 get stoned and eat pizza, then we would work at Starbucks. 47:53 But that's not what we're all about, because we're designers. 47:56 And yes, design is a business, 47:59 but we also got into this because we wanna be creative. 48:00 So instead of just saying, how can I meet the client's goals? 48:04 I al, instead I ask myself, what's the most beautiful thing I 48:07 can make that achieves the business goals that this person has? 48:11 So one example of this is that client that I mentioned from Piqora. 48:15 This was the first mockup I did for them. 48:18 It's a little hard to see because it's, again, like, high contrast display, 48:20 but basically their brand colors were gray. 48:23 They wanted to use Proxima Nova which, you know, 48:26 we're all using, everyone was using then. 48:28 And they wanted these red accent colors. 48:31 And so I presented them with this. 48:34 And, they were fine with it, like this design got approved by the team. 48:35 But, I actually said, you know, can you guys give me a couple more days? 48:39 I wanna try an alternative approach, just to see where it takes us. 48:42 And the next design I did looked something more like this. 48:47 Again, it's a little tough to see it, but this is using a much warmer color palette. 48:51 the, the typeface is a little bit more int, 48:55 the typeface choice is a little more interesting and 48:58 different than what we were, sort of, typically seeing on the web. 48:59 It was much warmer imagery. 49:02 And it would have been very easy for me to just go with that first approach, right. 49:05 But, because I pushed things a little bit further, like, I like to tell myself that, 49:09 that kind of action of like, 49:14 asking the client to give you the chance to do something extra beautiful, 49:15 is what makes our jobs rewarding and kind of makes the internet a better place. 49:19 So, that's all I have to say today, thank you so much for 49:24 listening guys, it was really awesome to come talk you. 49:28 [APPLAUSE] 49:33
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