As I sit here, son tearing stuff apart in his playpen, Notre Dame flogging Pitt on TV and me working on page 25 of Kim Possible Rides Again - Chapter 3, I felt like taking a quick break and vent about yet another buffoon client of mine here in the real world and why a graphic designer's work can easily be taken for granted.
Back in the spring, I was commissioned by one of my regular clients to help out a longtime friend/mentor of his on helping him fulfill his dream of creating a graduate school for religion. It was a novel idea but seriously lacked the infrastructure, with such things as an address, a physically facility, staff, students, applications, a prayer, etc. But, me being an at-home dad, who am I to turn down work? We agreed on initial terms and went to work. Redoing his website which was a basic Wordpress site with a nice catchy Weebly website, created a logo, and a very lengthy and detailed fundraising video which took about 15 hours to successfully complete.
It was soon after the completion of the video that it was apparent that this would be a job that was going to much more involved than initially thought, so my friend, who was my liaison in this whole matter, apparently came to another agreement, which was about $400 more on top of the initial charge. My instincts should have told me that when I received the initial payment, that I had to wait 3 weeks in order to cash it, that this was going to be one of those problem jobs...but again, I get a weekly stipend to be sure my son doesn't kill himself and what's some extra cash.
Well we continue onward. I create business cards, the website, some hearty brochures promoting the school. Keep in mind that 90% of this is being pulled out of my ass because the guy is a dreamer and as noted, doesn't have anything solid other than a 501(c)(3) status and a website. So everything content-wise is either a. based on hypotheticals and the contingency that he was to sign a lease on this property he had shown interest in and b. made up by me based on other similar institutions.
Sometime around August, the problems on my end began to start to show through. After HOURS of said pulling from the ass, I had created and ordered several hundred brochures...at the approval of the design. After they were ordered, the client wanted "tweaks" to the design, which I take issue with because the proof was approved prior to being fulfilled and if you have ever tried to order documents on Vistaprint, you know that there can be some compatibility issues and an overall hassle to order. I also ordered a bunch of business cards, again with client approval and proofs which he also didn't like. And decided that we were going to be "one of those" clients who demands from the printers that they redo the jobs with no cost to us.
Now, it is my personal belief, that when you are presented with a design proof, and you approve said proof, and that design is ordered and fulfilled by a third party, and you still do not like it. That's not Vistaprint's problem, that is your's and you should own up to it. It's a principle thing with me in regards to personal responsibility. I get that Vistaprint is a big company and that the $300 we gave to them was probably recouped by the time I was done talking with a representative, but I still don't think it was fair that they gave us credit for revised artwork. I'm of the belief that card shouldn't be played unless they mess up a product or the product looks bad from their end (poor pixels, improperly cut, etc) It's like with Walmart, they'll take back pretty much anything in returns, receipt or not, but it's still wrong if you take something back and you didn't get it there.
So anyways, now we have moved onto "tweaks" with the website. Now for the handful of people out there who actually know who I am, know the amount of detail and work I put into my real-world projects (hint it's 5x more than what I post here typically) So I find it frankly insulting when a man who has zero sense, much less an eye for design, begins to tell me how to design a website. Especially when his initial site was two steps above a Geocities page. So, several headers were changed. Initially we made nice, word art designs with a little pinstripe, you know...typical looks for a graduate school. And replaced them with fucking pictures of things like, the Swiss Alps, Rhinos, his son running around a barn, a hostel in Denmark..things which completely are relateable to a graduate school in the US which focuses on theology and philosophy. But that's what he wanted, and well some dipshit who is probably broke and busted came up with the notion that the customer is always right....sure.
Then it gets better, and the reality that this man had no fucking clue what he's doing other than ensuring his family is going to be evicted from their house based he took out a second mortage to bankroll this idea began to make itself apparent. Strange little idiosyncrasies which made no sense were requested. Like, requesting that I give the faculty members' titles lowercase. (dr. instead of Dr. for example) citing "personal reasons" which he refused to give after I asked for an explanation. I don't think he's originally from the U.S. so I thought maybe there was a cultural backstory of humility or something which would explain it, however I have several friends who share the same race as he does and none can think of anything that would justify it other than a personal decision.
So lets review so far shall we? We have a client who is trying to open up a school, with no students, no facility, and your primary source of communication with the outside world where you hope to get prospective students is riddled with personal images and what any person who managed to get through the 5th grade would describe as serious typos...on a higher education website.
So. Around this same time, my friend, who has been providing him with administrative, legal, and other important support decides that he maxed out on the amount of bullshit he can take from a pro-bono project and graciously bows out. Leaving me, alone with this guy. So we continue our project. We next need applications for both staff, faculty and most importantly, students. Here is where I messed up as the original website had applications already on it, but when I swapped the DNS we were no longer able to access the old site, which is odd since it was a Wordpress site, you would think you could still backdoor it with a somethingsite.wordpress.com and bring it up. But I digress. I'm railed by the client screaming "I'm running out of time!" so I'm up to 3 in the morning, learning how to create forms on Acrobat to get him good, professional-looking forms created. Mind you the original applications were just short of a word document, not really the look that screams professionalism. So I took my time making them look like we knew what we were doing. Sent it off and waited, and waited, and waited for about an entire week for the man who had been running out of time to look over things. Eventually they were approved and posted on the website.
He emails me last week, he had received a "fax" which his computer said contained a virus...so what does he do? He forwards me the fucking email asking me to double check. I'm sorry, no...that's not how it works. It's like lighting a firework which doesn't blow up and then asking your friend to go walk out there and check to see if it's going to go off or not. Don't send it to me, run it through a damn antivirus program. He was also confused to how he was receiving faxes since he didn't have a fax line. Apparently this crazy and amazing idea of someone scanning in a document and making it a digital file and sending it to someone as an attachment is a foreign concept unheard of in the developed world. *facepalm*. Around this time I also had told him, well, begged him is more like it, to get a PO Box. Because in theory, all of these applications and transcripts would be getting sent to an address of a building to which this NPO had not yet signed a lease for, meaning any prospective students' mail would be getting dead lettered or returned. He said he'd "think about it." *Worf-level facepalm*
Needless to say, this shit was beginning to get old. You see the writing on the wall that the client is only going to want things done in the way he believes they should be, and he's rejecting legal advice from someone whose a lawyer, and seriously rejecting design advice from someone who's been a graphic designer for going on 12 years. And that when you aren't even going to go out of your way to buy a $40 PO Box to give your institution a legitimate and accurate mailing address for all affairs, you start to realize that some people's dreams are to remain dreams. He's very religious so I suspect he's taking the "I'm leaving it in God's hands" approach where he sits and prays and things such as applications and PO Boxes magically appear. I'm a man of faith, but I also believe in the parable of the man who is in the ocean drowning and prays for God to save him, rejecting the help of three ships passing by, to which he drowns, goes to Heaven and asks God why he didn't save him with God turning to him and saying "I sent three ships your way you idiot!" God provides a way, you sometimes have to have the will to actually take advantage of it.
So last week, I looked over my correspondence and saw that I really only had to create some envelope letterhead for him and that would wrap it up for me. So since I had the logos, the "address" and templates, I knocked them off quickly and sent them over to him, as well as asking that we wrap this up and that I would like my (highly undervalued) $400 that I was owed.
Naturally more bullshit was the answer. He "understood" that the initial payment I had been given had been to cover everything. And that he checked with his old webmaster who told him that to change up a website, it shouldn't cost any more than $200. And that a lot of the work "he had to do" (ie, tell me about the various abortions/changes you wanted made to the page after it was built, either way I was the one spending the time to fix it, not you) But in good faith, he would be sending me an additional $100.
To that I say bullshit.
Here's how it works asshole; We agree on an initial figure, you agree to it. A month or so later it becomes apparent that the work you are requiring is going to involve a lot more grunt work than originally figured, to which you agreed, along with a higher figure than originally estimated. Yes, updated a website for the most part is simple, you can cut and paste the content from one site to another fairly easily. It's the purchasing of a template (which I did on my own part and didn't ask to be reimbursed), changing very difficult code to the said CSS template so you get the proper coloring, layout and content to make it look better than what you had that costs more than $200. Not to mention all of the SEO, Social Networking and frankly the fee I put on people for excessive bullshit to deal with that it begins to cost more than $200. That's not counting a 5 minute fundraiser video I made, if I did that at my old job, it would have cost you $350 ALONE for just that, and you got it as part of a bundle. That is what we call in the real world as a "hell of a deal". And then you come back all chummy in your stereotypical clueless foreign accent and have the audacity to give me a $100 tip? I'm sorry, that's just insulting.
Needless to say I was beyond ecstatic with that response, and honestly not surprised. I had a hunch he would try to conveniently try to forget the conversation about how more funds would be needed to make everything work properly. Granted I may have been a little slow on some the progress. Be a stay at home father with an 18 month old craving attention and then a wife who gets off work at 9pm, exhausted from a 12 hour shift keeping a bunch of ungrateful old farts alive and you'll see my life is very demanding with little compensation to show for it. Additionally, you would think while I was too busy making your website look more and more like you had no clue what you were doing, you could have been doing things that would be important like, oh I don't know, getting a fucking PO Box, working on getting state accreditation for your school, or leaving the professionals alone to do what they do, I dunno. I'm really a true believer that a good portion of people who work in nonprofits are there because they couldn't turn an actual profit in the real world. And that's based on 20+ years in both Scouting and working with several religious organizations. There's a lot of good people in there that know what they're doing, but the stupid is prevalent as well.
It's not all bad, my friend who got me into it said he'd make me whole so there's that. He shouldn't have to, although a part of me is glad since he's the one who drug me into this mess to begin with, he shares part of the blame, lol.
Anyways, end of rant. I feel much better...one perk of being anonymous here I can occasionally let out some free-floating hostility.
But seriously, this goes for everyone out there who has ever asked for work or is planning to have work done by a graphic designer. Be nice to them. Realize that what they do is a lot of work, and the way they do their jobs, they deal with a lot of bullshit you wouldn't find in a law firm, a doctors office, a department store or even a coffee shop. Take care of them and treat them as the professionals that they are and not like some curbside street performer who pretends to be a statue for tips.