Friday, May 22, 2009

How to Create a Freelance Contract

Working for a client without a contract is like walking a tightrope without a net. It's risky and could be hazardous to your (financial) health.

If you wonder why you should get a signed contract from your client before embarking on a creative project, see the post below. I learned a costly lesson by NOT having one. A contract between a freelancer and a client protects both parties. It eliminates misunderstandings that can lead to hard feelings. It's just the right way to do things.

This article on takes you step-by-step through the process of creating a freelance contract. This article tells you specifically how to create a freelance desktop publishing or graphic design contract.

You can do it! So do it!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top 10 Lies Told To Naive Artists and Designers

Certain clients are not worth having. The ones who either lie to you or try to cheat you out of your rightful fee.

I am acutely aware of this because recently, I plunged heedlessly into a project for a man who was starting his own consulting business, and as a result, I took a bit of a bath.

The entrepreneur needed a website, introductory letters, e-mails, maybe a brochure, etc. Like any good creative, before getting into the specific tactics, I began laying the groundwork for the campaign, via a three-stage process: First Questions about the client and the competition; then Marketing Strategy; and I was about to start on the Creative Strategy when I sent him my invoice for the work up to that point, about $600.

When he received my invoice, he phoned me, flabbergasted at the amount. Why, we hadn't actually produced anything -- that he could see. It was then that he informed me that his entire budget for the debut of his consulting business was $1,000.00. Website, identity package, minor adjustments to the (bad) logo he'd already paid for, e-mail letters, introductory letters, perhaps a brochure... One Thousand Dollars. Yikes. Didn't see that one coming.

In light of that, I advise other creatives to begin by finding out exactly what the client is asking you to do. Second, give him or her a bid and explain what it covers. Third, get a signed contract outlining the agreements between you.

I am undeniably at fault in this case. First, I didn't listen carefully when the client told me what he wanted me to do. I heard him, but unlike him, I knew what would be involved in doing it. I didn't explain the thinking part of the process -- the strategy part -- to him so that he bought into it. To analogize, he wanted me to build him a house, but he didn't want me to create a blueprint for it.

I also did not give him an estimate or bid, assuming (wrongly) that since he knew my hourly fee, he could extrapolate and figure out what roughly what his project would cost. He told me he had founded the company he was leaving after 20 years, had done the website, marketing, etc., etc. So I thought he was a sophisticated client. Remember Ass-U-Me? Now I do.

Finally, I did not draft a contract that made each of us aware of what we would do, and what it would cost. Dumbkopf!

In the end, this $1k client talked me down from $600 to $400 (Since, you see, he only had $1k all together, if you can believe that.). As it ended up, he was going to build his own website on Microsoft Office Live -- which has the ugliest templates on the planet. The best farewell advice I could give him was to check out GoDaddy's templates instead. They're boring, but at least they're not garish.

After years working in agencies and working freelance, how could I have made all these rookie mistakes? By being careless. By assuming because I liked the man, I could trust him. By believing all the stuff he told me about being a President of his own company for 20 years and knowing everything he said he knew. Later, I wondered, if he was all that and a bag of chips, how come he only had $1k to start his own business? Something stinks in Denmark... or in this case, Topeka.

You/I have to be extra-careful with entrepreneurs or "amateur" clients. Don't assume anything! Talk about it up-front and get a signed contract. Your client may or may not decide to pay you, but at least you both know what s/he's not paying you for. If your client is in Missouri, I understand, you have to go to small claims court and try to get a judgment in your favor in order to get the client to pay. If the amount is not large, you may decide to skip court in favor of moving on to the next (better) client.

Anyhow, fellow creatives, as they used to say on "Hill Street Blues," "Be careful out there."

Thanks to KC CopyDiva for the link to this article.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Twitter tweets up business

At first, people used Twitter to tell their friends what kind of latte they were having, and where, that they were walking the Schnauzer, and that they had holes in their socks. Ho hum. Now, though, businesses are beginning to understand that Twitter can be a powerful marketing tool. Especially locally.
Twitter Proves Its Worth as a Killer App for Local Businesses

New Orleans Pizza Joint, Chicago Yogurt Chain See Results From Promos on Microblogging Service
by Abbey Klaassen
Published: May 18, 2009

NEW YORK ( -- All those brands trying to figure the ROI of Twitter? They might do well to follow the lead of the local pizza joint.

NAKED PIZZA: Recent Twitter promotion brought in 150% of a recent day's business.

NAKED PIZZA: Recent Twitter promotion brought in 150% of a recent day's business.

Naked Pizza, a New Orleans healthful-pizza shop that's hoping to go national -- Mark Cuban is a backer -- has been marketing itself via the microblogging service. And recently it has started to track Twitter-spurred sales at the register. In a test run April 23, an exclusive-to-Twitter promotion brought in 15% of the day's business.

"Every phone call was tracked, every order was measured by where it came from, and it told us very quickly that Twitter is useful," said Jeff Leach, the restaurant's co-founder. "Sure, there's the brand marketing and getting-to-know-you stuff. ... But we wanted to know: Can it make the cash register ring?"

Mr. Leach is one of many small businesses using Twitter as a marketing tool -- and his group could turn out to be a lucrative market for the fast-growing site if other local entrepreneurs have similar experiences.

[Read more.]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Insults Had Class

Years ago, wit was acerbic and sharp, and a finely worded insult was a work of art. Here are some of the best I've seen. Enjoy!
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
Abraham Lincoln

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one."
George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second...if there is one."
Winston Churchill, in response

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
Paul Keating

"He had delusions of adequacy."
Walter Kerr

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them."
James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily."
Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination."
Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
Billy Wilder
And as a bonus, some great quotes on a more serious note:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense."
Dwight Eisenhower

"Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but both look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect. "
— Freeman Dyson, On Receipt of 2000 Templeton Prize

George Gerbner, who headed the Annenberg School for Communication for 25 years: "Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures. … They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities."
Quoted by Molly Ivins

From a letter from President James Madison to the Baptist churches on Neals' Creek and on Black Creek, North Carolina, in which the President wrote about his February 28, 1811, veto of a bill passed by Congress and the Constitution's guarantee:

"I have received fellow Citizens your address, approving my Objection to the bill containing a grant of public land, to the Baptist Church at Salem Meeting House Mississippi Territory. Having always regarded the practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, I could not have otherwise discharged my duty on the occasion which presented itself."

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scientists Could Communicate More Effectively

Sent by a friend:

The following is an actual sentence, copied from a posting to President Obama's request for input from the science community on the hiring competent scientists, by a chemist from San Diego. Is there any doubt that scientists need to focus on their communication skills? If a normal sentence were a sprint, this sentence would be a marathon.
Please consider encouraging, in publicly funded projects, and incentives similarly in the private sector as well, more opportunities for “on-the-job” training/re-training for scientific, engineering and other technological positions for American citizens that have sufficient or nearly so academic education and sometime more than adequate, but due to various situations have not obtained as much professional experience in some narrow area that one may be well aware of the usefulness of acquiring experience in this, given their both theoretical and practical academic training, and thus actively seek to develop this as such, or even conversely speaking for example, with something commonly used, yet by sheer coincidence the professional experience obtained from the given jobs that one is hired for instead involve something narrow that is not common to other similarly classified positions rather than either not or only not very extensively involving this marketable skill set resulting be passed over in favor of foreign workers on H-1B or other such visas who may in fact, have even less or at least roughly equivalent, thus far before the time of hire, overall combined cumulative academic/professional experience!

Daydreaming Works Out Your Brain

Got a tough problem to solve? Try daydreaming.

Contrary to the notion that daydreaming is a sign of laziness, letting the mind wander can actually let the parts of the brain associated with problem-solving become active, a new study finds. -- - May 13, 2000

This is good news for me and my fellow wool-gatherers. It means that while you're gazing out a window or into your cat's blank eyes, seemingly thinking about nothing in particular, you're actually doing a brain workout. Parts of the brain’s "executive network," which is associated with high-level, complex problem-solving, light up when you’re daydreaming.

Certain ad agency account people I've worked with have not understood this concept. Nothing against AEs and ASs (Oops, didn't really mean an insult there -- but you know who you are.); they're always running a mile a minute, churning out meeting reports, Gantt charts and whatever other paperwork they have to do for clients to prove they're working. The idea that sitting around thinking is "work" just doesn't compute.

Long ago, I worked for a small ad agency whose owner was alarmed by the sight of me sitting at my desk staring at the wall. He would whisper to others, "What is she DOING?" I imagine he saw a dollar meter racking up the money he was paying me while I sat there, apparently producing nothing. He fired me on my birthday. I considered it a great birthday gift, since the boss's idea of "creative" advertising was P&G coupon ads. "New!" "FREE!" These "creative" words had to be included in every ad. Tip to creative job-seekers: be sure you find out what your prospective boss means by the term, "creative."

The fact is, the creative process includes a lot of daydreaming, wall-staring, doodling, humming, walking around, and so on. Typing doesn't mean you're producing anything usable. Not typing doesn't mean you're not.

Here's how the creative process works in an ad agency. Typically, there will be a big kickoff meeting where everybody on an account will receive input from the account people about the project at hand. Afterward, creatives will gather to discuss and propose some initial ideas, most of which are lousy. This is normal. Then they go away to their individual cubicles and do that all-important daydreaming. While a creative sits around looking inert, new input integrates and coalesces in the brain. A few halfway decent ideas may emerge later in the day or the next day. [AEs and ASs, please understand that the reason creatives hate tight deadlines is not that they're lazy and don't want to work; it's that tight deadlines don't give the creative brain enough time to work.] Coming together again later, writers and art directors compare their ideas, combine, sort, discard, and eventually arrive at two or three workable concepts to present to the CD.

The best, most effective campaign I ever worked on took several weeks to develop. The art director and I took walks in the park, lounged in the creative conference room staring at the ceiling, drew pictures, exchanged jokes, did word-association, whatever. The resulting multi-media campaign netted a 1400% ROI for the client. We had time enough to be creative. And we had a very good client, it should be said.

The point is, very little of the creative process occurs during the execution part. By then, the blueprint is done, the materials to build are on hand, and the brick-and-mortar work begins. Not that creative ideas are banned at this stage. They may enhance the original plan. But the point is, ideas come out of thinking and daydreaming, not looking busy.

Account people, relax. When your creatives are daydreaming, they're doing exactly what they're being paid to do: create successes for you and your clients.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Know I'm off-topic here, but...

If you, the reader, are a bit puzzled as to what the heck the theme of this blog is these days, well, so am I.

It started out being about advertising and marketing. Then I started discovering the most mind-blowing, creative ideas out there in the rest of the world. Things that make you go, not "hmmm," but "Omigod!"

Ooh, baby, baby, it's a wild world. Wild with crazy, artsy, wonderful stuff that defies definition or categorization. Often, even reason. Stuff that makes your brain go "Bzzt! Hello!"

If you experience a painting, a performance piece, a film, a video, or even an exquisite meal -- and something that was sleeping within yourself stirs to life, well, isn't that what living is all about?

Life lived creatively, swimming in ideas, gargling music, stroking art, is rich. Life without transcendence is not life. So say I.

And I still don't know what the heck the theme of this blog really is. I can't wait to see where it goes next...

Male Soprano on "Britain's Got Talent"

The Brit version of "American Idol" certainly comes up with some surprising talents. This young man delivers a perfectly credible, if not perfect, soprano version of "Nessun Dorma," the aria for which Pavarotti was famous. His upper range is unbelievable!

Greg Pritchard is currently a waiter at a hotel. Will he become a soprano singing waiter and make incredible tips?

Compared with Susan Boyle and this young chap, the talent on "American Idol" looks so... ho hum.

The Quay Brothers' "Street of Crocodiles"

The Quay Brothers accepting the 2009 Coolidge Award, honoring film artists whose work advances the spirit of original and challenging cinema.

Original and challenging indeed are the Quay Brothers' short films, which have characters and recurring motifs, but nothing you could call a conventional plot or method of execution.

The brothers' surrealistic films recall the creepy and disjunct dreams that confuse and vaguely disturb us upon awakening.

The brothers construct all of the sets, props and characters by hand. They use stop-animation techniques, rather than computers, to complete their brief films. Music is the engine that drives the motion of the "characters" (which may be weird dolls, nuts and bolts, or even lint). Their soundtracks range from pingly strings to full-out rock.

Their vision is definitely unique, certainly fascinating, and confoundingly obscure. You may enjoy their art, or at least be intrigued by it. Take a look and see. There are more of their little films on YouTube, if you like. Here is a small portion of one, "Street of Crocodiles." And here's more information about the Quay brothers. Finally, here's Part One of an interview with them which may or may not help explain what they do. A link to Part Two will appear after Part One ends.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

News Flash - Ad agency stands up to a client

Big News: Agency Tells Client Their Idea is Bad

Interesting story about this new Intel spot. Intel told its agency (Venables, Bell & Partners) it wanted to emphasize how different the audience's lives would be without Intel. An idea that, in short, sucked swampwater as far as the agency was concerned. I mean, it had been done and done and done to death. They assembled about 20 commercials with the "present" theme. Then they recommended that instead, Intel should get into the future.

The resulting spot stars one of the developers of USB 1.0. And I do mean "stars." Take a look and think about how many times we (I mean "I," of course) bow to a client's wrong-headed strategy opinion, rather than earn our keep by insisting on doing an effective job.

As a freelancer, I find it's a fine line between offering advice and being seen as a troublemaker. Maybe if my name were Riney or Della Femina... or if I worked at an agency that would stand up for good work. I have worked in such places at times, but creative-driven agencies are scarce as lizards' loofahs. If you work in a good creative shop, or if you have clients who realize you might know something they don't, and that's why they hired you, count your lucky leprechauns.

Here's a quote from Venables' entry on Agency Compile that summarizes their approach:
We don’t hawk and pitch and pummel the consumer with selling points. We use strategic planning to uncover what actually motivates them. What the traction point is. Frankly, what they’ll allow you to use to open the door to their hearts and wallets. The result is strategic thinking that’s based on enticing, rather than browbeating. It’s the carrot versus the stick. Most importantly, it gets better.
Good stuff!

How do people read websites?

The Web attracts millions of eyes... Does your website catch them?

Found an interesting article based on a recent eye tracking study. In it, you'll find 12 website tactics that the study indicates are effective. There's also a link to the study report.

Some of the findings are counter-intuitive. For instance, if you want people to pay close attention to content, make the type smaller, so they have to concentrate harder to read it. (Maybe a variation of the old ad campaign that recommended you whisper if you want people to listen.) Also, it turns out people are drawn to headlines more than to graphics. That should unsettle the art directors, some of whom believe (and I have tended to agree) that "people don't read copy."

Go here for more helpful info on creating websites that grab users by the eyeballs and hold them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Who are all these screaming meemees?

Lately, lots of women on TV spots are screaming. What about? One Hundred-Calorie Oreo Mini Cakesters!!! They scamper down the street, screaming and waving their arms in the air like 60s Beatles fans, until they swarm a big ol' truckful of 100-Calorie Oreo Mini Cakesters! See the video here.

If you're a woman, and you're not offended by that piece of art, try this one. Apparently, women also scream when they see a really huge, well-organized clothes closet. It's in some beer commercial. The men then view the husband's huge, well-organized closet completely lined with chilled bottlees of beer. I don't think they screamed.

Another example of the incompetence of what I assume are young male creatives to write good commercials featuring women: the current Sonic commercial. Two women are sitting in the car late at night enjoying Sonic sundaes or malts. They lamely discuss the "wildness" of going out late to enjoy goodies. The blonde woman (seen in previous commercials with her dweeb of a husband) feeds her companion a line like, "Wild women snackin' late... What'll we do next?" Her friend replies lamely, "Let's go find some eggs... and boil 'em." I know some of these commercials are ad libbed. But surely the ad agency could have either written some better dialogue than this, or waited for the two women to ad lib something funny. As it is, they just seem stupid.

The stupid or juvenile depictions of women in commercials is a problem. Solution: More women writers. I know a good one who's available...