Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coffee by Status

Amazing how coffee reflects your status in life.

Back in the day of smart, sharp clothes and high-heeled boots, I would always have in my hand that all too popular Starbucks foam cup.  I would have one whether I was indoors or outdoors, whether the cup was full and steaming or near empty and cold.  It didn't matter.  It was a status symbol.  You hold onto one of these babies and it tells the world that you are a high-flying executive who takes coffee seriously, and fashionably.  You have excellent taste.  And even if you can't possibly down that tall Mocha Grande, you will hold on to it --waving it about in the middle of a conference-- because that foam cup and green insignia meant business.
The kind of coffee within doesn't even matter.  But if someone must ask, you better answer with some high faluting, complex flavor --like Mocha Java Mint Espresso Caravanilla Surprise.

Now that I work mostly from home and in my jammies, coffee is still a mainstay.  But now, it comes in a different packaging, a different statement.  I'm partial to Kopiko Brown Coffee.  Delightful powder concoction that you have to prepare yourself.  You are your own barista --which instantly tells the world (or yourself) that you're manning your own ship now.   That is, if you like putting deeper meaning to inane things like that.
What it really says is that your work venue and coffee budget have changed.  And, that you're not as high-flying as before.  But that doesn't mean you're no longer entitled to good business and good money... and of course, good coffee.
For me --sans the frilly whipped cream, caramel strips, and choco bits-- Kopiko is rich enough to come close to the barest Starbucks.  And I mean that.

Sure, when I go out to meet with a client, it has to be in a coffee shop and that trendy cup of Starbucks is whipped out again.  But only because it's hard to take someone seriously when she holds a meeting at a sari-sari store over Kopiko.

See?  Status.

Am I stressing over this too much?  Ah, only people who run on coffee will understand.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Raket, My Rules!

You probably know this already.  But if you're new in the freelancing biz, you must understand that financial security is your top priority.  When you're employed, you don't worry about that because no matter what you do, you still get your pay day.  In Raketsville, you don't wait for the money.  You make the money.  So security measures in the form of paperwork are prime mandates.  And YOU make the rules.

Let's focus on the CE.  The Cost Estimate is that very first piece of paper you and your client will sign off on.  It's the bible of your negotiation so it should flash the total cost with all the service details, as well as all the payment terms and conditions --and I mean ALL. 

These are my basic 'money rules'.

Cost indicated is ALWAYS net.
There's nothing more painful that selling short without even knowing it.  No matter how obvious it must seem to you, you must still spell it out in black and white.

50% downpayment upon initial submission.  
Trickiest part of the deal.  Rarely do I get a downpayment on time.  But vigilance is key.  Without sacrificing deadlines, try to hold back on revisions until you get your first pay.  Beforehand, make it known that you mean business.

50% balance payment upon final approval of material for production.
Second trickiest part of the deal.  You've seen the ad on TV for months and still you haven't hugged a money bag.  Don't let it go that far.  Follow up like the devil.  Don't be harsh, but don't be timid either.

Total cost includes 3 rounds of revisions.  A revision exceeding this will be charged depending on the gravity of said revision.
I like this.  This makes your client more organized for fear of going overboard with the number of revisions.  So instead of calling you everyday for a whole new bunch of inputs, she will collate all her comments in one neat package.  Sweet!

A total redirection from the creative brief calls for a new project negotiation.
Crucial bit, this is.  Do not confuse a new direction with just a simple revision.  It's not.  When the direction requires a complete creative overhaul, so does the Cost Estimate.

If the project is discontinued after creative submission before 50% downpayment is secured, a 50% discontinuance fee will still have to be furnished.
There you go!  So no matter what, you still get bucks for all your effort.  There is no such thing as a 'Sorry' and a 'Thank you' in this business.  You're running a raket, not a charitable institution.

That said, these terms aren't always followed to the exact timeline you have in mind.  Unfortunately.  But it IS on paper.  And it's signed.  It's something you can always go back on for security.

Now you can sit back and make up your own rules.  Empowering, ain't it?

AntiPadded and UnTabbed

Am I the only human being on the planet who's not the least bit interested in the iPad or the Galaxy Tab?!!!

*awkward silence*

It's true... and I hang my head in shame for not being as cool as you.  But nowadays, I have very little requirement when it comes to gadgetry.  All I need is a handy-dandy mobile phone.  Specially now that my Sony Ericsson is rapidly showing signs of deterioration and begs to be taken out of its misery.

A mobile phone with a fast-connecting internet feature for when I need to check my mail or do some quick research on the road.
With a huge screen for better emailed artwork viewing.
With an easier keypad for quick-on-the-text client queries.
With memory that can store my gazillions of music pegs, sound effects, and recorded concepts that I suddenly think of while having coffee at Starbucks.
With a good plan that won't rob me every time I make long, winding negotiations via phone.
Oh... and with a nifty high-res camera... for Facebook purposes.  Whaaat...!

Now you're saying the iPad and the Tab have all those features, too --and more!  I know.  It's just that I find both of them too heavy for my sling bag, too big for my jeans back pocket, too much of an attention-getter when I do business outdoors, and too... well, trendy.  I'm not a big fan of blending in.

So yeah, I guess I'm the only human being with an iPad and Tab disinterest.  Does that make me naive, self-absorbed, cheap?
Nah, just practically old.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fawkes Phoenix Philosophy

To say that I don't miss the rat race would be hypocritical.  Of course, I miss the insanely competitive dog-eat-dog world.  I miss being threatened, backstabbed, and dragged kicking and screaming into office politics.  I miss all that color.  All that texture.

(I'm not even kidding.  Stress is a f*ck buddy.)

Now there's a setback to that sentiment though.  You see, I'm the kind of person who moves on severely.  I don't just burn bridges.  I burn pasts.  It's my inherent Fawkes Phoenix philosophy.  From the ashes of the past shall be rebirth.  Don't live in the past, live for the future.  Memories are just extra baggage that will slow you down.  There's a reason why things from your past don't make it to your future.

Downside:  Burning bridges means burning connections.  If ever --huge emphasis on IF-- I decide to go back to the manic fold, I will have to start over.  That's a lot of work and that's ok with me.  I don't subscribe to repair in despair.  In any case, I still try to choose my acts of arson properly.  There would be wrong decisions and regrets along the way, but I move on from those, too. 

Sounds cold?  Probably.  But it's the kind of philosophy that fuels me.  Rebirth after rebirth.  One reinvention after another.  Reconstructing your life is always better and easier than picking up the little broken pieces armed with nothing more than depression and super glue.

Plus, I do love that metaphorical image of walking away from an exploding edifice...
No looking back...
Unflinching while burning debris flew about me...

In slow-mo.

That one, that's my Action Star complex.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Of Sleep and Procrastination

Since jumping into the raket bandwagon, I've noticed I've been on fire!  Nothing fuels like freedom!  That --and the fear of drowning in a tub of financial turmoil if I don't get my solo act together. :(

Two things slow me down though.
And Procrastination.

Ok, so maybe sleep is a necessity.  But even as a child, I never really needed much of it.  4 to 5 hours tops would be heaven for me.  Over that and it's Migrainesville.  So you can say I'm pretty much made for ridiculous multi-material rush jobs.  But sometimes, out of fatigue and out of the blue, sleep does rear its evil head and tugs me into a deep slumber I didn't plan.  In fact, the plan was to stay up or get up at 4:30am to get some well-meaning writing done.  Next scene:  panic time.

There's also the foul nemesis called procrastination.  Maniacal bugger gets on my case whenever I log on to the internet for research.  No matter how many times I try to stomp it -by some unexplained, unearthly force-- I suddenly find myself logged-on to Facebook, Twitter, on this here Blogger!  With its multiple limbs of distraction, procrastination's pull is deathly powerful.  Before I know it, 2 hours of my work time have easily gone down the drain.  Brilliant.  Panic, welcome back!

This is why Time Management is one of the basic ammunition you should have when you dive into this gig.  You own your time here.  So Discipline is a good thing to have in your back pocket, too.

Note to self:  If you know you're bound to have an all-nighter, stock up on coffee!  Jog a little in the backyard just to get the adrenaline going.  And for God's sake, research fast and unplug the damn internet!  Grab your macbook and walk away... just... just walk away...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Client Call

Freelancing exposes you to the many quirks of clients.  Quirks you don't normally see when you're employed in a multinational agency where you're almost always shielded from stuff like that.  But for the past 2 years, I've had my fill.  And quite honestly, these oddities leave me more amused than pissed.

Let's round them up, shall we?
(note:  not to start a gender issue, but all representations here are female --simply because I draw women better than men. :P)

The Control-crazed Client
This is the kind of client who's a bit confused about your freelance status.  She's used to working with established agencies who are always there at her beck and call.  And she expects so much more now that she's working with you.  To her, being a freelancer means you're jobless.  So you are essentially dependent on her.  She gives you no respect and you must respect her for that.  After all.  You.  Owe.  Her...

The Clingy Cient
Probably dissed by her boss a million times, this poor sap relies on you for so many things.  She asks for your opinion on strategies, events, even SKUs.  She asks you out for coffee time and again and may have already gone the edge by telling you about her cheating husband.  But tread carefully.  Some clingy clients are downright devious deep inside.  They cling to you because they know they can suck you dry.

The Clueless Client
She has no idea what she's doing, and it's not even because she's new on the job.  Her favorite line is "I don't know." or "I'll get back to you." or "Let me discuss this with my boss." or "Bahala na si Batman." At crunch time, she second-guesses and name-drops her boss, you, the weather, God.  She could be slow or just uninterested.  Either way, she has a total lack of confidence and care that really tests your patience.

The Creative Client
Ah, this one is the bane of your existence.  The one that's out for your job and paycheck.  Days before she calls you in for a briefing, she already has a concept and an execution in mind --and you have to guess what it is!  She's on fire --and you're not.  You will never please her because she's way hotter than you.  She's pretty sure you overcharge her because "your job is sooo easy".
Sadly, her so-called creativity eats up on the time she's supposed to be pouring into building strategies --which is her real job.

The Paniclient
My favorite!  Reactionary true and through, she jumps like a firecracker whenever a competitor does something she didn't expect.  During production, she'd call you 15 times a day within 10-minute intervals just to check if everything's ok.  She calls past midnight during her needless worry-induced insomnia attacks.  Your inbox messages all come from her.  She wants action all the time.  Being passive for half an hour means the end of the world is upon her precious career!!!

Oh there are dozens more and I'm sure I'll get to fill up this blog on the subject of client quirkiness alone.  Annoying they may be, they're things you live with as a raketeer.  Just think of them as regular visits to the circus.  It can be fun, as long as you have popcorn.
I don't complain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Online Goldmine

There was a time when getting business relied solely on your friendship clout, and your most comfortable pair of shoes.  News about your awesomeness gets to travel only by word of mouth, or by your very own physical promotion.  So if you're a pint less than the snazziest Creative person, as painfully shy as a 'makahiya', and suck at stalking/hobnobbing with the big wigs -- then you'll have a lot of downtime spent mostly on soul-searching.

Now, thank the stars for Social networking sites!  Who needs footwork when you've got Facebook?!

My personal faves are:

Independent Creative and Advertising Professionals is an online classified ads hub where people from all over the industry get to post their immediate hiring and freelancing needs.  You can get leads and opportunities with a simple click.  Advertising hotshots are known to post here so you know the business is good and that you're in good company.  Here, you can virtually set up a formidable concept to production team without breaking a sweat.

Pretty much the same as ICAP, but on a much casual yet fertile scale.   People post their manpower requirements here... and more.  Creative Manila also plays the role of a rich resource for inspiration with its daily links to international advertising works, funny industry anecdotes, hell, even movie trailers that can serve as muses to your next TVC requirement.  What's more, you can post your portfolio here for easy, handy self-sell.

Gone are the days of running around agency to agency toting your hefty folder of print ad clippings, your U-matic tape of produced TV ads, and your dog-eared resume that has seen too many Xerox machines.  With today's technology, you can make money and rest easy.

After all, there are other ways to exercise those thighs.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Becoming A.E.

A few days into flying solo, I have almost instantly developed a renewed respect for the Client Servicing people in my industry.  The AEs (Account Executives) --those people I just love to bully-- actually have a very, very, VERRRY tough job!

Talking to client isn't damn easy!

In extreme cases, talking to a client is pretty much like conversing with a baby whom you have to please or he'll go into an incontrollable tantrum.  Or a wild animal whom you can set off into a scary feeding frenzy.  Or a motion-sensor bomb that can explode and take half the city when you make a wrong move.

Ok, I exaggerate.  But the bottomline is, 'client servicing' is indeed 'servicing your client to keep him or her satisfied with his money's worth, no matter what'.  That's how you keep business.  Social skills is a must.  And since I never really bargained for that kind of job, I totally flunk at being Miss Congeniality.

But I do try.  In my mind, it's like having a mild-mannered altered ego.  A perky, happy secret identity.  Think Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde.  That's not always easy to pull off unless you have a record at the looney bin... or unless you're a true blue professional AE.  AEs can smile through a sandstorm and maintain civility in the middle of a war.  Impressive shit, if you ask me.
Me?  I always tend to say something smartass-y the minute my client says something out of whack.  Freelancer client servicing, fail.

Discipline, positivity, good judgment, and a smile --must-haves in Client Servicing, must-haves in Raketville.
Maybe I should start wearing pink, too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

When RaketChick met Kalakal Kid

Translation here.  In the seedy side of the advertising world, 'Raket' and 'Kalakal' are colloquial terms meaning the exact same thing.

Now what if two mavericks working the same line of business happen to collide?  Will there be gun-slinging, samurai-slashing activity?  Well, that's the neat thing about Creative raketeers.  They're cool with people doing their own thing and so they're cool with keeping to their own.  There is decency in what glamorous, corporate advertising heads would call 'indecency'.  And rakets are usually hush-hush anyway.  Nobody tells anyone which client he's actually nabbed and no one is about to ask.  So if there are potential freelance snakes-in-the-grass, that would be very rare.

Anyway... I met the Kalakal Kid on my first job in advertising.  Boy, was he ablaze with rakets!  Left and right!  Lunch time, overtime!  And he did it so discreetly that no one even knew he was doing it.  In everyone's eyes, he was a clean-as-a-whistle model employee.

I would've felt envious (and maybe even threatened) if both of us were in the same league.  But we weren't.  I'm a writer.  He's an art director.  Instead of battling it out for sideline supremacy, we'd be better off working together and setting up our own raket empire.  We'd be better off a team, a complete package, a better marketing tool to clients.

Yeah... that's an idea!

And so, I married him. :P

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Onboard the Raketship

No, it's not the same as 'racketeering' (although it can still be called illegal if your boss is one hell of a stuck-up).  I didn't make the word up.  And I didn't commit a typo --the 'c' before the 'k' is really not there.

'Raket' was coined a long time ago by the the genius who decided he didn't have to be a loyal employee all the time.  That he can actually get his own clients and shoot a rate card that's cheaper than his employer's and get even more business.  That he can actually do most of the stuff other members of his office's workforce can do so why not set-up his own 'secret' entrepreneurship.

It's basically being a freelance, gun-for-fire, go-to guy.  Work is usually rushed and cheap.  Negotiations are usually more straining.  But you call the shots and you earn everything.  If things go to shitsville, you lose a lot, too.

Craftiness is the name of the game.  And a huge crate of discretion.  Never blabber about your rakets, come on. 

That said, I'm treating this blog like a journal --a Raketologue, if you will-- where I can blabber about my rakets.  Yes, I'll be shooting myself in the foot in so doing, but it's for a noble cause.  It is so that future, enterprising entrepreneurs can learn the ropes of the very important art of Rakethood.  More often than not, from my mistakes.

Welcome aboard.