Monday, June 29, 2015

The Creative Consultant vs the Drama Llama

So you got an awesome Consultancy gig. Great schedule. Great pay.
But... godawful drama!

Not that this is anything new to you. You've been involved in workplace drama and even orchestrated quite a few in the past when you were still corporate. However, if drama is the reason why you left the 9-to-5-and-then-some grind, then you don't need this extra excitement in your life.

With that, here are some basic tricks to survive your unwanted comeback to workplace theatrics.

1. Put your spotlight… on yourself.
So some disgruntled employees let you in on the office secret that the company sucks and they are in dire need of a saviour. You. Okay, remember… You were contracted for one reason. To be awesome and to stay awesome. So do just that. As they say in Gone Girl, "Everything else is background noise."

2. Be a moving picture.
So the team you're tasked to work with is the prick collective. So don't drop your other jobs. When you move a lot, drama won't stick to you. Don't make one agency your one and only world. Be too busy that you won't have the time to wallow in other people's petty problems.

3. Never audition. 
So this and that told you that the guy who signs your checks steals from the company. Be an ear. Never a mouth. Listen to what the In-house drama crew has to say just so you know what to look out for (just in case). But be very objective. Do not give your opinion. Do not outperform your boundaries.

4. Play the part.
So the agency boss tells you that you can shoot down everyone's work except his son-in-law's. Ooohkaay… sure. Play the politics as much as you can without endangering your output and the team's. Devise a middle ground that makes both parties happy. This is tricky shit so you have to know if you're up to it.

5. Stay in character.
So someone from the inside is attacking you head-on. This can be a guy whose glorious position you've endangered by your swashbuckling presence and performance. IG-NORE. You get to piss him off more by playing it cool. Let him muck up on his own.

6. Do not be a Drama Queen.
So the attack has gone too far? Mr. Insecure is going the desperate, underhanded route of ruining you? Bite back the smart way. Don't get all emotional that it will put you in a bad light. Document everything, put everything in black and white. It's better to outbitch with brains than brawn.

So you can't stand the drama anymore? Bail out! Jump ship! Move on and burn that drama bridge! Remember that you're first and foremost a freelancer. A Creative Nomad. You'll survive wherever fate takes you. And opportunities never run out because you make them happen. But… leave with grace. Make sure you've been too awesome that you will be missed. While the offending party will be dissed for it.

And that's how you kill the llama. Of course, the drama is never the same wherever you go. But it will find you one way or the other. The trick is to handle it with poise, smarts, and indifference. You're free. So why box yourself in a tiny puppet stage?

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Cost of Costing

To us freelancers, costing is the scariest thing.
You experience head trauma while these questions plague your brain: "What if I charge too high and lose the project to someone else?" and "What if I charge too low and end up earning a mole hill for my mountain of output?"
Unfortunately, there really isn't a standard as to how you should charge when you're an independent Creative. But you do need to charge competitively. The trick is to research, ask around, get in touch with like-minded/like-careered folks and juice their minds. After that, everything else is pretty much nego and gut feel. In other words… dude, you're on your own.

Some clients will ask for your rate card. When the initial panic dies down, give them one. A rate card marks professionalism. I have a rate card that pretty much reflects the research I mentioned up there. But like me, these costs are pretty flexible. Anything can be negotiated, anything can change --depending on so many project factors.

Since we're on the topic of research, it will do you good to research on your client, too. Typically, if it's a big client, aim high. If it's a smaller, newbie client, aim low. Reasonably on both counts, of course. Now, if it's a straight-out low-budget project, make your sleuth work tell you if this project can lead to more projects in the future. If so, then be more lenient with the numbers and treat this project as a foot-in-the-door.

YES! Us freelancers aren't money-hungry snakes in the grass after all. We do free work, too. Especially if it's for a good cause AND if it means putting your name and skills out there. Advocacies make good opportunities for your creativity and good heart to shine. So grab one, have fun, fatten up that portfolio!
Needless to say, if a certain client just wants to get a freebie for no apparent reason --then walk on, my friend. Walk on.

Now here is where feelings come in. If it's a lousy project but the client is good, a discount or a free AOB wouldn't hurt. If it's an amazing project but the client is an ass, then no. Everything gets paid in sync with the awesomeness of your performance. It all boils down to Creative-Client relationships. If it's the kind that's worth keeping, then charge in a way that would make the client believe you're worth keeping, too.
Crucial note: Perks do not mean selling yourself short. It means selling yourself right, with an extra.

Before diving into that CE document, know anything and everything about the project. If it's going to be crazy-ass work horse extensive with a deadline that's not humanly possible --then think really haaaaard if you even want to work on this. If it's going to kill you more than you usually kill yourself, call the client and courteously back away. Being freelance means being smart. Not desperate.

With that, I need to remind you that no matter how you cost, always --and I mean ALWAYS-- work with the same passion it takes when working for millions. As a freelancer, your reputation is more important than anything in the world. It's what gets you glorious word-of-mouth, future projects, and heftier pay. So do your best and cost accordingly.

Good luck!

And now I leave you to discuss this among yourself.