22 February 2010

Stretching yourself a bit thin?

It's every artist's first instinct to say "yes" when offered work.

But have you stopped to think, "Can I actually do this?"

What is it that you do, exactly?

This is a pretty important question to ask yourself.  It could be the difference between success and failure.  Not just in this one project, but your overall career as well!

For example, it's sorely tempting if you are an illustrator to accept graphic design work.  Someone asks if you can make a business card or do a logo and you think, "Gee, I can draw people, dogs, cats, buildings, whatever.  How hard can a simple logo be?"

But then you get that assignment and a slight feeling of dread washes over you and suddenly you feel like you are drowning in a sea of uncertainty.  You don't want to find yourself looking up tutorials on how to use a software program you've never cracked open before to do a simple project.  A project that's probably not monetarily worth the time and effort that it'll take to learn a whole new software suite.  It's a terrifying prospect to feel like you are lost in a project and your confidence is waning because you were too quick in saying, "Sure!  Not a problem!"

Here is a checklist to defer to before accepting an assignment:

Have I done this before?
If the answer is "no" then you are asking for trouble if you decide to accept the assignment anyway.  You may want to turn down any work in this field and do some "practice runs" before accepting payment.  If you become familiar with the process and comfortable with the prospect of working on a project for someone else, then ask someone whose creative opinion you trust if your work is any good.  Just because you and your mom like what you come up with, doesn't mean paying clients will.  If you are interested in getting opinions from other creative professionals, check out Please Critique Me for graphic artists and ConceptArt.org for illustrators.

Is this similar to what I already do?
It's possible a client is asking you to stretch your skills, creativity and artistic abilities.  The client may know your style and think you could still do the project.  If this is the case, it may be beneficial to take the opportunity.  While a challenge, it could enhance your portfolio and you may just find out that you like it!

Is it worth it?
Maybe a project is a little out of your current skillset and the client is offering you an amount that's lower than ideal.  While some money is better than no money, spending 3 weeks on a $25 project, with the added hassles involved of trying to learn extra skills may not be worth your time.  Consider the pros and cons of the project before accepting it.  You are allowed to ask for more time to consider the offer, don't forget that!

Do I know anyone who I could recommend instead?
Ok, so you aren't the professional the client is looking for, but do you know who is?  Recommendations go a long way in the networking world.  You look like you know what you are doing if you delegate the job opportunity to an expert instead of pretending to be the expert yourself!  This would be a good time to reiterate to the client what it is that you ARE really good at so they might remember you for that type of work in the future.  A recommendation to a fellow creative might lead to a recommendation in return, so pay it forward!

It's important in the creative world to know your strengths and weaknesses and be honest with yourself.  Otherwise you may just end up being unhappy and worse- making the client unhappy.

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you took work that you weren't really prepared for?  What did you do?

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