This post is a public apology, a heeded warning, sage advice and a gripe all rolled up into one. Now that I am pregnant I have decided to become an extreme multi-tasker, it’s not working out as well as planned. First, let me publicly and humbly apologize to the uber talented Rylee Hitchner and Pearl & Godiva. A couple weeks back I got an email from Pearl that she wanted me to do some lettering for a Rylee Hitchner shoot, it was all the stationery for a mock wedding, all I heard was “Rylee Hitchner shoot.” I adore this girl, her talent is in spades and Pearl’s work is amazing as well. Let’s step back a couple steps here, a couple weeks ago I had just stopped being fed through a tube and was just sitting up again, yes, I am getting better but no, I am not even close to being back on track. There is something well known in the world of both impending motherhood and motherhood it is called ‘pregnancy brain’ wherein you don’t think as clearly and in my case not at all. Did I mention I was just getting back to sitting upright? Two weeks would not be enough time if I was 100%, it would be impossible in my current condition, plus the project had to be shipped overseas and to not incur exorbitant fee’s would need to be sent at least a week+ in advanced. Let me also mention some other fun facts my ‘p’ brain was not considering A) I hadn’t been lettering at all for at least the last 6 months B) I am just learning to string words together with my lettering C) I don’t do wedding work or lettering in my business which makes a spec (gratis) project foolish for me, but all I could think of was ‘Rylee Hitchner’. I was in essence a bit star struck. If I was in my right mind I would have politely declined, but since my brain has been replaced with this new fangled non-rational one I said “sure!” I think you might be seeing what a disaster in the making this is, no? I missed my overnight deadline as I thought I had an extra day (see pregnancy brain), then we decided the morning of deadline I would send my work digitally and they would print there. Mind you as mentioned I am still not 100% and maybe it was also stress induced but I started getting sick again a couple days ago, the day of the rushed project my fingers had become sausage size (it’s called edema), I could not bend them to hold my pen holder and nib. From sitting down too long my ankles and feet swelled to disproportionate sizing (hamhocks come to mind). With only a few precious hours to work with I went to plan B a gorgeous font by my friends at Magpie Paperworks. I already knew this was a disaster but I still wanted to come through with something. I sent digital comps in the morning (comps are visual renditions of what you are presenting to the client) to make sure I was headed in the right direction, my heart raced, I was sweating, my fingers were numb. Hours ticked by, I begged for feedback on the comps so I could adjust accordingly, I did not hear back I kept working in between being sick. Alas, I threw up the white flag of surrender after hours of working and not getting feedback–I had to give up. I sent the comps again + all the original files and got a-”Sorry, we are not going to use these”. Not only was I sick and swollen, my ego had been as Pearl likes to use the word, “gutted”. I crawled into bed, cried my swollen head off (I cry easier these days) and fell asleep for the rest of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I know this was a mishap of grand proportions, even with my brain not working properly I clearly see my role in this disaster thus my public apology.
Now on to the heeded warnings + sage advice a.k.a how this whole fiasco could have been avoided. Let’s talk spec work (where you work gratis in exchange for potential exposure). I am all for spec work if it makes sense for your brand and your business. In my case, where I am at currently I don’t have near future plans to add lettering or wedding work to my offerings (I am not confident enough in my skills) so this was a very foolish (read stupid) move. I took this amazing opportunity away from someone that could have benefited from the experience + exposure and that is my worse regret (again see pregnancy brain and how I am not thinking).
When taking on spec work, you should treat it as if it is a paying client and vice versa on the part of the individual requesting you to do this work for free. I plan to offer a download soon of a checklist on this, but in the interim here are some things I learned in regards to spec lettering projects–Create a timeline for you and your ‘client’, make sure you have a list of all your deliverables and the dates due ie. when will you send initial comps to client? Date when you expect to have feedback from client? How many comps you will be providing on spec before you will ask for a fee (this will eliminate the spec client from taking advantage of you)? Get the exact wording of everything from the client. I had worked on another spec lettering project a while back that did not come into fruition and the client said I had ‘free reign’ for the wording, so I took the time to come up with the bride and grooms name, dates, etc. When I sent to the spec client they said the names were not ‘X” enough and the shoot was for the summer (where I had put in fall dates). I had to start over again (lettering, cleaning up artwork, re-formatting files and re-creating comps–hours of work). Most of you that are working on spec jobs it’s because you are trying to build your portfolio and get exposure, which means you probably have a full-time job on top of running a household and being informed that all the work you created which you eeked out precious hours for is now null and void, that’s just not okay. Tell the client you will be happy to work on spec if they provide you all the copy (wording) and of course agree to your timelines. You will be nervous enough trying to create the most beautiful lettering for the project you should not have to think of what you will be lettering. You may worry that if you make these demands the client will walk away, this could happen, but more than likely the client will have more respect for you and treat you as a creative equal and realize that you take your craft seriously and are a true professional (unlike someone we know, yes, I am talking about moi). Hindsight is 20/20, looking back I would have not taken this project on, it didn’t make sense for me, but when I did I should have had something in writing so that both myself and my client were accountable.
Expenses? This is tricky, if you have the budget I would say count this as the money you are spending for your exposure/advertising (the materials and shipping), if you don’t have the extra money (and can’t borrow it or find another way), you can be honest with the client and tell them how badly you want to do this project and that you will do an amazing job but you need assistance with materials or shipping (especially if it is an overnight job overseas). I haven’t worked in nearly six months, have incredibly huge medical bills and my shop has been pretty dead, buying materials and then the potential of over nighting the finished project overseas is an expense I could not afford right now (again, not thinking at all). I hope this little tid bit helps, it’s hard to know what to expect when this is all new to you. When I ran my PR business I would tell my interns and jr. staff ‘all we have are our reputations’, you need to preserve that, think about how you want to be perceived and be authentic to who you are (much easier to be you than someone else). I like to think of myself as a professional and I take great pride in my work, this little (okay, big) fiasco was not a representation of who I am and my principles–in a word I f’d up, I hope I may have saved you from doing the same.
P.S. This spec advice should also be considered for whatever your medium is–photography, writing, styling, graphic design, etc.
Miss Tristan B. is the proprietress of Besotted Brand and the writer of this delightful blog. She recently re-located to sunny Seattle with her handsome husband and two pups, they are expecting a baby girl in December. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.