In my personal experience, after finishing my graphic design classes, I decided to start my career in this field of Graphic Design and face the actual market as a young designer, like diving into deep waters. My first step was to create my own corporation, in spite of I didn’t know how to manage a company. But I think the fastest way to get established in a business is to get immersed and I always planned to be my own boss. I must admit that I made mistakes. I cannot be exhaustive, of course; nevertheless, I mention some of them below. Some apply to me and some others—which I managed to avoid thanks to the help of friends with a good heart—are common among neophytes. Anyway, I learned from my mistakes but thanks God I’ve grown out of them.
- Start working without a deposit.
This valuable advice applies to any business in any field. Sometimes we have felt that we can trust this client or this person because of a hunch but it results that this is a bad hunch after all. I don’t mean that every failed business is the result of a bad intention from the side of the customer. Perhaps the bad result of the transaction is due to factors that are out of the hands of the customer. Therefore, is imperative to request a deposit IN ADVANCE to any transaction. It’s better to lose a potential order from a customer that spend one, two, three hours making a logo with the hope the customer places the order when in the practice this customer after seeing our design goes to another business of the competition with the design we sent over the internet or after we provided a hard copy of job
- Spend too much time in worthless tasks.
It’s true that sometimes our creativity is on vacation. This happens to any artist, painters, sculptors, poets, architects, etc. It’s OK if this happen to us —and it will—to take some time to get where we want to go (or the client) but think, if we are not making the ultimate design and we are getting only a few bucks for this order is better to make a design based on the parameters that proven to be successful in the design, be a sign a store front sign, window sign, flyer, business card, etc. If the client insists on a more elaborated design the client should pay accordingly. Let’s be honest, we don’t want to lose a customer. So, it’s a matter of the ability of the graphic designer to negotiate with the customer to convince him to place the order, but with a previous deposit, of course. Here comes the businessman first rather than the graphic designer. I think this only comes with the experience.
- Not asking key questions
This was one of weakest points, listening without asking questions. Good! I’ve already closed my first sale of the day and I am ready to turn on my computer and start working. But then I realize that I forgot to ask about the logo, the colors that I should use. Maybe some idea about a specific design that my customer saw and he/she liked and want something similar. Questions which normally one must ask. Then you go grabbing your telephone, bothering your customer again, wasting your time that you rather spend working in the design. Again, time is money. Having a notebook where you cover most pertinent questions would come handy. If the business is worth, spend some time getting familiar with this business or company. See yourself in the shoes of your client and make suggestions, if applicable. Asking questions narrow the chances of making mistakes.
A lot of this is because of lack of experience. As the time pass by you will be recalling former mistakes, how much this cost you in time and money.
Think about this will prevent that you forget easily and you will be making less and less mistakes. As the Latin locution says, Errare humanum est.
To illustrate let me tell you a brief anecdote. This guy had a prosperous car wash business in a very busy intersection. So good business was that he had about six employees working for him because instead of using machines for the car wash he used human labor. And this was the key to his success because he also offered detailed services that no machine can provide and the public loved that. I stopped by and offered my services. He immediately pointed to a side wall where he had a sign with the different services he was providing. Prices had changed with time and he had manually corrected prices and new services he had started in car wash. He asked how much making the corresponding corrections. I quickly made my number and gave him the price. Then I patiently wrote down all the changes and new prices. He gave me 50% of deposit as is customary. I left and some days after I gladly came back with a more beautiful sign. But one big problem surged immediately. In spite of my sign was more elaborated and attractive than the former one it was printed in matte vinyl, and the old one shined more than my brand-new sign because the old one was printed in glossy material. Matte material has its use, but in this case this sign was crying for a glossy display. Everybody was disappointed. After a lot of talks and arguments, thanks God that the customer was a good and reasonable person and at the end he paid me the amount agreed. Needless to say that I never tried to see this guy again. So I lost a potential good customer because he used to order frequently flyers and business cards.
- Another mistakes that the novice makes.
If it is about a store front sign identifying the business (probably a logo with the name of the business) It also apply to a window sign or store front sign. Don’t concentrate so much into the details of sign to the point where you forget to ask this question: Will the customer be installing the sign himself or he wants our company take care of the installation. Price change significantly if installation is included or not. Believe or not a certain number of customers want to take care of the installation themselves to save some bucks, and we will always gladly agree with whatever his/her decision is. Don’t forget to warn the client that if for any reason the sign is scratched, broken or damaged anyhow your company is not liable.
- Mistakes related to the design itself.
Using too many different fonts, working with the wrong format, wrong size, or this one that happened to me in college—I worked very hard for the final assignment at the end of the semester and the end of Photoshop. I spent many hours giving my best, and I was expecting to get an A. But I don’t know how I had my beautiful design set to 100 dpi. I submitted it to the professor and I was even bragging about it very proud. Next time I saw him he told me that it was not worth to print with good quality at 100 dpi. That it was necessary to have it at least 300 dpi. My design was really beautiful, but just to contemplate in a screen, not to be printed. I learned the hard way that what is important is the number of pixels. I could convert it to 300 dpi but then the design would become very small to be worth of being printed. I got a D in that class. For one simple, stupid mistake I didn’t get an A. The design was very nice and the professor was a good person, one more time. But if I had had to deal with a tougher guy he wouldn’t be so considerate. You can imagine that I never repeated the same mistake. Think in advance and ask your client.
- Proof read.
Carpenters say, measure twice, cut once. Wood, once cut, you cannot go back. Proofreading, though not as set as wood cut, once you make the sign, if there is a misspelling you have to throw it away and make a new one. I have a hilarious collection of signs that I find in the field with horrors printed and also in websites. I don’t know, sometimes even the customer doesn’t notice the mistake. No offense, but not all business owners are well educated. Maybe they’re striving in the field his business is dedicated to. I’ve found them not only in store front signs, but also in business cards, flyers, and expensive window signs, etc. In English, and Spanish as well. Even if the customer ended up with a blunder and he didn’t complain, YOU have to make sure that YOUR SIGN makes proper use of the language, because your reputation is behind whatever your company produce. Read twice, three times if necessary, before having to discard those 5K flyers that cost you a lot of money, even if you own the print shop, paper, ink, electricity and labor. Thanks God we can make good use of the spelling correctors and some Grammar suggestions built in Microsoft Word and other word processors available in the market.