July 24th, 2007
Jonathan Schneider of LetsGoAPE.com and the new film “Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington” is a textbook case in how to get services donated or offered at a good rate for a good cause. If you are looking for a designer or other service provider to help you out, be like Jonathan. In fact, I think this stuff might help you even when you are paying top dollar for the services.
- Be nice. Yes, you can be confident, convincing or even brilliant. But really, more importantly, be nice, considerate and personable with the people from whom you are asking help. If you seem like someone who is going to be fun and easy to work with, you are more likely to convince someone to take on the job, and take it at a good rate.
- Be persistent, but not pushy. From the start and through your project, keep calling back and touching base in a helpful available way. Hey, you can’t demand anything when you are trying to get something for free. But if you get some commitments for assistance, the person who offers them to you will feel a personal obligation to follow through. Unless you blow it by being an obnoxious terd. Don’t be afraid to clearly say what you need and call with reminders.
- Be organized. The most time consuming part of any project is tracking down documents, troubleshooting problems or managing an onslaught of requests sent in different documents or phone calls. Try to deliver everything in one package AFTER it has been finalized. Don’t wait for your designer to mock something before you proof read it. If you are organized when you first approach someone, they’ll feel more comfortable offering to help or will be able to offer a lower bid.
- Provide helpful criticism. Designers and other professionals are used to working collaboratively with clients. We use that interaction and feedback to produce a better product. We can handle the criticism. But, boy, compliments are nice too. At the same time, try to stay out of the way a little. Designers can produce some of their best, most inspired work on side projects (and paid ones) when they aren’t being nitpicked on petty stuff. Frequently on web and graphic design jobs, so much time is wasted on picking apart minor aspects of designs that the design no longer works in its entirety. And the designer gets burnt out.
- Keep your volunteers up-to-date about the cause. People help because they care. And they care more if they know what you are working on. Personal updates go a lot farther than cheesy mass emails. But don’t waste their valuable time blathering on.
- Get funding if you can. Graphic and web designers don’t earn that much these days and we really need to get paid for our work. A nice custom website runs thousands or even tens of dollars and take a lot of time. If you have a good plan in place to use your website to improve you organization, you can get funding for it.
(Note: this is not an open call for anyone else who wants free design services. I already get flooded with requests and am very busy. If I can offer some advice I’m glad to help. But I would love to talk to you about interesting paid projects. I also can provide consulting services to help you organize your project so that you can properly bid it out and push it through to completion. )