Archive for February, 2007

Positivity challenge

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Here’s something for you to try: say “yes” for a day–to every question where you could answer “yes” or “no,” say “yes.” Now that can be “yes, and” or even “yes, if” but the word “no” (in any form), should be avoided.

When you say “yes” you encourage conversation and connection; whereas saying “no” shuts things down.

For example, let’s say a client calls who wants a project done by you and wants it tomorrow, which is impossible for you to do as your schedule is booked. Rather than say “No, sorry” say “Yes, I’d love to, if we can move it to next Monday.” Or maybe you could say “Yes, if I can get another client to change their project deadline, I’d love to do it.”

Or, what about the client who calls up with a great project but wants to own the copyright for your work? “Yes, sure, we can do that if your budget can afford it,” or “Yes, I can do your project if we can change that parameter,” or “Yes, this is a compelling project I know I’d do a great job on, if we can work around the copyright transfer; I bet some sort of exclusive, unlimited license would cover your needs–can we discuss it?”

See how all of these answers encourages the dialogue to continue? You’re being positive, helpful, you’re acknowledging the client’s needs and seeking solutions.

Of course, you may eventually reach a point where you can’t make the situation work and will have no other choice but to say “no,” but by saying “Yes” from the start you are telling your client that you want to make it happen–you want to fulfill their needs–so when you finally have to say “no” they will not only understand that you have no choice, they’ll appreciate the efforts you made in trying.


Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

The fine folks from Creative Lattitude are at it again. They have recently launched BoDo–the Business Of Design Online. This is a new resource for creative pros, especially designers, but all independent creative pros can find useful information on it. I’ve already contributed some bits and pieces and hope to be more active with them as time goes on.

Creative Lube

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

There’s a new Creative Lube podcast out today. It’s also available on iTunes. Download. Listen. Learn. Share with colleagues. Send feedback.

Think for yourself

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

There’s an article on that confirms something I (and others) have long believed: group-think is bad. It stifles originality and creativity.

With just a hint of extrapolation, I think this study can go a long way to prove that you can’t make art by committee…not good art, at least. It gets watered down. It turns into “safe,” and that alone kills off a good part of its art-ness.

There’s a difference, however, between group-think and collaboration (a good thing), but it’s a very fine line separating the two. Collaboration is when, for example, an AD comes up with a concept for an ad and knows the visual needs to be a guy hanging from a railing holding the product; the AD then turns to the photographer and gives her/him the freedom to execute the idea. A director and an actor often collaborate, as the director tells the actor she needs to say these specific words and helps her to understand how the scene fits into the whole piece–then he lets her interpret the scene, her role, using her talents.

Group-think is when the AD asks the AE for his opinion and the AE asks the client representatives for their opinions and everyone gets to have their input in the process of creation.  Group-think denies the trust in and respect for each person’s unique gifts and abilities. A CEO even does not have the level of competency to deserve any input in the creative process; help lay out the creative brief? Sure. Define the goal(s) of the marketing campaign? Okay. But after that, get out and let the professionals do their jobs.

And for you creative pros, think for yourself and trust what you come up with. When necessary, fight for your creativity. Don’t let some covey of suits turn your brilliant idea into a pile of generic goo.

Have you got it?

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Do you believe you are a creative; that is, a person with a gift, a talent, a set of abilities like no other person? Believing that is an act of faith and, rather surprisingly, it’s damn hard for some creatives to do. Are you one of those creatives? Do you put down your abilities, your gift? Ever catch yourself saying things like “Oh, it wasn’t anything special” or “I just kinda shot it–got lucky with the light?” Do you refer to yourself and your path as “the guy who liked to draw as a kid and ended up in art school” or “the adult version of the kid who liked taking pictures for the yearbook but couldn’t do anything else?” Do you feel, on some level, like apologizing every time you get a big fat check for your creative work? Are you waiting for the day when someone finally tells you you’re a no-talent hack who has only managed to fake it this far?

If you answered “yes” to any of those statements, you’ve got Cognitive Reduction of Art Pathology…or CRAP*.

One of the main signs that you’re afflicted with CRAP is that you refuse to use the term “artist” for who and what you are. The popular variation “commercial artist” is often used, as if that makes you somehow less of an artist. If it’s commercial, it’s not real art–that’s what you tell yourself. Your art’s value is downgraded in your own head, and yet you admire people like Annie Leibovitz, Frank Gehry, and Chip Kidd; people who are commercial artists. Famous artists in any field, no matter how commercial, are somehow different and are artists, but not you. Not in your CRAP-filled head. No sir!

CRAP Facts
CRAP afflicts many people in the creative industries: designers, photographers, writers, architects, illustrators, musicians, actors, etc.
CRAP can bog you down just as sure as walking in a muddy, well-used cow pasture in a pair of high heels. After all, if you’re not a “real” artist you don’t have to push yourself creatively, right?
CRAP can be insidious; it’s one thing to be modest (a good thing) but one step too far and you CRAP all over yourself.

But you can rid yourself of CRAP. Here are some simple steps you can start today:

  • Call yourself an artist and what you make art. Do it out loud, every single day.
  • Remind yourself that if an ad costs $500K just for its space (placement), the art for that ad is worth a hell of a lot more than $2K.
  • Most people will not like your art, after all, most people like Wal*Mart and lawn ornaments; but the ones that will like it are the only ones that count and they’re the ones to market to.
  • You have every right to get paid and paid well for your abilities, just like a doctor or a plumber or any other pro; your skills are just as rare and valuable.
  • And, most importantly, you deserve to be happy–you are doing what you love, what you should be doing in this life–don’t crap on it.

[* CRAP was, of course, entirely invented by me. That makes it no less real in many ways.]

You are not it

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Most small businesspeople, especially creative ones, have a hard time separating themselves from their businesses. Often, the name of the company is “Joe Smith Photography” or “Betty Martin–Designer” which only enhances this connection. On one level, that can be seen as a positive–you are the creative force behind your creative business and so you want the world to know it’s all about you, Baby! When the creative part of the creative business is highlighted, all is well.

But it gets negative very quickly when the business part of the business needs to be in first position. When you need to get a business loan or talk to the Accounts Payable department of that deadbeat client, suddenly being the Creative doesn’t work. You need to be the Businessperson.

It’s also negative when you can’t not be working. That is, if you can’t turn off the work and spend (regular, repeated) time with your friends or family, then the you/work line is definitely gone and you are headed for trouble.

I tell clients (and especially students/newbies) that it is vital to make your business as business-like as possible for exactly these reasons. It’s a hell of a lot easier to put on your Businessperson hat and demand payment when you have separate business accounts at the bank, separate business credit cards, business stationery, a business accountant and a business lawyer, etc. Incorporating, if it is the right thing for your business financially and legally, can go a long way to helping this process.

When you aren’t at work, when you keep the parts separate, you are more likely to have healthier relationships with those you love and with yourself (mental health and physical). This makes you more productive when you are at work. Isn’t that nice how it works like that?

In my case, I think it is easier for me to keep my head in the right place at the right time because I have taken many steps to “separate” myself from the business I run. They are closely connected, but I am me and it is it. For example, I get up every day at the same time and go to work. Even though I work out of my home, I go to work–because I have a room that is the Burns Auto Parts office, it serves no other purpose than to be the office. So, I get up every day, get dressed (that’s important–don’t work in your PJs or your robe–it’s a real damn job and you should respect that), and go to work. When I’m at work, I (usually) do not answer the home phone (caller ID helps me decide if it may be an emergency or not). I have regular working hours and when someone calls outside of those hours, the call goes to voicemail; after all, I am not at work then. The business has its name filed with the relevant governmental offices and I pay a business tax to the city of San Diego, just like any other local business.

I am Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua. I work for Burns Auto Parts.
And I’m proud of both statements.

Who are you and what is your business? How can you make these two things less interwoven? Do you have all your accounts, insurance, etc., separated out? Do you get paid regularly from your business? What steps can you take today to respect yourself and respect your business, as two separate things?

Contest? No…not if that’s the prize

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Contests can be a good thing for your creative business, but not when they are actually el cheap-o rights-grabbing clients masquerading as contests. I came across one of those recently on the HOW design forums.

GenArt is a NYC-based company that has as its “mission” (according to their site, for which I refuse to provide a link) to help artists (visual, film, and fashion) get recognized, and yet it only offers a $1000 prize to the designer who submits the winning entry for their NYC film festival advertising contest. For that $1000, the winner has to sign over their copyright to the work. How smarmy is that?

Now, I’m not saying that GenArt hasn’t done some good in the arts community, it has gotten some people recognized, etc., but what bothers me about it is that the website does not list the company as a not-for-profit anywhere AND it’s making plenty of money so it should therefore pay more for the rights for this (and other) contests. In fact, it shouldn’t even demand the copyright but instead ask for an exclusive unlimited license of some sort, with no 3rd party rights.

These people make their money not off the art they “promote” because they don’t promote art–they promote the sponsoring companies who advertise at the events which are chock full of trendy young folk with lots of money to spend. Acura is one of the main sponsors of this film event and contest. You’re telling me Acura can’t pony up more than $1000 for (essentially) its own advertising?!

The GenArt folk have a smart business and I applaud their brilliance in its concept and management. I just wish they would treat their artists with more financial respect.

Travels with Leslie

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Lest ye forget about my upcoming speaking tour, there’s new info available on the BAP website. It’s got dates and prices and more details. It will have even more links as they become available from the different chapters.

Oh, and even though this program is written for photographers, you other independent creatives can learn lots from it. Most of the material is trans-discipline. It’s funny how so many creatives share so many commonalities…

There’s also a new manual available on the Manuals page. This one is about working with your clients.

Hmmm…there’s that word “with” again…methinks there’s a theme somewhere…


Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

For a laugh (albeit a sad, twisted laugh), check out this “life in media in the UK” parody.

Love and work

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

I came across this blog post and was astounded at how the points are not only true for love, they are true for finding/developing new clients too. Amazing how the ideas of love and work so often are shared.