“I don’t want to pay you to change my logo, but if you could spend an hour telling me how I can do it in Illustrator myself, that would be great.”

I posted a rant about this kinda thing a couple of days ago, but here we are, on a Friday afternoon and it’s happening again. I have this client – a really nice guy who I’ve worked with on and off for a couple of years – and he wasn’t happy with some colours in the logo that we had delivered a few months ago. Those colors, by the way, were chosen by him, against my suggestions.

The faulty notion of “a couple of minutes.”

He had asked Amy how much it would cost him to “explore” various colour combinations and she hold told him a couple of hours billable should do it. Clients tend to believe that this or that only “takes a couple of minutes” but the truth of designing stuff is this – nothing takes just a couple of minutes.

There is no magic “change this” button.

By the time we’ve exchanged a few e-mails, opened files, sent various PDFs back-and-forth, time tends to evaporate. And in every industry (except design apparently) time is money. Anyhoo, when he received the quote, we didn’t hear back so assumed he had moved on to other things, another designer, or decided against the change entirely.

Brain picking.

On Friday morning, I’m up to my ass in overdue client work, I get the call from the client. Nothing terribly serious I was told. He just wanted to “pick my brain” about some “technical issue.” I tend to be a little over-generous with clients and potential clients about this “brain picking” thing and this time was no different. I’d be glad to have my brain picked. Here’s what the deal actually was.

A little help s’il vous plaĆ®t.

Turns out the client had got himself a copy of Adobe Illustrator – a design software package with a fairly steep learning curve. Opening the interface for the first time can be daunting with all its bells and whistles and tools and thingamajigs. Half the tool functions in Illustrator are nothingburgers – over complicated shit that nobody ever uses – and the rest isn’t terribly mystical or magical either. It’s easy once you know how to use it, but getting to knowing how takes some tinkering.

A lot of tinkering.

Here was the thing – remember the color changes we talked about earlier? Apparently those charges were too pricey, and the client wanted to do it himself. With Adobe Illustrator. That he had just got a hold of. And now, he wanted me to tell him, on my dime, how to make said changes. With Illustrator. That he didn’t know anything about. Apparently not only was I Microsoft’s Help Desk, but Adobe’s Help Forum as well. And you wanna know what I did?

I tried to walk him through it.

Yep. I spent the better part of 45 minutes explaining the various tools in the Illustrator menu, how to group and ungroup objects, how to select colors and how to change them up. That’s a free 45 minute tutorial on doing stuff in Adobe Illustrator in order that he could avoid paying me for doing stuff in Adobe Illustrator. While I had paying clients crawling up my ass because their stuff was overdue no less. There isn’t another industry or profession that this would be entertained by any provider or vendor and yet here I was, teaching some guy a thousand miles away, how to use my tools to avoid hiring me to do a job. He didn’t see anything wrong with it. And I didn’t tell him there was anything wrong with it.

Which is precisely where I went wrong.

Our own worst enemies.

Designers tend to be people pleasers. We thrive on positive feedback on our work, so we tend to look for back-patting in other areas too. We need to stop that. We are supposed to be professionals, offering a professional service and should bill professionally. There’s lots of industries where customers and clients would like free stuff but other than design, the suppliers don’t give it to them because it would be stupid and at odds with actually making a living at whatever they’re making a living at. Lawyers sometimes offer a “free 30 minute consultation” but that usually involves them listening to your tale of woe, and then spending 20 minutes telling you why you need to hire them full tilt, and answering most questions with “our 30 minutes doesn’t really give me the time to answer that.” We need to be more like lawyers in the billing department I think. Nice lawyers maybe, but lawyers nonetheless. Because, and this can never be understated (it was the footnote of that article linked above,) the important part of DIY Design is in the name itself.

Do. It. Yourself.