Placing emphasis on what you see to be important empowers you to work on the things you enjoy with the people you enjoy. Understanding your values is less about establishing control and more about building healthier relationships with clients and the work you are doing.
About a month ago I published “6 Lists You Should Be Keeping,” and of the six I brought up I concluded with Values. Below I’ve listed out my values; however, this is an ever changing and developing list. By no means is this definitive of my life values, but rather everything listed below remains true for where I stand now. As I grow and continue on different pursuits my values will change. I urge you to constantly question and reevaluate what’s important to you so that you may never have to sacrifice what you value.
I will create thoughtful and inventive work
Rather than finding an easy way out or settling for generic ideas also known as low-hanging fruit, I will challenge myself to create work of a deeper meaning. My choices will be objective compared to arbitrary, and my work will be more than what meets the eye. I will strive to capture brilliance.
I will always produce quality work without being overly fixated on perfection
I will always get better and can always improve what I am working on, but I must recognize when to draw the line. If I’m overly fixated on perfection then I’m failing to see the big picture, which is to deliver high quality work. Instead of physically and emotionally draining myself while seeking perfection down to the finest detail, I must master the art of knowing when to stop. The pursuit of perfection is a disservice to those I work with — I won’t chase the sun.
I will share my inspiration and not be directly influenced by it
By maintaining an appropriate level of transparency with myself, my clients, and my followers I will deter myself from being overly influenced by others.
For more on the topic please refer to my post Inspiration Or Influence?
I will not copy or steal
Pretty self explanatory, right? To further build on this I also want to make the point to ensure that I never mislead anyone. If anything I create is based on previous concepts or ideas then I will make that clear along with citation when available. Additionally, if any aspect of my work is not mine i.e. it was a collaboration, features someone elses illustration, derives from a specific source, etc. then I will provide credit to avoid the misled intent of displaying the work solely as my own.
I will swiftly answer questions and reply to emails
Ideally I would reply to emails and inquiries within an hour of receiving/reading them, but realistically during the week I allot myself 24 hours to reply. When I get back to someone really quick they’re always surprised and thank me for replying so fast, and so I would like to keep that going.
I will only work with great people
Many factors contribute to making someone nice or awesome to work with, and previously I had written down a bunch of things that contribute to that, but instead I decided to sum it all up with “I will only work with great people.” Here are what helps me determine if someone will be great to work with, they:
- Are familiar with my work and understand my process
- Understand and help establish project expectations
- Recognize the value I provide
- Respect my design expertise
- Respect my pricing
- Are passionate about the project and what they are representing
- Are healthily invested in the project — they are neither too involved nor completely absent
- Are ready to work
I will not discount my prices
I’m piggybacking off of Sean McCabe’s idea of “Two Prices: Full price & Free” which you can learn more about on his podcast. Sean continually touches on this point, and it has really hit home with me. With only two options I’m forced to recognize the value of my work; however, the common misconception regarding the two price approach is that people assume that free completely disregards value and that by never discounting, even just a little, you will not get as many clients. The truth of the matter is: you’re right. I may not get as many clients by refusing to conform to everyone’s budgets, but I honestly don’t need to. When I discount my work solely to fit someone’s budget I’m creating the precedent of discounted work; discounted work is devalued work. I don’t wish to work with people who pressure me to devalue my work. Those who are familiar with my work and my process, and respect my pricing will not question the value or cost of my work. Hiring a designer is an investment; not a commodity. So how do I debunk the myth that free completely devalues work? When I do work for someone completely free of charge it isn’t because they requested that I do it for free. To work in return for exposure or an awesome portfolio piece is much different than choosing to work for free as a charitable act, also known as pro-bono. When you are initially approached to work free of charge then that person immediately doesn’t see your work as valuable, but when you feel passionate about a project and the client can’t afford the full price then going out on your own accord to work pro-bono allows the project to remain at full value. Pro-bono clients already respect you and see the value of your work, if anything you’re creating additional value.
I will only work with those who have signed a contract
The term contract sounds very legal and scary, but it quite honestly serves as an outline of the project. Having a contract is meant to create a further understanding of project expectations and commitments. Additionally, a contract ensures everything runs smoothly because you can always reference back to it, but just to clarify, everything in that goes in the contract has been discussed in other conversations whether it be through email, phone call, or video chat. Before the contract is signed by the client we go over it together entirely to make sure everything sounds good. Having a contract isn’t meant to be deceitful; it’s not an opportunity to throw in confusing text to take advantage of clients, but rather it’s an opportunity to build a relationship and create smooth sailing for the remainder of the project.
I will have everything in writing
The last point hinted at this, but having everything in writing is just meant to further reiterate the importance of keeping things clear. Following any phone conversation or video call I will email the client points in which we discussed whilst talking just to ensure we are both on the same page. When you don’t follow up on conversations then you are increasing the likelihood of misinterpretation. Don’t solely rely on your memory; instead take notes while you’re on the phone.
I will receive 50% upfront before working and give final deliverables upon final payment
Just to reiterate, I will only work with great people meaning they are familiar with my work and my process, they recognize the value I provide, they respect my design expertise, they respect my pricing, and they are passionate about the project. If someone is on board with everything I just listed then paying 50% upfront won’t even cause them to hesitate. Additionally, they will be a part of the process and know what to expect from the final deliverables so the final payment isn’t a gamble—it’s the final investment.
I will communicate my design decisions to my clients
To further instill confidence in my clients they should be informed of major design decisions. I want to be transparent in my process in such a way that is informative rather than overwhelming; therefore miniscule details don’t need to be specified or shared. As stated earlier my work will be both thoughtful and inventive backed by objective design decisions which my clients will understand.
Health and safety first
These may come off as silly, but health and safety are always at the forefront of my values. I will not be so consumed in a project that it cuts into my sleeping, running, or learning. By sacrificing my sleep or taking away from my running then I am jeopardizing the quality of my work. Sleep and exercise are detrimental to my creative process. For more about how running positively affects my creativity go here.
I will not compromise my values
When I compromise my values I’m compromising my work and my process. I’ve established these values for a reason: because they are important to me. To ensure I’m able to work with great people on projects that I love the values are in place, and I don’t intend on bending the rules for anyone. I want to build relationships and work with people that want to work with me.