Category Archives: Posts by ‘P’

Wether you’ve set out on your own, or you’re managing PO’s and invoicing, or you are in charge of the whole process from quote to order to finished product, there are almost always a few things you wish you’d thought to push for in the contract when you got to ‘go ahead’.

I was skimming through the delicious DesignLoveFest blog when one of the creators, Katie, took the time to answer with some of her biggest ‘oops, important things to get into a contract’ notes (below).

KATIE’S ANSWER:
technically my first graphic design job was designing the drink promotion tent cards at the restaurant i worked at in high school. but the one i count was designing a line of stationery cards for a new brand. i think i found it on craigslist. the ad asked for an illustrator with a print background. i sent my portfolio PDF showing the range of my illustration skills and my resume. the owner responded she liked my style and asked to meet me. we met at a bar, had some wine and she told me what she wanted her stationery line to be. it was right up my alley and we clicked really well. i knew what was required of me as a designer, but on the business side i had no clue what I was doing. i charged her $500 for 5 designs, each getting two rounds for revisions. i cringe when i think about how much work went into the designs. you live and you learn right?

what i would do differently today:
• charge $600 per card with two revisions for each design. if you’re new start out charging hourly. you will still be learning to manage your self and working with clients.

• add another $1,000 for all the email correspondence, managing the print vendors, deadlines, and all of our in person meetings.

• save my taxi and supply receipts to write those off as a business expense when i do my taxes.

• our contract would include what would happen if the idea is killed once the work has begun. is there a kill fee? do i get paid for a percentage of my fee? or paid for the hours? my client had changed her mind after two rounds on one of the cards to a new idea and i hadn’t brought that up in our contract. all that work down the drain and i had to start all over again.

• contract would say that if the client wanted more revisions after the two rounds i would charge my hourly rate to finish the project.

• contract would included rights and usage of the artwork. those designs i did now live on a ton of other products. my designs were also manipulated into other patterns and layouts and look really bad(in my opinion). it’s unfortunate because it could’ve been a great piece for my portfolio but now i don’t even want to show anyone. i could always redo it for myself but i guess i’m a little bitter about how the final product came to life.

• contract would say how long the client owns the rights to them. is it a year? 3 years (i’ve learned that 3 is an industry standard for product. it hits a season, goes on sale, maybe moves to outlet), or forever? depending on how long they want to have the rights another fee would be included. more years = more money.

• contract would say how many products each design can live on.

• require approval on ALL products my designs go on before they are put into production.

Obviously these are just a few notions, but they’re all transferrable to whatever your job might be and all worth thinking about.

One of the key things I found myself doing in the early days (and still on occasion get tempted by) was undervaluing the product. I would put a lower starting number, or maintain more flexible negotiation, in order to secure the job rather than push for the paycheque it deserved. Yes, there was always a decent profit margin built in, but it looks small when you start looking at what your work could actually be worth. Lesson one, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. If it’s quality work, people will pay rather than budget through and get lesser results (but they’ll never say no if you give them a low price but maintain quality). Don’t be a cocky asshole, you’ll never be too big for your boots cause there is always more to learn and do, but don’t underestimate your value. Don’t be scared to negotiate! They can only say no, and you should come prepared and with your stance and quote backed up by facts (and figures) and prospects and realistic points.

Secondly, keep it in writing. Always. Everything. Every little note ever. And keep disclaimers that sound vaguely legal and cover you on your emails. For the small time of creating a decent wording on your signature to protect your work and email agreements it’s more than worthwhile to save you from blind panic.

Don’t be scared to include silly things, if they’re not in writing they’re not agreed upon. Expenses, time spent, ownership of product (if applicable), reselling rights, support rights, etc etc. Make sure you cover all corners, and you can feel safe and protected moving forward. And protect your creativity.

Don’t play games. Clients expect a good service and a good result/quality of work when they put their trust and order with you. Don’t treat them as anything less, every client is important and much like people are a business most important asset clients are your livelihood. Their referrals, happiness and success translate into good things for you too, so always have a respectful and fair approach to them and listen as well as remember you’re hired for your expertise in whatever aspect they need your help (don’t forget to put your foot down and claim that expertise while remembering you can only inform them and if they chose to go against your suggestions you’ll have to let them, once you’ve explained you can’t be held liable).

Liability. Google it. Make sure it’s covered. And remember while business shouldn’t have to be, it is a dirty game and at some point you’ll deal with people who wouldn’t hesitate to throw you under if it came down to it. Protect yourself, your company and your work.

Kick ass, and don’t be afraid to do so. Business can be creative, innovative, fun, respectful, passionate and bloody enjoyable too. Just keep your head up, and remember it’s still business and those who don’t ask don’t get.

xoxo

‘P’

Don’t forget the fine print (or ‘things I wish I’d remembered for the first client order’)

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Boss Lady Ness

Your phone is ringing. The email is suddenly filling up with subject lines such as ‘approval needed urgently’, ‘contract to be signed, check clause 4′ and ’employee review meeting-reminder’.

The world of Bosslady ness. It’s exhilarating, it’s inspiring, it’s full of deadlines and expectations. Suddenly you are not only expected to go above and beyond to full fill your role and then some, you are responsible not just for a few but The with capital ‘T’ employees on a day to day basis that will provide you the workforce and results you need to get the nod of approval from those Directors during your updates.

As of the past six months + I’ve found myself placed in the mad world of boss lady working, in perhaps one of the most male dominated (gray haired, no offence foxes) sections of the Media world there is, Sports Broadcasting. It’s been exciting, there’s been programming to Produce, and there’s been staff to manage and hire. And perhaps most exciting, there’s been plans and pitches however insane to build and follow!

One of the three most important things I’ve learned from this business, which is repeated again and again, is the value of people. Businesses aren’t built solely on money, big badassers on top or a good ideas. They are built and continue running successfully because of their people. At a recent conference on the future of Digital (which FYI bloody hell, get on that band wagon!! 11 year olds are our future programmers and the whole world is waiting to get connected! Our kids will laugh in our faces when we show them DVDs!) some of the most successful entrepreneurs  out there graced us with their presence and discussed how important is to surround yourself with not average, not ok, but excellent people. And then look after them! Value your employees, value their opinions, and make sure they are happy. Unhappy mistreated staff result in unhappy halfhearted client service and a lack of loyalty within. No one benefits there.

On that note, Richard Branson recently published his ‘Top 5’s on running and starting a business’ and emphasises the exact same thing (have a read here).

The second one, is probably enjoy what you do. If you come into work miserable everyone else will pick up on it. Creativity will halt and without passion and forward thinking there isn’t going to be much business development to speak of.

Thirdly you need a healthy work v private life balance. You need to be passionate enough about work that you don’t’ quite view it as such. Equally, we all know that it’s not quite that easy. Sometimes you’ll need to pull three week stints of ridiculously long days. That’s just part of your job, whatever it may be. You need to put the effort in when needed to push boundaries and backup the ideas and ventures you believe in. However, keep that up for much longer and rather than firing at 110% you’ll be falling down, from 80% to 60, 40, 25%…

One of my directors once sat me down and told me his most successful learning tool was a very simple one (he teaches major corporations, Banks in particular, about maximising their potential): shut off your blackberry/iPhone. Not just vibrating and checking the emails every half an hour. If you spend your life constantly with one foot halfway at work even while you’re meant to be focusing on living life (family, friends, those moments where you laugh and cry and live) you need to put 100% into it. 50/50 never works, because you end up giving some here and some there and never fully putting all your ability into one project. Fingers in many pies is one thing, as long as you remember which one is which.

A sort of unspoken fourth one I’d say is gamble. Take chances. If you don’t nothing new ever gets done. If no one ever tried silly or crazy things nothing clever would ever get done (I believe that’s a bit of a ripped off quote, yes :). Believe in yourself, whether you’re working in a massive organisation, in a small business, or you’re starting your own venture. Don’t forget, sometimes you’ll fail. That’s ok. If you didn’t you’d be Batman. And then you probably wouldn’t need this really, beyond loose the freaky voice (seriously, what is that!). You need to know you can fail, and feel comfortable enough knowing that you’ll be backed up in case you do (or if you are literally your own boss with no backing, know you have a whole cupboard full of noodles until you can get a new pay cheque. That’s ok too ;). Point is, take a chance, no one got anywhere exciting without scary obstacles but trying anyway.

Anyway, back to bossladynessing… It’s been quite a journey so far and, to be honest, in between the moments of panic and seriousness the feeling that this is actually just a little bit amaze balls is pretty exciting! It’s amazing what can happen when you have a little faith in yourself, suddenly others do to. So work your ass off! Don’t ever think it isn’t hard work, but always know nothing’s impossible. When a 24 year old turns up to a meeting and demands respect, especially if she is a woman, even in this day and age you’ll still get a few raised eyebrows. But don’t for a second think they won’t give you the time of day, don’t expect it but demand the respect you’ve earned.

And look after your staff!! They make or break :).

Gotta go, business development meetings to attend!!

xo xo

‘P’

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The Answer is ‘Yes’ – there is no such word as ‘impossible’

“No, I’m sorry.” are not words you should get associated  to.

It’s a well known fact no production, however smooth running, is flawless. Things will go wrong, details will be overlooked, technical equipment will break at vital moments (despite rigorous testing). The only thing you can do in these instances is be prepared, and know that you did everything necessary and beyond to minimise the risks before.

When you get asked to do something, however ridiculous or far fetched (get the camera down from three hours north in the next half an hour, sushi lunches prepared by Michelin star chefs, the direct mobile number to that famous NFL player) you nod and say you’ll get it sorted. Because you will be asked, and a lot of the times it won’t be possible. That’s where some tweaking of the services comes into play.

Firstly, though, the time-frame. One of the top five pieces of advise I was given when starting out in the industry included how to estimate the time it’ll take you to finish a task. When your boss asks, calculate the realistic time, double that, and there you have it. If you finish it earlier than expected, well done you. If you run into serious trouble on the way and need the full amount of double-time, you’re still within your promised slot and everyone can happily stick to their schedules.

Secondly, when you do run into trouble and realise you won’t be able to get the requested result. Think outside the box. Sushi lunch by the Michelin-starrer can’t be done? Offer the assistant chef (aka the protege – talk him up), a take away version from the best japanese restaurant (send another assistant to get it if necessary, don’t trust their delivery men!), or an alternative course by another equally qualified chef.

The camera from up north? Hire in the kit locally, same quality and a promise to send the bill to whoever left it up north (or if it’s just a whim request from up high, recalculate the budget and make it work, even if you cut your coffee supply for a month).

The phone number? Go back… Find his junior club/high school/whatever. A coach that knew him well perhaps? Work your way forward, blagging whatever needs to be blagged. Can you get in touch with a parent? A friend? Anyone close enough to guarantee a message (not the PA of his boss, that message will not be getting you anywhere cause, well, bigger fish and panic already happening over there).

The bottom line is, nothing’s impossible. You just find YOUR way of solving it. If there isn’t one, you pave it. Just don’t ever turn back to your boss saying it can’t be done. You put your head up high, make sure you let them know this is a difficult task and that they can’t expect miracles, and then hand them the next best thing which, to them, will seem much like magic after all.

They may be demanding, but bosses are rarely stupid. They know full well the pressures and ridiculousness of the to-do lists you’re stuck with. Enjoy it, love the responsibility, show them you’re determined, use some charm (girls and boys, this applies to both of you, a kind word and some chit chat to remind the people on the other side of the line you’re both just as busy and struggling always helps), and voila.

Remember to cover your back. Double check, google, make sure the batteries are charged yada yada. Make long lists and tick them off, tedious as it may seem you will get tired and forget and a tick box can save your ass. Don’t. Miss. On the details! Very important. And smile, and shrug your shoulders at that miracle. What? You can do that in your sleep!!

They won’t forget the favour, or the smile. And they’ll learn to trust you.

Off you go, show them what you’ve got ;).

xoxo

‘P’

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Shh – The importance of production gossip and how to use it

Secrets. Gossip. Water-cooler mumblings. Print-room chatting. High flying dinner talk.

It doesn’t matter where your sources can be found, but make no mistake that a big part of your duties includes staying ontop of everything(!). That includes any information, however big or small, that might be of interest. So take that extra five minutes by the reception desk and have a catch up (read when you find 5 where there’s a small chance the world won’t crumble without your nose pressed to your email/call sheet/planning notes).

Whether it’s knowing months in advance that there’ve been rumblings of re-structuring the bottom floor for a new tenant (noise, lay offs, etc), that the new secretary’s brother in law works at that fabulous lunch place your boss adores and can get reservations when there are none, that Ella from the mail room has a fling with Louie at the Studios (she has a fast track contact when all other lines are busy), or perhaps even some juicy tidbits from that accounts meeting… It doesn’t matter the size of the gossip as long as you know it. It could prove vital at the next staff meeting and will undoubtedly speed up your day-to-day job.

Colin Clarke (Marylin and Me – read the real diary people) didn’t sit outside that office for weeks on end waiting for a job without picking up anything useful. He paid attention to the phone calls, the contacts, the events going on around him privately (fortunately he had parents with movie star connections) and at the office. And he ended up as 3rd AD on a Marilyn Monroe production… Which back then with no experience… Well done!

Let’s talk a little about the legend of the ‘water cooler’. Much like the ‘golf-deals’ this version is where a lot of your moves towards the next career-ladder-step will find their bearing. Now first off, don’t get me wrong… Backed up with nothing but more gossip you’ll run dry faster than you can say ‘Universal Studios’. But matched with hard work that hits the right notes, a ridiculous focus on details and organisation, and some pinches of extreme dedication and heart, and you’ve got a good recipe.

The water cooler is a little bit cliquey, but once you find your niche you’re in. Don’t over share (you want to use this for YOUR advantage, giving a reasonable amount in return, this is not your therapy session!) but make sure to ask the right subtle questions and listen much and often. The tid-bits are the most important (not necessarily if Holly and Mr Mallroy are still humping in the disabled toilet, focus more on how often that one executive pops by for lunch meetings on the second floor where you spend limited time but need much more knowledge, not to mention Mr Executive is scheduled in with YOUR boss in a week and two days! Was he upset about the draft? Really…). More services include finding out the exact spelling of whoever signed in with that ridiculous Russian name from reception, whether those lawyers documents were returned by the courier but not yet picked up, or how to get tickets to that sold-out members only club screening… Done discreetly, politely, and with a sense of mutual loyalty and respect for this give and take and you’ll never NOT benefit.

Just beware of the trasher. She’ll shoot her mouth off whether intentionally or not, mentioning secrets and names (including yours), whispering loudly and even starting accidental rumours. Somehow people will listen, and somehow if you get on the wrong side of a story it won’t benefit you. More importantly people will notice they can’t trust her discretion,get annoyed and after a while and clam up on their own stash of facts. Respect the water cooler code of conduct and everyone walks away a little wiser and looking a little sharper the next time you’re put on the spot for not knowing all the going ons in the universe (because you were meant to, you know that right!! Sleep? No excuses!)

Moving along a bit, and onto the high flying dinner parties…  Don’t expect your boss needs you there. Ever. Not because you got lucky and came along once. No. He/She’s busy. You’re meant to be too. And no, your invite does not get secured by blabbing your mouth off, but showing you’re aware of your surroundings, loyal, and not to mention eager to learn and impressive with your workload and you’re well on your way. As a source of information (the relevant kind, leave Holly and the humping out of it) and a link between the higher ups and the mere mortals you can prove valuable. Prove yourself an asset to and maybe (maybe) you might be entrusted with sitting next to the table while some secrets far above your head are being discussed too (this time, really shut your mouth. No, seriously, the bit on loyalty!).  Don’t become a tatter tattertale. They know you don’t magically know all these tidbits but respect your sources, and hold your cards?

This brings us to a slight side-track, but something worth an important mention. Sources and networks. Your contacts are a golden attachment to your shining CV, and when used right yours to share and nurture. Value your rolodex, build it and maintain the existing contacts.

So what have we learned so far? Keep your ears perked, be loyal and respectful, learn to talk and listen (even the shyest of the shy can get their foot in, it’s just about finding your speciality. The listener, the accidentally present, the advice column, the exchanger, etc). Learn when to use the information, and always (!) protect your sources. And never make enemies here, there is no point, just be respectful and listen loud.

Now, off you go… Did you happen to hear about that amazing new position opening up with a bonus pack and a spot on the next production? Well done ;). Now make us proud!

xoxo

‘P’

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Managing people – the ugly fluffy truth

Management… It can be at any level, whether you’re a head PA with the responsibility to look after the rest of the PAs, whether on a set or an office, a Production Coordinator or a Floormanager, a Producer, a Director… A studio suit at any level. Essentially anyone who has to look after other staff and, inevitably, face up to someone else for all that staff’s ups and downs.

It’s a tricky one, management. Of people. It’s just like walking into a classroom. You’re never going to get along with everyone. And some people you’ll bond with instantly. You’ll want to share secrets with some and others you just don’t think are quite cut out for the work OR swapping water cooler stories with. Frankly, it is neither here nor there whether you’ll be best friends. You have to be able to click and sync while working together, as with any relationship. You don’t have to fall in everlasting love, it may as well be just a quick fling. But the fling has to work. You’ve gotta make sure it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your life, especially anything important. You have to make sure they keep to their side of the deal.

You are responsible for their efficiency at the end of the day, for training them up and making sure they utilise their time in the best possible way. That tasks you assign to them get done adequately (and far beyond, let’s face it, the media business defines competitive!). You’ve also (!) gotta make sure you don’t let ‘them’ affect your career in a negative manner. They’re there to boost the work AND you (by making you look awesome with your kickass management skills and the ensuing efficiency).

Too friendly? Suddenly it’s difficult to set boundaries, tell them off. Too distant? You’re the bitchy boss with unrealistic demands.

The ever fickle middle ground then. You have to make sure the performance levels stay top-notch while looking after your career prospects and bettering your skills as a manager. Part of this is also learning to teach. Making sure you learn how to spot good quality staff, and how to train them to a) be the most they can be (more efficiency for you, the job, and positives for them), b) feel secure in their job and circumstances (so they feel okay about coming to you with the important questions AND (and this is vital) to fess up when things risk going really wrong. Other times they should feel comfortable enough to make decisions to sort out their own messes without interrupting too much of your already busy schedule, and it’ll grow loyalty both ways). And c) so that they and you grow and further each other on the career ladder, and you grow a loyal and high performing network to utilise later on…

The best situation is of course trying to spot the perfect match at the interview stage, but quite often there isn’t enough time for that.

Phew, there we go. Lots to be added so feel free, but that would be the basics. Key is, remember you are still the one who needs to teach, you can’t just expect them to automatically pick up telepathy and sort the tasks (they should, but, hey, can’t have it all). And you’ve gotta look after yourself… You are the boss lady… Just don’t forget you’ve probably got a boss too!!

xoxo

‘P’

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Slutty brownies for winter eves

So I took some inspiration from a blog recipe over the weekend and created this monster of Chocolate loving –

Better known as ‘Slutty Brownies’. Or YUMMY!

Basically, 1) Get some instant Chocolate Chip Cookie mix. Spread on an oven tray. 2) Oreos (whole ones, nothing broken) on top. 3) Add some Instant Brownie Mix and pour over the lot.

The halfway mark, Choccie Chips and Oreos.

Yes, for the record. It was amazing. Perfect for that weekend when you just want to have something warm and comforting.

Curtsey of ‘The Londoner Blog’.

xxoo

‘P’

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