Long before you officially take the profession of graphic or web designer, your friends and family will support your ambitions by developing your talent. At first, your loved ones inspect your work and if they like what they see, you’ll get flooded with their requests for one page flyers, t-shirt designs, logos, and company websites. When you are just starting out, you welcome their requests because it gives you a chance to grow your skill set as a designer. After all, it’s almost like dealing with real clients, right?
The drama comes when you actually become a full time designer. The friends and family who drew upon your talent during your newbie years are still standing around with their hands out, and now you also must contend with two more groups of favor askers: clients and anonymous foreigners who contact you through Twitter.
Here are 8 of the most common and eye-rollingly annoying favors all designers encounter at one point or another. For ease of reference, we’ll call the offending party “Dude.”
1. “Hey, can you take a look at my site and tell me what you think?”
At first glance, this seems like a harmless five to ten minute project. Dude asks for your opinion, and you both know that you are an esteemed and dedicated design pro. You optimistically click on his website link, and you’re teleported back in 1998 with a Geocities-reminiscent design so horrifying it makes MySpace look professional. After you try hard not to lose all respect for Dude, you carefully suggest that he get rid of the Flash intro. You are then met with an uncomfortable defensiveness, where Dude refuses to accept your professional advice.
Lesson learned: Decipher whether your friend is looking for actual advice or just a pat on the back.
2. “Um, would you mind designing my site… for free?”
It’s shocking how many people feel truly entitled to a free web design. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of introducing yourself as a web designer, you may notice the wheels instantly starting to turn in your acquaintance’s mind. Everyone, even those without any product or any relevant thing to say, want, demand and need a website. These are the people, especially, who will want such a website produced for free. They may lure you with the distant hopes they use to fuel their own insanity: “Once I get some visitors, I’ll direct them to your services” (Standard practice, regardless).
Lesson learned: Limit your charity cases to those you can do in your free time and only do it for charity because the only reward you’ll reap is psychological.
3. “Can you help me design my site to look like ______?”
This request is closely related to the first two requests. Perhaps Dude has taken it upon himself to designed a website, already had a moment of epiphany and now realizes that it sucks. At least you’re on the same page. Then comes, “I’d like my site to look just like Avatar. You know, all 3D and stuff.” Once you realize that Dude is serious, another realization also sinks in. If you take on this “consulting” project, all of your time and energy will be engulfed by this vortex, and you won’t be getting paid for your trouble. What’s the solution? Direct Dude to Yahoo! Answers? No, he’ll never go for that, because this is a top secret idea.
Lesson learned: Find your inner ineptness and apply it to this situation. Feign ignorance, suggest peripheral design ideas such as blue color palettes and wait for your friend to get bored of the idea and come to his senses.
4. “I think I have a virus.”
No one likes to hear these words, and if someone’s sharing this information with you, they usually want one of two things: sympathy or help, sometimes both. When you hear these words come from a client, you must assume they are referring to a computer virus (let’s hope). This your client’s passive/ aggressive way of getting you to offer assistance. If you, wisely, remain silent, he or she will shamelessly ask you for your help. Just because you work in front of your computer all day does not mean that you qualify for tech support. You have to Google things just like everyone else.
Lesson learned: Get the courage to finally direct someone to Let Me Google That For You. However, for professional relationships, avoid the snark and actually lightly research the problem, but make no promises and waste no longer than 15 minutes.
5. “Let me help you with any of your extra work.”
This favor comes in the form of a donated favor. In other words, Dude is suggesting that he’s doing you a favor, when he’s actually just trying to get paid. One morning you open your email box, and there’s an email from some dude you’ve never heard of. He wants you to lend him some of your work. Depending on your level of job-related stress, you may be inclined to offer him some work, but what’s this? No portfolio? No website? No spell-check. Wait, is Dude even located in the same hemisphere as you?
Lesson learned: You get what you pay for.
6. “So, it’s been a minute… How much longer is it going to take?”
Just when you’ve got your Good Samaritan on and decided to help Dude during your free time, he starts becoming a diva. Never mind the impossible requests to make his website look just like *let your imagination run wild on this one,* or the countless revisions to a perfectly designed logo, or the endless hours you spent over IM trying to explain why putting an invisible list of keywords at the bottom of the webpage is unnecessary. When you least expect it, expect to receive a phone call, email, direct tweet saying, “Hey, so, um… when’s the project going to be finished?” You reply back, “Dude, I told you I was going to fit this in between my actual work from actual clients that actually pay.” To this, Dude replies, “I didn’t think it was going to take this long, maybe I should just get this professionally done.” Oh, that’s a killer. First of all, Dude has no consideration for the amount of time you’ve invested in this project. Secondly and more importantly, you are a professional. Why not offer you money so that you can prioritize his project?
Lesson learned: Clearly state from the beginning that it will take you some ridiculously long amount of time to complete the project for free and if Dude’s still on board, he’ll be happy if you finish it sooner than expected.
7. “Can I use your server until I get my own hosting?”
What’s so wrong about this request? You have extra space and you can afford the bandwidth. The problem is that Dude will never get his own hosting, and eventually he’ll forget about his site. A year later, you’ll remind him, “Hey Dude, you know you still have your stuff on my server? I’m moving to another server, so is it alright if I get rid of it? You have a back up, right?” Dude will do one of two things: he’ll respond with indignant anger, upset that you’re rushing him to get his act together or he’ll pretend to be okay with it, all the while, holding a grudge.
Lesson learned: Friends don’t let friends use their servers.
8. “Hey, I volunteered you to re-do my co-worker’s step-daughter’s wedding album.”
You can replace this with any task in which your mom volunteers your services for free. It’s always lovely to deal with someone who’s happy to accept your honest labor for free, because we all know they won’t make any unreasonable demands. The most difficult part of this ordeal is having to contend with your mother in her role as the merciless middleman who nags you for quality, timeliness and her good reputation.