On Sept. 9th I was contacted by a lady asking me to help her with the invitations for her children’s Autumn First Communion. She came by recommendation from another mom I had just helped out, in Spring, on her child’s event.
The Spring First Communion commission was quite a task, I had three weeks to prepare the whole invitation suite plus details for the party favors that would be given to the guests… THREE WEEKS, 36 invitations, 150 favors- crosses, bookmarkers, rosaries. Of course, we had Spring 2 week vacation break which lent more time to take care of everything. Having that past experience I thought this commission for October 25 would go well… and so off I went.
She contacted me on the morning of Sept. 9, I get so excited with each new project that as soon as I get peace and silence I get to the design. A bit later that day she sent me the info that should appear on the invitation, on Wednesday she sent me the guest list, I pointed out some questions I had with the spelling of certain names and last names, she got back to me with answers… We were unable to meet till Saturday morning, by then I had several inspiration images and 4 options, two with a horizontal format and two vertical. I was super energized, feeling good about it, good momentum, creative juices flowing, I was ready to rumble…
Saturday everything went well, she liked what I brought her, we made a few adjustments, decided on paper, ribbon, typography… wuuhuuu!!! on track…
We met again on Tuesday, to look at the corrections and finalize a few details… next step, print and assemble the prototype. . .
I woke up Wednesday to find a message from her with sad faces all over, her husband had disapproved everything we had up to now, he liked NOTHING but the paper… he hated the typography, he hated the text, he hated the theme, which had been coordinated with the event’s whole decoration theme: rustic-country (burlap, khaki, natural…). She was asking me to make a whole new proposal, I took a deep, very deep breathe and got to work.
On Wednesday noon, she had a new proposal made up of several designs, one of them I had offered on the first meeting… images came and went through facebook messages, each time asking for something new, bigger fonts, tighter fonts, expanded fonts, less info here, more info there, a cross, a chaliz, their names, without their names… I slowly started to panic. I had never felt this way about a project. I love my projects from beginning to end and after delivering my work I still ask back later how it went, if it had gotten and comments both good and bad… You could say I get very attached to my work, but this time I truly wanted to send this design on its merry way. I wanted to finish and imagine it being received with a smile and a compliment. Nevertheless, the reality of it made all this seem like a very distant possibility.
I got in full panic/ anxiety/ desperation mode. Why do they destroy my work? why do they question this so much? they have no idea what they want! I don’t know them well, I cant read their minds! How long will I be on this part of the process? I can’t work like this! WHY DON’T THEY TRUST ME? … that was the thing, they did not trust me… why would they, right? yeah and no…
So I went back to my previous ‘big’ client Spring First Communion Lady… huge time constraint-huge project, why did that one work out? Well..many factors
why was I able to do so much in such little time? vacations, the lady kept in mind the time limitations, she made quick decisions…
why did I enjoy that project so much from beginning to end? it flowed, it evolved…
what did I do differently? nothing, I gave it my full attention and dedication as I did with this and all other projects…
What did the lady do differently? SHE TRUSTED ME… because on our first talk she said she was open to any and all suggestions and her only references were her older daughter’s communion and her friend’s children’s communion invitations…and the husband was OK with her decisions… I had carte blanche, total creative freedom… I set my own limits and boundaries based on my sources for supplies and materials… A designer’s dream client 🙂
Creative freedom or not, to me it all came down to TRUST… I know, why would they trust me if they don’t know me? well, that is the risk one takes, you look at their previous work and you trust that you’ll get the same attention to detail and quality others have gotten…trust is essential in the relationship with your designer…
Of course, I later hypothesized that, that only happens when the client lives in a trusting environment and knows the value of trust.
My Autumn Communion client seemed (from the messages she sent me) to not have her husband’s full support and trust in this matter. Despite me reading this between the lines of her sad-faced messages, I could not let it affect my work, in fact, I should not even have had this glimpse of their personal situation, I was just in their lives momentarily to help with a small but basic part of their event.
I felt sorry for her because I have been there with an overly suspicious, distrustful husband, always in need of having the first and last word in all matters, a bit of a control freak you might say but I kept reminding myself, “she wants someone to make some invitations, not a new friend to hold her hand…”
Anyway, 10 days after our first meeting, many trips to the paper supplier, fabric store looking for burlap and ribbon, and several tanks of gas later I sent her a message urging her to meet with me and make FINAL decisions or I’d have to call it quits while she still had time to find another designer, one with more means: hands, time, patience to get her order ready in the little time she had left to hand deliver to all the people (65 to be exact) on her list… she took the second option and that marked the end of this project, SIGH!
…and still I realized and learned some valuable lessons:
-Spring Communion Lady’s trust opened my eyes and heart to trusting myself, trusting my instinct in these matters, which in turn
-gave me the self-confidence needed to respect and honor my time and process,
-to understand and see the difference between them not liking the designs and the designs not being any good
I live in a small city and word of mouth advertising is very important, however, my peace of mind is more important than that… I am in bliss when I am working on a new design and I don’t want to lose this feeling ever…
I could keep talking about this, but I think I’ve already overstayed my welcome 🙂
read you soon lovely people, xo
You are right my dear friend, I need to define my policies, that’s the left brain activity I avoid… but i can’t keep rejecting clients when their needs overwhelm me 🙂 big hug Karen and thank you for you lovely wishes xo
Of course!!! Ya me imagino, conversaciones que desesperan: y no tendrás una con vista al infinito?, ventanas al cielo? espacios que no limiten mi espíritu? que cosa tan dificil esto de darle gusto a la gente cuando ni ellos mismos saben lo que les gusta o lo que en realidad quieren… aaaaaa, makes me want to scream 🙂 y sin embargo le doy gracias a Dios por que sigo disfrutando mi don… xo honey!!
If you’re going to let one stupid prick ruin your life, you’re not the girl I thought you were.” (Professor Stromwell – Legally Blonde)… just substitute STUPID PRICK for INSECURE CONTROLLING CUSTOMER. Animo mi Amiga hermosa! Customers come in all different sizes, colors and personalities. Trust youself. Believe me, I SELL HOMES… 😉
I think it’s tough to be a designer. The ones that I know set limits on revisions up front, and are clear that more revisions equals more cost. I have been in similar situations with my writing. I hope you will get many more of your first kind of client. 🙂
Best wishes for more trusting clients,