How to Answer “How Long Did That Take You to Make?”

Waiting Room designed by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

Waiting Room designed by Luis Prado from the Noun Project

One of the most uncomfortable questions customers/clients can throw you is, “how long did it take you to make that?” It’s specific and straight forward enough that not answering or changing the subject would be noticed or come off as rude. It also entirely undermines your work down to just the actual labor part: completely removing the prep, materials, process, and finishing which probably take the most time and energy. As Luann Udell explained in a recent post for Fine Art Views:

Now, right or wrong, here’s what your customers will do.  They’ll take the selling price (let’s pick a dollar amount out of thin air – $600) and divide it by the time the artist said it takes to make (three hours).  They’ll come up with an hourly rate of $200 an hour. 

You may tell people that doesn’t include the cost of acquiring your materials, or prepping, or finishing (frames, framing supplies) or the time schlepping your work to and from shows and exhibitions.  It doesn’t include the time and money you spent on educating yourself, nor the time you spent and energy perfecting your craft.  It probably doesn’t include the time and energy you spend on applying to shows, marketing, doing paperwork, or cleaning your studio. And if you have gallery representation, you’re actually only netting half that amount. 

Nope, they won’t hear that.  They may nod their head, but they’re still thinking, “$200 an hour…that’s $400,000 a year!!”

The main solution is to work on a prepared answer for instances like these. And being able to answer this question also helps you define the selling points of your work and your brand. It’s a win-win:

“That’s a great question!”  (You do not have to say you get asked that question 20 times a day.)  “And it’s also hard to answer.” 

Now you can focus on whatever you’d found is a selling point for your work.  If time really is a factor, and that impresses customers, use it.  My artifacts take many production steps to make.  I describe that process, using lots of hand motions to illustrate.  I end up with, “I counted up all the steps once, and it was something like 38 production steps…” (pause) “…and then I start to actually shape the animal.”  At this point, people usually gasp.  I explain why they have the shapes and markings they do; how I fire, sand and polish them; how I use a scrimshaw technique to bring up the detail, etc.  By this time, time is obviously not a big factor in the price.  Most people are astounded at the attention to detail I’ve described. . .

If I were a 2-D artist asked this question, I’d do the same thing.  Acknowledge the question.  Expand on the answer in a way that makes my work more precious and unique.  And share the true and powerful story behind your choice of technique, or presentation, or subject matter.  Share whatever will connect your audience, emotionally and spiritually, with your work.

Read the rest here.

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Weekend Reads: If Designers Had Honest Resumes

Profile designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

Profile designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

What We’re Reading:

If graphic designers had honest resumes, they’d look something like this.

“Now is the time for designers to embrace the business world and then to do what they do best: redesign it.” FastCo on how to be the next great designer-founder.

“There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, ‘Oh to have been alive and well back then!”

From 99U.com: 

Job security is becoming a luxury. We change careers more than ever. So how can we “future-proof” our careers to be resilient to changes we don’t even see coming? By developing an unquenchable desire to learn.

Over 60 percent of the world’s population is not on the internet. Not coincidentally, those people are often from communities in which the black market is the primary way of operating. In this 99U talk, Joshua Klein tells us why your network is your most valuable resource in a world where everything is a black market

Yuko Shimizu worked in the PR business for 11 years before making the leap to becoming a full-time illustrator. Now she has clients likeThe New York Times1800, and others. We asked her how she did it

Catch more links like these by signing up for our weekly newsletter below, which features our best content, delivered fresh every Sunday.


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Shaz Madani: Improving Your Portfolio in One Step

Over on It’s Nice That, Liv Siddall sat down with famed designer Shaz Madani to gather her insights on what every young designer should know about building a quality portfolio. One notable takeaway from Madani? Knowing what to hide:

It’s so important to be selective and have the ability to edit your portfolio. Often seeing one bad project can outdo all the good work.

It’s tempting to put in everything you’ve ever done, especially as a young graduate, when you just want to show as much experience as possible. But it’s not about quantity. If there is something you are not proud of, don’t put it in.

As creative workers, we tend to believe that the more work we show in our resume or portfolio, the more we demonstrate our broad capabilities. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. As Madani explains, all it takes is one bad apple to ruin the whole bundle.

Madani goes on to share additional insights from her years of experience as a designer, including the importance of exploring your possibilities before settling on a job or role.

[via]

Previously6 Steps To Creating A Knockout Online Portfolio

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Tips for Tackling Any Big Project

Weight Lifting designed by Scott Lewis from the Noun Project

Weight Lifting designed by Scott Lewis from the Noun Project

Approaching any big project can be a daunting and complex experience. Over on her blog, author Elizabeth Spann Craig gives us nine quick tips for tackling big projects, ensuring that we finish what we set out to do.

Show up. Religiously. It’s the only way to get through a project.

Avoid perfectionism….First drafts aren’t perfect either. But aren’t they better than the blank page?

Craig highlights the importance of finishing what you set-out to do before looking for ways to improve or change the concept. She calls this avoiding tangents:

Avoid going off on tangents….Wait until the project itself is done. For me, it works best for writing, too–I don’t edit/fix stuff until the first draft is completely done.

In her list, Craig also mentions the value of remembering the small victories as you go, emphasizing how motivating it can be to reflect on even the smallest of steps. She writes:

Fight the overwhelm….Remember how far we’ve come since the start of our project. If this is a home improvement or organizing project, it helps to take a picture of the “before,” just to remind us. If its writing–remember that blank page the first words we once wrote down.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with big projects, no matter what type they are. To cope, consider reading Craig’s brief advice and remember to set goals, work with a timer, avoid perfectionism, skip tangents (for now), and more.

Read all of the advice right here.

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Read Email Backwards After Your Vacation

Overworked by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Overworked by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

The first day back from vacation is the hardest: switching from beaches and cocktail umbrellas to an office chair and emails can be a jarring experience, especially if one of your first priorities is to get the inbox from 600 to 0.

Fortunately, Levo League offers a better way to deal with emails post-vacation: read them backwards.

Start from the most recent to the oldest so that you don’t waste your time (and annoy the people who took your load while you were out) by answering old emails that were already addressed and completed. The last thing you want is to spend time spinning your wheels only to realize that the question/issue you were working on solving for an hour and a half was already handled by the time you get to email 1,000.

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Paul McCartney & John Lennon: Why Creativity Needs Tension

beatles

Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two, speaks about the advantages of competitive collaboration in an article for The Atlantic. His famous example is that of The Beatles’ Paul McCartney and John Lennon who would regularly “answer” each others’ songs in friendly competition. When John wrote “Strawberry Fields,” Paul came back with “Penny Lane.” Paul notes that the competition made them “better and better all the time,” and created a creative tension.

Despite the tension—because of the tension—the work was magnificent. Though the White Album recording sessions were often tense and unpleasant (Emerick disliked them so much that he flat-out quit), they yielded an album that is among the best in music history.

The Beatles’ producer George Martin described the relationship as “two people pulling on a rope, smiling at each other and pulling all the time with all their might.” Not only did their competition create tension, but their contrasting personalities added to it as well. Paul was meticulous, diplomatic, and polite, while John could be chaotic, impatient, and rebellious. Although completely different, they complemented each other perfectly. As John’s first wife Cynthia Lennon observed:

John needed Paul’s attention to detail and persistence. Paul needed John’s anarchic, lateral thinking.

Although tension can foster creative productivity, remember to surround it with sufficient support and shared passions.

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How Rejection Helps the Creative Process

running

Running designed by Claire Jones from the Noun Project

Creatives are subject to high levels of rejection. Even though companies seek out innovative individuals, they seldom listen to their new ideas due to the risk involved. Fortunately, research suggests that rejection may actually help – not hinder – the creative process. Rejection hurts, but if there is no pain, then there is no gain. In an article for Slate, illustrator Jessica Olien explains:

Perhaps for some people, the pain of rejection is like the pain of training for a marathon – training the mind for endurance. Research shows you’ll need it. Truly creative ideas take a very long time to be accepted. The better the idea, the longer it might take. Even the work of Nobel Prize winners was commonly rejected by their peers for an extended period of time.

Social rejection can be liberating. Once you know you don’t fit in, you can concentrate your energy on your creative projects as oppose to stressing about what others think. Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.” Just be sure you know when to push through and when you should call it quits.

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