Save Me From The ‘Messers’! – A Freelance Designer’s Plea For Help

Man Pulling Hair Out

Messers are evil

I was always delaying publishing this post because I thought it may show me and my fellow graphic designers in a negative light, but after being bitten by the third ‘serious messer’ this month, I’m pushing ahead.

You see, I’ve got some great clients with which I share amazing social/professional relationships. Getting shitloads of repeat-custom enabled me to get to know some of my clients as people on a personal level. It’s great and provides me with a certain level of satisfaction in my business.

However, and it’s a BIG ‘however’. Along with this comes the usual supply of ‘jack-in-the-box freeloading messers’, as a way off describing this certain demographic. Ungrateful morons who pop up out of nowhere and expect everything for nothing. Yack, yack, yack I hear the same old excuses from this idiotic and piss-taking demographic of my ‘client base’.

Entertaining these people, without a real possibility of a paid job at the end, is kinda like working for nothing. Kinda like doing your hair before going to bed. Kinda like diving into an empty swimming pool(!) Totally pointless.

Unfortunately, I’ve had my fair share of ‘messers’ and it’s about time I did something about it.

Small Town, Big Problem

My home town of Nelson, Lancashire, UK, was one of the old industrial revolution cotton-weaving towns of the 19th century. My parents, and a whole lot of others from the Indo-Pak sub-continent, migrated to the town in the early ’60s and worked hard towards a decent life.

Nearly 50 years on, and there is a thriving Pakistani community in the town consisting of older and younger generations. Herein lies the problem..

You see, living and trading in your home-town where ‘everybody knows everybody and their grand-parents’ has many advantages. When it comes to business though, it seems the ‘messers’ automatically think they qualify for a massive discount just because they may be from the same village in Pakistan, or that they know my Dad on a personal level.

I try to create an image for my business and myself which shows professionalism, originality and a sprinkle of creative madness, but upholding this image seems a challenge when you’re based in the town you grew up in. Trying to provide a service which offers value for money as well as originality and professionalism is about as difficult as trying to piss down a drinking straw from ten feet away(!) There’s many advantages to trading in your home town, but the biggest dis-advantage is that the social-professional ideology goes straight out the window when I’m approached by a ‘messer’. I like to treat all my clients with the same professionalism and dedication, but it’s kinda difficult when someone wants a fully-functioning dynamic website with all the bells and whistles, for £100(!)

It’s mostly these members of the community who have no appreciation for someone’s trade, and expect everything including the kitchen sink, in exchange for a ‘pat on the back’ – or something of equal value.

Definition Of A ‘Messer’

Scrooge

Messers aka 'Scrooges'

I call them ‘messers’, you might call them something else, or worse(!) I’m talking about the people who request designwork, or any other service I offer, without a single acknowledgement in regards to design skill, creativity, time constraints and the fact that graphic designers are people too, who eat, feed their families, have to clothe themselves and so on.

People who seem to think that design concepts, such as logo and sign designs, mysteriously appear out of thin air. Those that don’t understand the concept of sitting infont of a widescreen monitor doing designwork – actually takes time. In a nutshell:

  • those that want RIDICULOUSLY cheap prices
  • those that want services / products for FREE
  • those who presume every price and quote is ‘negotiable’
  • the worst type – the ‘non-paying messers’

Top Five Excuses

It’s always the same set of excuses they throw at you, and it’s got to a point where I’ve thought up my ‘standard reply’ to these piss-taking excuses.

  1. ‘I know your dad/brother/sister/uncle/grandad/whole family and we’re actually distant relatives, so give me a discount, bro!’

  2. Unfortunately, this one is a favourite amongst the Asian community and it doesn’t matter if you’ve never met this person before. He or she WILL find that family link which they think qualifies them for exceptional treatment.
    STANDARD REPLY
    ‘I’ve already got enough family and friends, thanks.’

  3. ‘Do us this one cheap, and we’ve got a cartload of more work for you!’

  4. Another favourite, usually used by boneheads who think they’re being quite original and ‘business-savvy’ by using this excuse. I’ve heard it too many times and it’s kinda disrespectful because it’s a form of ‘bribery’, don’t you think?
    STANDARD REPLIES
    ‘I may be dead tomorrow’ or ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ or ‘If you like my work, you will be back anyway’

  5. ‘It’s only gonna take you five minutes!’

  6. This one really gets my knickers in a twist because it’s the epitomy of ignorance. Those that spit this one at me have no appreciation for design and have no clue about what is involved. This is also true for wall and canvas art. I had a guy who wanted me to drop everything else and paint a huge logo on his bedroom wall, in an hour. Fucking joker.
    STANDARD REPLY
    ‘If it did, I’d be a millionnaire, fool!’

  7. ‘John Smith quoted me this much, he’s cheaper than you!’

  8. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also someone who loves ‘thrifty dealing’, saving money and getting good deals. To me, it’s human instinct to get the best deal and I’m always open to sensible negotiations and competitor’s pricing. However, some idiots use this excuse to get the price matched through deception. ‘Being competitive is all part and parcel of running a business, please understand that – dickhead!’
    STANDARD REPLIES
    ‘Go to John Smith, then, what are you wasting MY time for?’ or ‘Great!’

  9. ‘I’ll help you paint the wall and I’ll buy the materials!’

  10. Any wall or canvas art project I take on, the pricing and quotes are such that the cost of materials such as paint are included within. One of the reasons for this is that it saves me from collecting receipts or conferring with the client everytime I need some more paint(!) A select few idiots actually offered to help me do my job for a discount on the price. Yes, you’re right, I laughed.
    STANDARD REPLIES
    ‘Calculating the EXACT cost of materials is difficult if I’m using a selection of existing stock and new, you moron’ or ‘Less hassle for you, less hassle for me’ or ‘No, thanks!’

Creative Design Takes Time, Understand That!

Most Designers I know have a passion for what they do. That doesn’t mean, however, that the service is offered for free, let’s say. Like anything else, it’s a also a career. A job. A livelihood. Get it? Whiling away infront of a massive widescreen monitor intricately designing and perfecting any design or concept takes time, skill and patience. Why would you think any different? Oh yeah, it’s that dreaded state of mind known as ‘ignorance’. Pfffft!

Facebook Group

A fellow graphic designer from Burnley decided to start a group to name and shame these idiots, and especially the non-paying variety as a means of warning other graphic designers / artists / professionals. I listed one idiot who stung me, who shockingly enough claimed to be a graphic designer himself.

He enlisted me to create a new logo / mascot for his business – a cartoon character of himself as a ‘Design Doctor’. After six hours of intricate design and getting the likeness correct, and also edited at his request as the design progressed, he blocked me on Facebook when I requested payment. Fucking scruffy dickhead. You can see the group here, please join and leave comments to show your support!

No Deposit, No Design

After accepting that this was a normal ‘way of business’ for such folk, I decided enough was enough and adopted some concrete ‘con-proof’ rules. To protect my business, offer my clients a ‘hassle-free’ service and also to convey the right image, I chose to collect half the payment upfront on agreement, and the remaining half on completion of the project. No matter what area of my services it was. From portraits to printing, the same rule applied.

Some people have had a hard time understanding this, but it’s worked a treat. Genuine customers will always respect such ‘policies’, let’s say, so it’s a great way to weed out the ‘messers’ before they waste too much of your valuable time. It’s been a few months since I adopted this and it’s great!

Onwards and Upwards

So, after implementing a few rules to weed out these knobheads, I accept the fact that I had to experience the wrath of these tossers first-hand before waking up to the fact that there ARE solutions out there. Serious clients have never had a problem and they even kinda respect me for signing off contracts and requesting a deposit before any work is started, so I just wish I had done it earlier.

However, it’s also woken me up to each and every messer in my hometown, who now reside in a text document on my desktop titled ‘Messers’.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you also a graphic designer or related professional? Have you come across some immensely annoying people who make you want to flush their heads down a toilet? Leave a comment below and share your experiences!

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3 Responses to “Save Me From The ‘Messers’! – A Freelance Designer’s Plea For Help”

  1. Helen says:

    oh this is so true, you made me laugh real belly laughs , sometimes you just want to scream lol

  2. Zsa Zsa Sentin says:

    it was very interesting to read.
    I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

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