Ten things not to do to your freelancer

This article is the result of several years of work in advertising, gaming and vfx, but it is applicable to any type of media. 10 tips to make your life easier.


This article is the result of lots of talking with professionals of different guilds and several years of work in the advertising business, the filmmaking business, specifically vfx production and the videogame business, but it is applicable to any type of media. During my career I found a lot of these problems during the making of advertising, vfx, or videos in general that in the very end were overcome, but made the process longer, more stressful, and undermined the overall quality of work.
Therefor and in an attempt to help clients to work better with their suppliers, here’s a list of 10 things that you shouldn’t do with your provider if you want a sweep, gorgeus, and sharp result.

Number 1: Don't distrust them

Don’t distrust them

If you chose a freelancer, it’s probably because you think it’s capable to do what you need. The designer knows how to do it, and knows what to do to get it don’t. If you don’t think he’s capable of solving your problem, then why working with him/them on a first place? If you’re testing a new freelancer it’s better to do a small job, pay him to see how he/they work, and then decide to go for the big one than going half way with a big project.

Number 2: Don't tell them how to work

Don’t tell them how to work

Everyone has their own style to do things, some are better than others, but undoubtedly if someone or some company have a good portfolio, then they know how to work. Ergo, don’t try to impose a workflow on a freelancer other that an objective and a deadline (unless of course, the designer becomes a part of a bigger workflow). You don’t pay someone to teach them so if you’re not happy with the way they work, then go to point one. Moreover, if you are clever enough and you have a good freelancer, they will be more than happy to teach you how to prepare the material necessary to make a good product, so you’ll learn a lot from them. These requirements are important, they are not a product of whim but a result of years of mistakes and experience, so take them seriously. The quality of the assets you prepare determine the result you’ll get, independently of the talent of the freelancer.
If you’re on the same area of expertise, then let ego and pride aside and take an advice from them, you might find something new and useful.

Number 3: Don't undersell your needs

Don’t undersell your needs

If you need 100 videos, don’t ask for 90 pictures. This might be a negotiation trick that work on other areas, but in multimedia estimating times to make a job is almost an art, because they are so many complex variables involved that if you have the wrong numbers, the result will surely be wrong too. You wouldn’t tell a doctor that something aches less than it does if you really want to get better, so don’t say that you need less than you need if you really want to get it.

Number 4: don't be vague

Don’t be vague

The more specific you are with what you want, the easiest it will be for your provider to make it. Nobody knows what’s in your mind, and unfortunately providers are not mythical creatures with the ability of mind-reading. Specify your target, your consumer, the style of what you want, the content, the length, anything you might think it’s useful or even better, what the provider tells you that might be useful. If you don’t know how to explain it (you don’t have to, that’s why you’re paying) ask for an art director to help you, or show references, but do it yourself. If you let someone else to look for what you want, don’t expect to get what you want.

Number 5: Don't be narrow

Don’t be narrow

You might think you had the most innovative, groundbreaking idea in the world, but there’s a good chance that your provider already saw it somewhere else, better performed, and better thought. That doesn’t mean that your idea is bad, it only means that listening to your provider can help you perform a better job, since he spent the time watching a lot of cool stuff that you might not even heard of it before. Be open minded and discuss your idea with your provider, but moreover be open minded about the workflow to get it done. They’ve tried a lot of stuff before you, and they probably know already what works and what doesn’t.

Number 3: Don't expect miracles.

Don’t expect miracles

If you ask for Avatar, done in a week by two guys and three computers, and paying 3 thousand dollars, then obviously don’t expect to get Avatar. Otherwise those guys would be having lunch with James Cameron instead of working with you. Go nuts with your desires, but with be realistic with your expectations.
An hour is an hour, no matter how good you ask for things. If a provider tells you that it takes for an hour to do something, you can beg on your knees or scream like Odin, but still it will take an hour and no less. Miracles only happen if you pay for them, meaning that you put A LOT more money than what you’re already paying, for a radical solution that’s not being proven and even then it’s not a guarantee that it can actually happen.

Number 7: Don't underestimate pre-production

Don’t underestimate pre-production

Paper is really unexpensive if you compare it with hours of work/filming/editing/modelling/rendering/younameit. There’s a lot of paper and pens to use, you can use the back of it, it sides, you can use a napkin or a used magazine. You can use recycled paper, you can be green and still get what you want. Get an art director, or an illustrator, or a provider that can do both, and let them draw what you need. Take the proper time to do it, so show your idea way before that you were thinking of doing it. The earlier you make it, the more chances you’ll have to get where you want. PAY for proper art direction, it doesn’t have to be the same provider that actually makes the job, but it has to know how to prepare the assets for him/them. At the end of the day, it will save you a lot of time, money and stress.

Number 8: Don't wait for things to be almost completed to ask for changes.

Don’t wait for things to be almost completed to ask for changes

If you can’t imagine a yellow winged elephant flying over Manhattan, don’t force your provider to make the yellow elephant flying over Manhattan to know if you really like that or not, cause if you don’t it will be too late to change it. If your provider shows you a teapot flying over a bunch of boxes, and then shows you a yellow winged elephant, and Manhattan’s buildings, it is more likely that he’ll do a perfect job replacing the teapot and the boxes, and it saves him/them a lot of time doing it that way. Remember point 1.

Number 9: Don't speak, write it down

Don’t speak, write it down

Words fly with the wind. Some clients have the cultural habit of closing deals by talking about it. This is great but it leads to misunderstandings. Talk all you want on a negotiation, but once you close the terms of a deal, put EVERYTHING on paper, even if not all the aspects end up on the contract. This leads to a better, healthier and more professional relationship, and it will save both sides a lot of time and money.

Number 10: don't be cheap

Don’t be cheap

If a provider asks you for a sum of money, it’s not because they want to become rich, but because it costs that money to make it. If it is still a lot of money for your budget, then plan ahead, and go for a smaller provider with less overhead, and give him/them more time. Give a chance to the little ones, usually they can perform just as good as the big ones, either cause they worked for/with them, or they ARE working for/with them. If you’re on a budget, cut the middle man (agencies, etc), do some extra research and look for the right people to do the job. There’s a lot of websites like Behance, reelroulette and so on that shows the work of providers, so you know what they’re capable of.
Most of the people on this business are here because we have a passion for what we do, and of course, we also have bills to pay. But mostly we love what they do, we devote days, nights and health to it, and we’ll do the extra mile if we feel properly paid but mostly if you make our life (and work, which is pretty much the same for us) easier by going with the simple rules of this list. The easier you make things to your provider, the easier they will make it to you. As anything in life, you only get what you give.

Watch the 10 posters on behance: http://bit.ly/KJXAPL


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