The Happy Studio – Quit Working So Hard.
We work very hard at our job. We try daily to improve, and to be the absolute best studio we can imagine with our hands and our brains. But we go home after 8 hours of it…
After doing the alternative more often than we care to say, – we stick pretty religiously to 8 hours or less a day now. The strange thing is that we’re just as productive now, if not more. We have made some very careful decisions to do less along the way. Even in a limited non-workaholic schedule, we’ve paired things back even further to make sure we have time to blog, relax, think, and chat. We’re trying to build two things here. The first is an amazing studio that does beautiful smart work for clients who become friends. The second is to build a sustainable business that provides for us like we provide for it. If either one is burning too fast, it’s not sustainable.
Do Less Versions
Not just logos; do less versions all-together. We charge per logo concept. We present only one website mockup concept. We do 1 tri-fold. We’re actually able to charge our clients less, make more money, and take on more projects by not padding our projects for designer uncertainty. Clients are hiring us for our recommendation, as well as our art. Why should we show three logos when we know which one is our favorite? We’re not advocating a lack of exploration, – just a lack of needlessly beating out versions just to fulfill an arbitrary number.
We know of studios who will do logo versions until the client is happy. We can’t dream up a number large enough to commit to a contract like that. It’s pointless. If your client doesn’t trust your judgment, – why did they hire you?
- We charge per logo. That way we can have small start-up businesses as clients, right along side clients with thousands of employees. If the company with a board of directors wants to commission us to do 5 logos, -great. they’re billed accordingly, and revisions (if needed) are done at our hourly rate. It’s simple for everyone.
- We show only one website mockup. We do a lot of Q&A with clients up front. Ask them about mood, timbre, colors, atmosphere, etc. We ask for references of pieces they like. We research their competitors. In the last 2 years, we haven’t had to start over from scratch on a website design once. Revisions yes, – but whole new concepts? No. It’s been less of a headache for us, and a quicker turnaround for our clients. The best part is that our average cost of websites has went down, but we’ve been able to do more of them… Everyone wins.
- We don’t have many employees. Less employees means that we have less overhead, less management, and less paperwork. It’s better for us, and better for our clients. It does mean that we’re not a great fit for certain types of projects/clients, and we have to respect that. It’s to our peril to talk a client into letting us handle a large international campaign, or a project whose scope is out of our grasp. We’re quite direct with our clients about our size, and they understand where we fit. Lots of our clients actually have larger agencies who handle the significant portion of their work. They call us when their agency would be too slow, or too rigid to do the work they need. They call us when they need to think outside of their (hate the term) box. If we can do less grunt work, and more hero work, why wouldn’t we? It’s perfect for us and our clients.
By doing things once, and taking a direct route to the finish line, – we’re able to be less expensive for our clients, do more work that we’re passionate about, and do less annoying draining work.
An interesting thing has happened since we started working less. The work we do has become more passionate, more focused, and more enjoyable. We’re actually more productive with the 8 hours we spend now than with the 12 hours we used to spend. It sounds crazy, but it’s wholeheartedly true. We simply say “no” more often, stay focused more often, and basically get to done in a straight line more often.
Some small examples of fat we’ve cut:
- Resisting the designers temptation to overwork.
- Avoiding unnecessary software/hardware upgrades.
- Politely asking for emails rather than phone calls.
- Focusing our proposals towards tasks we actually want to do.
- Not responding to RFP’s that didn’t excite us.
- Relying more on digital for mockups, and proofs.
- Asking to bill clients yearly for things like hosting and other services.
- Putting expenses onto credit cards. (Simpler for accounting, and gives frequent flyer miles too!)
- Getting a fast network. We have quite literally the fastest network we can afford. It speeds up everything we do.
- Electronic payroll tax deposits, and payroll processing.
- We’ve cut out almost all internal paperwork. We’ve replaced project briefs with thoughtful conversations, and client information gets entered directly into our billing software.
- Having an automated backup process.