General Question

mirza's avatar

Should I do mediocre work for money ?

Asked by mirza (5042points) July 7th, 2008

I work as a freelance web designer. I strive for my designs to be unique and original. And I actually love being creative. Most of my clients are turned off by any type of design that does not look like every other website out there. They want me to simply copy the crappy looking sites out there, make some changes and give it to them. Doing so is pretty easy for me and I could make a decent amount of money with this method. But the problem is – I have ideals. Lately, I have been getting more and more rebellious when it comes to design and simply refuse to do such mediocre work.

The simplest way to sum up situation would be:
Should I be Peter Keating or Howard Roark ?

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27 Answers

babygalll's avatar

You have to please your clients or you will be out of work! Keep your ideas coming and eventually someone out there is going to like it. Just be patient.

tinyfaery's avatar

Don’t turn down work if you need the money. If you don’t need it, then you have the privilege of saying no. Enjoy it.

nikipedia's avatar

No offense, but I always thought Howard was kind of an asshole. And I don’t think you have a simple Roark/Keating dichotomy.

What ideal are you accomplishing by delivering a product that you prefer versus what your client prefers?

playthebanjo's avatar

it is a great skill to make your clients believe that hip design is their idea. The worn out sites are the safe play. Keep the safe ones out of your portfolio and eventually people will seek you out if they like your style.

marinelife's avatar

You can design the most artistic, high value web sites in the world, but no one may ever see them.

When we do what we do for money, we make compromises. As a consultant, I need to produce what the client wants. I handle it by giving my client my advice if it is different than what they want. I may gently point out that I do what I do professionally and am not just talking through my hat, but in the end it is their decision.

I have three levels of hate-it projects:

Gave them my suggestion to do it differently. They demurred. I produce something close to what they want that still has value.

Gave them my suggestion to do it differently. They insisted on something extremely banal. I sigh, hold my nose, produce it, and do not put it in my portfolio.

Gave them my suggestion to do it differently. They refused, made multiple changes without expecting to pay for it or they were wildly obnoxious, or they asked me to write something so boring I could not stand it. In that case, I price the job astronomically to the point that in the unlikely instance they accept the price, I actually won’t feel bad doing it.

Breefield's avatar

You could try and get hired by a creative design firm such as Big Spaceship or Buck or something like that, maybe Carsonified
But what I’m saying is, strive to get hired by one of those firms where creativity is important, somewhere where you’re ideas will make you money.

arnbev959's avatar

Mirza, don’t compromise. It’s better to starve with vision then to be a wealthy nobody.

mark's avatar

“You exist only in what you do.” – Federico Fellini

I find by spending some time up front helping clients understand what “good design” is, and helping them separate what looks cool to them – from design’s function, I’m given the latitude to do better work. Some clients won’t let go of their drop shadows and flash intros, but more than you’d think are willing to listen, and just need to hear why you make the choices you make. I’d say always strive to do good work. ;)

PupnTaco's avatar

I do “just a check” jobs all the time but find ways to sneak quality in between the red and yellow starbursts – even if it’s just the simple joy of correct punctuation.

KimberlyLD's avatar

As a designer of a different type (theatrical) and an educator as well, I would say this: Keep your creative ideals and keep presenting your best ideas to clients. One day you will find the perfect match for your creativity. However, keep in mind that you, as a designer, are providing a service, and being paid for it. Being a service provider, the client has a right to expect their ideals to be met. So, in order to make a living, you’ll need to walk the tightrope of creativity and fabulous customer service.

wildflower's avatar

If you consider understanding and fulfilling your client’s brief and delivering satisfactory work on time and in budget to be mediocre work, then perhaps you do need to do mediocre work to pay the bills – at least some of the time.

I know you’re focusing on the actual concept and quality of the work, not it’s applicability, but at the end of the day, that’s very subjective and whilst it might not be your idea of creative genius, it could be exactly what your client wants and when you’re doing a job, that’s what matters.

Think of it as saving your best for when you do work for yourself :)

Beckquador24's avatar

With a background in the custom automotive world I’ve learned that sometimes you have to do things for your customers that you wouldn’t want for yourself.
I always give my opinion/vision in hopes of it rubbing off on them
I see nothing wrong with doing a job that pays the bills even if it doesn’t test your ability as long as you treat it as a project that does

lifeflame's avatar

Can we see some of your cooler websites, Mirza?

By the way, as a theatre director, I’m confronted with this question too.
My solution is to do something else that financially sustains me and my theatre work (which I happen to love in small doses, thank god – teaching writing to kids)

This way, I don’t have to make unacceptable compromises in my creative work. I can even fund my own productions. This way, I don’t have to deal with not enough time, pleasing the sponsoring body, crap rehearsal spaces, etc. And I make it a point to pay my actors something, because that’s what I’d want as a performer too.

Of course, this means that I have to do things small. But that’s ok, I’m not looking for fame anyway. I just need enough recognition to get the resources to do what I want. it’ fine for now, but if I ever want to have kids, etc…and need more capital… hmm, well,.. we’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Sorry – no easy answers here. You’ll need to find your own balance. But that’s my solution: do what I love, small + honestly; and find other ways to financially sustain that. I think one reason that I love teaching writing is that aside from the kids’ creativity, I also know that this is funding the work I love to do; and that i always keep it in proportion, so I always have something creative going on. I couldn’t, for example, teach full time in a secondary school or something. So it could be a matter of proportion!

shudderbrother's avatar

As an architect I think my job is to give the client – not what she think she wants – but what she didn´t realize that she wanted: My vision/solution of the task.

After all the reason she came to me (or us) in the first place is because she needs our skills and visions to create something that she cannot do herself. So my answer would be: no, you should not be content with doing mediocre work. But you can´t allow yourself to just sit back and feel sorry for yourself like some misunderstood genius either. You have to communicate with your client.

If the client is tricky it always helps to make her feel that she came up with the idea herself. Yes, that´s just flattery in a way. Flattery stinks, sure, and it might hurt your pride, but it´s very effective to make your idea come true and make your client love you all the same.

Breefield's avatar

@lifeflame, no need to question his ability.
Not saying that was your intent, but “Can we see some of your cooler websites, Mirza?” just comes across as a bit snippy. Anyhow, I dun mean to make conflict. But is that what you were implying or you just wanted to see his work?

PupnTaco's avatar

I didn’t read that as a dig at all.

Breefield's avatar

Cool, never mind then! I must be crazy.

kevbo's avatar

This might give you some perspective. I realize he’s talking about a different dynamic, but maybe it applies.

vbarton24's avatar

unfortunately with every job there is mediocre work look at it like this easy money yah know and just look for more creative clients

chaosrob's avatar

Shakespeare wrote for a paying audience. There’s no particular dichotomy between good art and salable art. Really, I thought nikipedia nailed it: do you feel the need to design to your own preferences, rather than making something excellent out of ideas you didn’t originate?

Grabbins's avatar

Be brave. Convince your clients that your style will be what everyone else will want to be and probably copy. I know it’s really hard to do but if you can get the client to see that your web design is ahead of the rest then youve cracked it.

It reminds me of the iPhone in a way. Apple set the standard, then everyone else imitates and tries to keep up. So while they are developing something that has already been done, Apple can develop their software/ hardware and stay ahead… where they belong. Iv’e recently realised that confidence is very important in design.

lifeflame's avatar

@Breefield – Actually, I was just curious.
I love to see someone’s creative work, and I was curious about Mirza’s.
Actually, if anything I’ve been really impressed by Mirza’s responses to other people’s web questions on fluther. I’ve certainly learnt a lot of things from him, e.g. look at the level of detail + thought on this thread . So definitely—there’s no need for me to question Mirza’s credentials!

(By the way, I’m wondering why everyone just assumes I’m a “he”. Do I talk like one of the boys, or do people assume by default when there is an unidentified jellyfish icon with an non-gender specific name that it’s male? Enlighten me.)

margeryred's avatar

I design web sites and I always do what the customers want… ALWAYS. I do hate it when I think it looks fabulous and creative and they want something different. I also sometimes can’t get my clients to understand when the color or arrangement they want really isn’t appealing or rather I should say it is jarring to the eye…


jballou's avatar

If you want to be an artist, go be an artist. As a designer you work for them. If your client is not happy, then you have not done your job. I think what you’re going through a lot of young designers go through. I know I went through it. I thought I was so important to the design world and it was my responsibility to only contribute beauty. But when money is involved there will always be compromise.

You have to start somewhere before you can grow to acquire the type of client base that you want. You have to pay your dues before you can be a rockstar. If you don’t want to “sell out” in order to achieve what you want to achieve, then you have to be tremendously talented and extremely lucky. Until then, learn to accept small victories. If a client wants a site like everyone else’s, give them that, but slip as many innovative and cool things in there as you can. And use it as an opportunity to learn new things.

If you have the luxury of turning down work, then that’s awesome. But if you don’t- turning down work that is “worthy” of you isn’t going to help you down the road.

marinelife's avatar

@lifeflame I always thought from the way you wrote that you were a woman, but I try not to assume on Fluther.

benseven's avatar

Money is money, so if you aren’t in dire need of it, don’t do mediocre work.

I on the other hand have a couple of things on the go that are boring, and not portfolio worthy, but still pay the bills…

counteragent's avatar

I’m a web design/developer and I’ve faced similar situations. I think you should do the crappy work to make a buck, but don’t put it in your portfolio if you don’t like it.

Then, when you’ve got enough time and money, pursue your own projects where you’re the boss and get to design what you want. Hope that helps.

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