The entry below is classified as a LEGACY post, meaning that it was written (well) before the current version of Avalonstar was released. Although these posts have survived the numerous moves over years, there is no guarantee that they've survived the trip unscathed (especially the links).

Pixel Prostitution

My good friend Croftie posted this this morning (links to individual tweets are in the footnotes):

Ever had a client take your design, "rework it" and send it back to you so you can do the rest of the site their way? How did you handle it?1 I don't want to be someone's pixel prostitute. If they want to push my pixels around, they can do it themselves, after I'm done.2 My job is to give them the best possible solution I can come up with. They don't have to use it if they don't want to.3 It's work for hire. They hire us, we do our best, we give it to them. PERIOD. If they want to redesign it AFTER that, fine.4

To answer the question simply. Yes. I have experienced that. We could leave the entry at that, but that wouldn't be me. ;)

Oh look, there's blood. :O

To be honest, I was naive little bastard who didn't know how to say stop. I took beatings from clients more often than the nearest high school's stereotypical wimp. Granted, Don't get me wrong, I've had some awesome clients, but as they always say, it's the little things that get to you. So I can empathize with Jeff. I have his back even because I know what this feels like. What I have learned through all of this, is that this business requires a backbone. I've learned that the hard way, obviously, but I had people tell me that this wasn't the way to do things.

I've had clients that have taken my designs, opened up their copy of Photoshop, "tweaked" said designs and send them back to me. Was I offended? Yeah, I was. Did I do anything about it? No. It didn't feel right to yell at a client for opening up Photoshop. It didn't feel right to yell at the person paying me. I had no backbone, I didn't take any recourse, and I was beating myself over the head with a mythological hammer created by both.

Oh, and then there's Flock. Matt and I still mourn that loss.

I know I've said this before somewhere--maybe here--but just because you are paid to do your job, it does not mean you are a slave to, or in Jeff's case, a pixel prostitute for the client.

But wait, who are you to give any advice on the matter?

But what's this? Advice coming from a guy who can't even make ends meet some months? Yes, laugh, get it out. But this guy is looking out for yours and his own sanity. I would rather take one client a year and have awesome relationship with them where I can have free reign over the creative, then suffer financially; instead of taking clients and subsequently risk getting abused just to make ends meet. (If you see "the man" as a client, that's pretty much the reason Facebook and Automattic failed for me--restriction.)

That's not the way I roll and I'm happier for it. I get the phone calls and the letters. This is my life. Jen and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So here's the moral of the story.

What Jeff wrote today really struck a chord with me, and I didn't feel my answer could be a simple "yes," nor would it fit in 140 characters. But here's the moral of the story, and I'll prefix with "if you're comfortable with it."

A client comes to you, looking for your expertise. They pay you for that expertise. Whether or not you stand up to them is your prerogative, but you are the expert. Remember that.

In a perfect world, we'd all spew our collective creative genius on the web and consequently the web would be a much more beautiful place. It isn't, but it shouldn't mean that we can't fight for it.

If you're comfortable doing so, when you see the red flags go off, do something about it. Pull the client aside and give them the what for and if that doesn't work, fire them. Do not put your own sanity and self-confidence at risk if you don't have to. Give your expertise to the clients who respect you, the clients who deserve your knowledge and experience.

Or... you could just spend your days making your own stuff. :)

Avalonstar is the 22-year-old personal website of Bryan Veloso: content creator, retired professional user interface designer, and compass of purpose.
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