Dear Designer: Are You A Scope Creep Sucker?

Dear Designer: Are You A Scope Creep Sucker?

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a design project that seems to go on AND on, with no real milestones met and deadlines constantly extended?

Have you ever found yourself in a revising loop, tweaking and altering the tiniest details over and over again before you get the seal of approval from a client?

If you answered either of those questions with an affirmative nod of your head, you’ve dealt with some level of scope creep.

What Is Scope Creep?

According to Wikipedia:

“Scope creep (also called requirement creep, function creep and feature creep) in project management refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered harmful.

If budget, resources, and schedule are increased along with the scope, the change is usually considered an acceptable addition to the project, and the term “scope creep” is not used.”

Scope Creep Is Subversive

When scope creep begins its advance, it is often subtle, something you can easily choose to ignore.

Your client asks if you can add a little extra functionality to their website, or asks you to throw in a quick letterhead design to go along with their new logo. It won’t take much time and it will add a little extra something significant to your portfolio or case study right?

It’s right and it’s wrong. And here’s why.  While any design project is a collaboration with your client, when it comes to meeting your design brief and project deadline you’re the foreman, the manager, the boss on board. And if you allow yourself to be manipulated into tacking on additional work, you run the risk of losing your position of authority and becoming a do-boy or girl.

Eventually, unchecked, scope creep can derail design projects and erodes your standing as the expert in charge.

You don’t want your client pulling your strings like you’re a marionette, do you?

But, It’s Just A Little Change!

Sure, the little extra something the client wants might not seem like a big deal. It won’t take long. It’s well within your skill-set and area of expertise. But, was it factored into the scope of the project, the design brief, the contract your delivered and your client signed?

But when you say yes to that one little change, without mentioning that it actually changes and broadens the scope of the project, you let the client know you’re not going to stand firm on the design brief upon with you both agreed.

So it becomes all the easier for your client to request further tweaks, revisions and redesigns. Any of which can delay the project and decrease your bottom line.

Why Are You Charging Me For These Changes?

If you allow scope creep to enter into your agreement, it’s going to be all the harder to request additional fees when you finally realize you can’t continue to work for free.

If you’ve made five revisions, even though the contract stipulated you’d only make three, your client isn’t going to understand why you’re trying to charge for the sixth.

Stand Your Ground & Keep Clients Happy?

It can be done. A signed contract or a delivered design brief don’t mean you can’t compromise. Scope creep isn’t a foregone conclusion.

The key is to keep detailed records of each revision, each change request and each compromise. Be detailed and thorough. Let them know when you’ve padded the agreement in their favor. You don’t have to be supercilious or smarmy about it, just make sure it’s documented and understood.

I don’t think the majority of design clients are out to get you, let me make that clear.

That being said, it’s no one’s fault but your own if you don’t set standards for how and when the work will get done, how and when you’ll make revisions, and the proper procedure for any additions.

Otherwise you just might find yourself strung up like a sucker. Remember, either you control the project or the project will control you.

Glamorous Entrepreneur Gig: Say What?!?!?!

Glamorous Entrepreneur Gig: Say What?!?!?!

I dare say I’m always pretty real with my readers. I’m not one to mince words when I feel something needs addressing and I’ll tackle the topics others in the digital marketing industry sometimes find too sensitive and possibly incendiary.

But today I’m taking the real to another level entirely. I’m going to bust the seams of the silliness that is the “glamorous” entrepreneurial lifestyle.

I love to quote The Princess Bride (amongst many other movies, TV shows and songs) and much like the R.O.U.S. (rodents of unusual size), I don’t think the coveted glamorous gig many a new marketer envisions is attainable.

The Days Often Start Early … And End Late

I took the dog for her morning walk and started the coffee pot at 4:12 AM today. I’m not usually up and at it quite that early, but I woke up around 3 AM and couldn’t shut off my brain. So, to keep from disturbing the deeply sleeping husband, I got up. I’m never up later than 6 AM on a week day. Most days I hit the streets with the puppy at 5 AM and I’m at the desk by 5:20.

Even with those early starts, there are days when I’m still at the computer at 9 PM. No, not always. But c’mon, there’s nothing glamorous about 12 hour days, let alone 16-17 hour days.

Fashion Or Feeds?

Red lipstick, killer heels, the cutest outfit? Not on this nimble entrepreneur’s radar. What am I wearing? Frayed flannel PJ pants, yoga pants, gym shorts, hoodies, baggy tees and exercise tanks. That’s the dress code at Go Creative Go. Sure, I slip on a circle skirt, tank and a cardigan when I have a face-to-face meeting. But comfort takes precedence over fashion.

And, since we’re being really REAL, many a day I roll out of bed and spend the day working in whatever I slept in the night before.

Feeds before fashion is definitely how the entrepreneur rolls!

Hygiene Or Grooming On Hiatus?

Remember, we’re being real!

One of my BBFFs, Brooke Ballard, an equally nimble entrepreneur, and I were recently talking about how it’s sometimes hard to get in a shower. I’m pretty sure she won’t mind me sharing that!

Stop! I know. Yes, I live and work in Atlanta. In the hot and humid southeast U.S. Where the A/C constantly runs or you sweat. So, stop it. Yes. I bathe regularly. Sometimes twice a day on tennis days.

But, I don’t necessarily always have perfectly smooth legs. And my hair, while always washed, is rarely styled or even combed with anything other than my fingers. And some days I choose another cup of coffee over immediate teeth brushing. Because coffee and minty fresh are not a match made in heaven!

As for lipstick, earrings, painted toenails and/or matching my shoes and handbag. Puh-leeze. My black flip-flops do usually match my yoga pants. So, I’ve got something going for me!

Passion, Smassion!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. One of the main reasons to embrace the entrepreneurial way of life is tied to doing something you love, rather than working for a paycheck. But let’s talk about another kind of check. The reality check!

Some days, not every day, but SOME days ... you're going to hate everything about your business.Click To Tweet

Some days are just shitty. Some days you’ll leak angry tears and want to rip the heads off even your most accommodating clients, while you dream up ever more devious tortures for your not-so accommodating clients.

Don’t get me wrong. Some days the entrepreneur gig is gregarious and gorgeous and golden. And those are the days most often shared by those writing about it.

But it ain’t all sunshine, roses, rainbows and snickerdoodles. Some days hail a shit storm of hassles, helplessness and even some hollering at your computer screen or biz partner.

I actually get irritated when I see the plethora of “passion” posts strewn across my feeds. Sure, passion and love for your business can be really beneficial. But some days you get by on grit, sweat, tears, swear words and irascible imaginings. That needs to be shared, too!

Styled Space? Seriously?

Styled Workspace?There’s a growing trend, of late, to showcase the workspace with a “styled” photo. Most of these styled shots leave me shaking my head in amused befuddlement. Do remember, I recently revealed that I rarely comb my hair. So styling my workspace is not something on which I place a lot of value or emphasis.

When did an artfully arranged clump of herbs tied with a bow become a sign of professionalism and productivity? With my luck the cat or dog would eat it and then promptly throw it back up.

Glitter? An open lipstick? Flowers sans vase? Beautiful bowls of color coordinated binder clips and pushpins? They’d all end up all over the floor and I’d end up hopping on one foot, swearing while I pulled a pushpin out of the other foot!

Alysa Passage recently joked that we need a PSA to halt the hostile takeover of succulents and gold scissors. She went on to reveal this gem:

“Yes, the photos are polished but they’re not an AUTHENTIC brand identity.”

What’s an authentic desk space look like? I can’t speak for everyone, but my workspace is styled with coffee rings, paw prints and a squirt bottle to discipline the feline leaving the paw prints.

Yeah, I wipe the space down every night. But my work space is where I work. It’s not a styled and staged photo opp.

Work … It’s Part Of The Wonderful!

That’s the point I’ve been trying to drive home throughout this read. While I can say that the entrepreneur gig can be wonderful, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it makes you want to wail:

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

There’s one constant I can count on when it comes to my own entrepreneur gig, the work! It’s too often left out of the glorious and gold-plated descriptions of the entrepreneur’s gig!

The work is always there. And it’s not all that glamorous. As much as I love working with mood boards, typefaces and color palettes, many an hour is full of unproductive calls with undecided prospects, chasing and collecting past due dollars from clients who sometimes forget how to pay, and dealing with the hesitancy and indecision that comes when you wear all the hats (or capes if you’re more into the superhero thing).

You’ve gotta embrace the good with the GACK and know that glamour isn’t going to be your go-to description. If you can do that, then you’ll be wowed by the wonderful more often than you’re overwhelmed by the “ CRAP, you’re kidding me” moments.

Your Turn!

Share some of the “glamour” that makes up your daily grind!

Sing Your Story With Your Own Unique Voice

Sing Your Story With Your Own Unique Voice

I love music as much, if not more than I love digital marketing. It’s probably safe to say that I’m an absolute music nerd. This comes as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads what I write. I’ve shared articles referencing R.E.M., Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and many more. I often look back to my 80’s music influences when I’m generating my music and marketing article ideas.

What some of my readers might not know? I’m an indie rock kind of chick! That’s right. A hipster. But hopefully not a hipster dufus (yes, I love to add pop culture and Seinfeld references to my writing, too).

So, I’m more than excited to publish a music and marketing article that shares several songs that fit with my more indie listening leanings!

Frightened Rabbit: The Modern Leper (EXPLICIT)

It’s pretty safe to say that my favorite singers wouldn’t fare well if they took their singing talents to a “reality” TV show intent on creating slick and seriously engineered pop stars. I can perfectly picture Simon sneering as I imagine it.

I choose my favorite songs and those who sing them based on two things:

  1. The story told
  2. The emotion shared

That’s really not much different from how I choose those marketers and digital storytellers whose posts I look for in my feeds.

A song about a leper isn’t destined to rise to the top of the pop charts, but it absolutely catches my attention with a strong and standout story. And, even better, it makes me think. I look for the same in content and social media marketing.

Jeff Mangum: My Dream Girl Don’t Exist

My ex-husband couldn’t stand Jeff Mangum’s voice. Words like whiny, grating and even caterwauling were thrown about with abandon.

But the voice that fronts Neutral Milk Hotel digs deep and does something for me. I’d trade passionate for whiny, gripping for grating and maybe yearning for caterwauling.

I often stress that if we all liked and sought out the same things, the world would be a very boring place. The same goes for the digital marketing and social media sphere. We seek what sings to us. If your story sings to me, I’ll share it. You can’t expect everyone to hum along or dance in place.

Modest Mouse: Doin’ The Cockroach

The story in this song sings to me, and I think no other voice but Isaac Brock’s would do it justice. But, it’s an acquired taste. Like learning to drink coffee or wine, it’s a passion that develops over time, through repeat sips (or listens).

Social media marketing is about acquired taste, too. You have to choose the platforms that best allow you to sing your story in your own unique voice. For me those channels are Twitter and Google+. I didn’t immediately fall in love with either platform. It was through repeat listens and learning to love each as I spent more and more time engaged in conversation and discussion.

Handsome Furs: Hearts of Iron

I’ve chosen to share this song for two reasons. First, Dan Boeckner’s voice is an acquired taste. But the second reason is the one I’d really like to stick.

To make it in our field, digital and social media marketing, you’ve got to have a heart of iron. Heck, you’ve also got to have a soul of steel and you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches … some directed below the belt.

I got called out this morning, on Twitter. I was called lazy for using the term “moron” in an article and title. I laughed, shot off a response that didn’t engage in name calling and went about my day. You have to be able to do so.

I carefully chose to call out unnamed individuals as morons, and I don’t intend to change that practice. To do so would mean I’m trying to hide my voice. I have no intention of ever doing so.

Superchunk: Hyper Enough

My unique voice, the one I use to share each story I think worthy of sharing, could probably be described as hyper. Some might say edgy. I’m pretty sure I’ve even been called manic.

I’m sure Mac McCaughan and the rest of the Superchunk gang were often told that they played too fast, were woefully out of tune (on occasion … OK, maybe a lot), were perhaps not exactly what a venue manager was looking for in a music act.

I’m not a perfect fit for every job. There are many prospects who aren’t a perfect fit for our company. But I’m hyper enough (meaning I’m dedicated to hustling and moving forward) to keep looking for that right prospect, that fortuitous fit.

Are You Singing Your Story?

Your voice might not suit everyone. But it doesn’t have to. You’ll find harmony and resonance with a group that suits your goals, your message and your intent and purpose. Don’t fall prey to the auto-tune mentality and lose what makes your voice unique!

Book Review: Creativity For Sale

Book Review: Creativity For Sale

I’m a big reader. I often choose a book over the television or a movie. Sometimes I even read around TV shows and movies at home (I do not take my books/Kindle to the movie theater)!

I generally spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour reading to unwind at night, hoping my brain will settle and I’ll manage to fall into a good deep sleep. Choosing to read Creativity For Sale: How I Made $1,000,000 Wearing T-Shirts And How You Can Turn Your Passion Into Profit, Too by Jason SurfrApp as a “calming” book was an epic fail on my part. Fantastic book, but if you’re reading it with the right mindset and intention, you’re not going to shut off your brain.

Creativity For Sale by Jason SurfrAppI had to get up, literally, four times to jot down ideas when I started reading this book. Jason, who took on SurfrApp as his last name the SECOND time he sold his last name to the highest bidder, is a big idea kind of guy. While I never contemplated selling my last name, I also think of myself as an idea person, so this book really grabbed me.

The funny, sometimes sarcastic, and self-deprecating writing style also really worked well for me. While Jason takes the launching of his ideas and the running of his business(es) very seriously, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s forthcoming when it comes to sharing both his successes and his set-backs.

While the types of businesses and launches that Jason calls his successes might not mesh with yours (I don’t know that I’d have been a good match for wearing company T-Shirts every day and sharing pics and videos in said shirts), the idea that creative, sometimes even wacky, ideas sell and can become successful and lasting businesses.

While some of Jason’s ideas might seem zany, they are all rooted in the idea that a proper launch involves careful and considered marketing that includes your email list, your social media contacts AND your creativity. The book shares how he built his lists (the right and wrong ways) and I love how very open and honest Jason is about what works, what didn’t work and what failed abysmally. I appreciate that he honestly shares that he once employed spammy tactics and was shot down. None of us are perfect, and we’ve all come close to crossing a line. It’s positive to know that you can recover from mistakes if you are smart about getting back on the right foot.

As an entrepreneur who sometimes has trouble shutting down and decompressing, I also appreciate that Jason shared his struggles to get and stay healthy while running a business (or many businesses). It can be very hard to balance life and innovation/ideas. It’s important then entrepreneurs remember that taking care of themselves allows them to take care of business.

I like a business book that can share smart content and ideas without taking itself too seriously. This book definitely falls into that category, much like the books by Scott Stratten – especially The Book of Business Awesome / The Book of Business UnAwesome and QR Codes Kill Kittens. While this books is about a lot more than just social media marketing, it absolutely embraces the idea that you can/should be entertaining while you educate!

Will all of the ideas I jotted down while reading this book come to fruition? Probably not. But a business book that sparks ideas and gets the reader excited about their business in a new way is a business book I want to read. And I did!

If you haven’t already read Creativity For Sale: How I Made $1,000,000 Wearing T-Shirts And How You Can Turn Your Passion Into Profit, Too, I strongly suggest you add it to your must read list. If you have read it, I’d love to know what you thought. Do you agree with my take? Please share in the comments!

Pardon Me While I Promote Myself!

Pardon Me While I Promote Myself!

Self Promotion Is So NOT Social!

We’re all in business to make money and our social media and other online marketing efforts have to take that into account. But, there’s a big difference between carefully crafted brand building and relationship marketing tactics and pushy and pompous self promotion.

Are you constantly applauding your own successes?

There’s much more to marketing than “myself”. In fact, truly effective marketing efforts involves your audience – not Y-O-U.

You see it so often, especially in social media profiles and on about pages – the need to showcase how the brand or individual is so incredibly awesome.

This Guy Is The World’s Most Famous & Highly Respected Broadcaster and Communicator On TV, Radio & Online Who Believes In Truth and Justice For All

…yet, he only has a little over 1,400 followers (on Twitter) despite his prowess, power and panache across three different media promotional systems across the continent. Shocking!

Of course, numbers are not the end all be all of social prowess, popularity, what have you. But, admit it – if someone’s truly the most respected person in his/her industry, with worldwide renown and acclaim – we expect their Twitter following to be a bit higher then 1,400, right?

Those of us in the know in social spheres, though, know that the real influencers are too busy to spend that much time touting how influential they are. Because real influence requires the creation and sharing of ideas. So real influencers spend their time writing, creating, engaging in discussion and teaching, rather than touting their many achievements.

Seriously? Simmer Down Sassy Pants! Self promotion isn’t the way into the hearts and minds of your audience. It’s also not the way to impress industry leaders. Self promotion shows you’re in it for yourSELF. Social isn’t about self, it’s about community and audience. You alone doesn’t make up an appreciative audience. Self promotion is simply you giving yourself a solo standing ovation. It doesn’t impress anyone but you.