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Bending Over Backward for Customers

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by pchronotron, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. pchronotron

    pchronotron New Member

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    Been lurking off and on for awhile, but now I have a generic gripe to air and can hopefully get some feedback from others in the sign business to help put this in perspective.

    I work as the only designer at my company. In addition to that I also am the only experienced print tech for our wide format. My duties are split between running the printer and shuffling media rolls around and doing layout work. I do everything from setting type for DOT numbers to complete car wrap designs.

    Recently I got a talking to by one of the owners because when I'm asked to be "creative" and "use my imagination" to "really dress up a design" the results aren't what he's wanting. I'm conflicted on this because on the one hand I want to make good dynamic designs and I know I'm capable of it but on the other hand I'm already responsible for so much and simply don't have time to dedicate half a day to a design without getting behind on my other duties. Also compensation is pretty lacking and I feel running the printer is just about all my hourly wage is worth.

    This is compounded by the fact I think the current level of design making technology has left my employers behind and they do not understand the complexity of factors involved. Just today we had a representative from the local art museum send us a PDF of a flier she made in publisher and wanted us to modify it into a larger poster. The only changes would have been to make it a different proportion and also delete a portion of the layout. The problem is we don't have publisher and trying to open the pdf in illustrator I find out we don't have a single font in the design on our system. They don't understand why I say I can't make changes to a design without a lot of extra tedious work massaging back into shape paragraphs of text that relied on fake italic or narrow filters that don't exist in illustrator.

    Or situations like yesterday where my employer worked a personal deal with a friend for design work on 6 holiday greeting signs each with a unique illustration. I'm given the task about an hour before close and a deadline of close the next day. I talk to my colleagues from school who work as freelance designers and they said for 6 designs each with unique illustrations would cost would be around 250 dollars and a week to do the work. I cut corners, I traced photos and it still took about 5 hours and left me with a huge stack of neglected orders.

    All in all I think our shop is about a step above a kinko's in capabilities but they're trying to run me like a dedicated ad agency on top of being a print tech and type setter. Am I being unreasonable?
     
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  2. ddarlak

    ddarlak Trump Hater

    print out this post and hand it to your employer.....
     
  3. speedmedia

    speedmedia Very Active Member

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    Welcome to the sign industry....

    I have to tell you from my past experience design often times is overlooked and underated in this industry. If you plan to make good money just designing good luck. Go to an agency. Unless you get hooked up with a reputable larger company a designer in this field just doesn't make what you would in an agency setting or comparable.

    For me this is why I started my own business among several other reasons. I didn't want to go to an agency and I love this industry so I figured out a way to be the owner and the designer albeit making a little bit of money on the way.

    Thanks,
    Kurt
     
  4. pchronotron

    pchronotron New Member

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    It is more when I hear things like: "Figure out how to make it work or I'll find someone who can." that make me wonder if I wouldn't be better off serving coffee at starbuck's for only half a dollar less an hour.
     
  5. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    How long have you been working there?
    How many design jobs have you had?
    Any schooling? Degree?
    What do you want to do for a living?
     
  6. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    Oh and the biggest question.. are you any good?
     
  7. pchronotron

    pchronotron New Member

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    Well thanks for the quick responses. It certainly does put things in perspective and good to know my gripes aren't completely baseless.
     
  8. TheSnowman

    TheSnowman Major Contributor

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    Well, far as the PDF problem, just forward that one on to The Vector Doctor, and save your boss some money, and you some time, and tend to the "pull it out of your butt" designs. If the customer has something already done that they want, send it to him, and it'll save you so much time.
     
  9. Marlene

    Marlene Major Contributor

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    small shop? I do the design work. I also quote jobs, paint backgrounds, run the panel saw, make signs of all kinds, drill and install stud mounted letters, meet with customers, order materials and write PO's, help with channel letter and internally illuminated installs, do inventory, set up and fix all the computers and software through out the shop and office, make Christmas decorations, wash the floor, clean the toliet and just about anything else you can think of. welcome to the wonderful world of signs:tongue:
     
  10. pchronotron

    pchronotron New Member

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    This is my second year with this company and about 4 years altogether working in the sign business. I had been working on a degree in commercial art that I didn't finish because I ran out of money. As to the question am I any good? I know I am head and shoulders above my predecessors at this company. Other shops in town would hire me if they could afford to match what I already make.

    I had a link here to a pic but wasn't sure about the rules for linking to other sites.
     
  11. weaselboogie

    weaselboogie Very Active Member

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    You can post a hyperlink, but if you want to post a picture, save it onto your computer, then go down to 'manage attachements' to add a picture to a post.
     
  12. Brandon708

    Brandon708 Very Active Member

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    You are discribing my job everyday, not to mention customer service, installation, and running shop when the boss isn't here.

    I guess it comes down to how much you get paid that will make you happy to do it all.
     
  13. pchronotron

    pchronotron New Member

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    Well this is an example of about what I can produce given an hour including the orginal illustration. Also the cards I mentioned, the result of about 5 hours and fair bit of starting over and input from my employer. I really don't like the fact that it took me so long to make what amounts to clip art.
     

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  14. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    what are you paid? How close to capicity are you working?

    Either the workload can be met, or it can't. There shouldn't be that much difficulty in communicating to an employer that 5 hours of design work takes 5 hours away from production & if that means falling behind... it can be solved with 5 hours of overtime... or it begins a downward slide into a permanent game of playing catch up... which is stressful & counter productive.

    When I was an employee in this industry, if I had the responsibility of making commitments to clients, and my employer thought I was still his gopher to drop everything when he has a task, I explained that I had my own integrity & his company's integrity on the line when it comes to falling behind, & I required the authority to manage my priorities if I was given the responsibility of making promises.

    Your employer needs to not double book your time, unless he wants to pay you overtime & you want to provide overtime. I understand that putting pressure on is a reasonable method of encouraging efficiency & productivity.. but it still goes back to what I said at the top: Either the workload can be met, or it can't...

    ...which goes back to my other comments: "what are you paid? & How close to capicity are you working?" Asn employer, the answer I'm looking for to the second question, is 100% capacity. When you mention that running the printer is what your level of compensation is worth, that makes it sound like you are not working at capicity.

    I'll tell you something I don't tell many people... and I have rarely said it on this site, even though I post here several times every day... this year sucks, and my business is losing money.. in fact, more money than my pay... so I am going in debt this year. Not my employee... he is making good money. He is lucky to have a job, because if he lost this one, there is a dramatic shortage of jobs out there. I would imagine this is true in your area as well... so if you're not working at capacity, I wouldn't blame the guy for "threatening" to find someone else. If you are, then deal with the scheduling problems & between the two of you, don't book 10 hours of work for every 8 hour day.
     
  15. pchronotron

    pchronotron New Member

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    Well you raise good points which is part of the reason I came to this site to put this situation into perspective. I make about 10/hr which I understand for this town and this economy is about all I can expect though it does irk me that friends from highschool who have invested less time mindlessly serving coffee make 9.50 plus tips plus health coverage. Really I wanted to make sure that my concerns were reasonable before I cornered my boss and hashed things out.

    Edit: As far as the threat to replace me if he ever tried to I'd wish him luck. He's already gone through 2 people in my position who can't match my productivity. I'm fairly confident that if I can't do it, there's no one else in town who reasonably could.
     
  16. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    10/hr sucks.
    ...but you already said you wouldn't expect more from the competition, so... that says a lot. In 2 years you will be even better at this industry, & the economy & your employers financial situation should all be better... and you will be worth more. At that point, your friends can go across the street & make different coffee, for $9.50 from a different guy... while you can negotiate significantly better wages, or go open your own business, moving further down the path of a career that is rewarding & creative... There is no other reason i would suffer through losing money this year if I didn't love this business & have confidence in profitability becoming a part of it for me again soon... if I had to make coffee to pay my mortgage, I'd be a drunk, comforted by the knowledge of my shortened life expectancy.
     
  17. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    I've seen enough and heard enough to say, if no one else [other shops in the area] can match what you are making.... you ought to stay put and just do what you can.

    Something that gripes any employer's chops is when an employee can't get finished without complaining and making excuses for what the owner KNOWS can be done. Ever hear of multi-tasking ?? You start a machine doing one thing, while another one is ripping and you delegate some other employee to take some heat off of you while you then are free to concentrate on what you think you are best at and no one else can do.

    Again, judging by what you posted up here, I wouldn't be too demanding of your present employer.
     
  18. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    Odd statement, you are getting paid peanuts but the competition can't afford you.... You said your making peanuts and you might be better off working at Starbucks for 50 cents less... I am guessing you are making between 8.50- 10 an hour. 4 years in the business, with shop, design and basic shop skill with high proficiency might be worth 12-15.00 and could go up to 17-25 if you can do electrical, large pylon and code type signs.

    I'm more interested in your capabilities than how the boss runs the place. Bosses almost always have an idea of what they think of an employee is, and that rarely changes. That usually means you are expendable... and you should be, a boss does not want to be over a barrel by having an employee that they have to keep to succeed. Sign shop monkees are a dime a dozen, especially in this economy. I am a former sign shop monkey... worked at many shops. You need to find someone who has no emotional investment in you to take a look at your work and give you an honest critique. You also need to map out a career plan. Where you want to be... what kind of work you want to do, how much you want to make. Research it and try following that career path. It is doubtful your employer gives it any thought, you have too. There are portions of the sign desgin business that pay really well.

    On the other end you are learning how to multitask. You will (or already are) working the bugs out for your next job. Another thing is if you are suffering creative burn out, freelance or get a really good portfolio together and start looking just to see what is out there.

    In 4 years I went through 6 employers. I could tell within months if they meant what they said and if it did not follow my career path, it was usually not in my long term best interest to stay if they did not deliver what they said they could. I would have stayed at any one of them if they did what they said. But you also have to have your own goals. Employers can be expendable too, thats why most here are self employed or doing signs on the side.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
  19. Brandon708

    Brandon708 Very Active Member

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    good post Rick.
     
  20. Just Another Sign Guy

    Just Another Sign Guy Very Active Member

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    just as an employer is free to end your employment at any time you are free to move on down the road. you accepted the compensation you were offered, if you are not happy with the situation move on down the road.

    if you are as good as you think you are you may find someone that will hire you and pay you more..if not..well you may not be as good as you think you are. i do not mean that in a cruel way but in my career i have heard a whole lot of ppl talk a really big game and very few to back it up.

    remember you are the employee and he is the employer..he is in charge like it or not he sets the schedule, he can make 'buddy deals', etc etc. go to work do the best work you are capable of doing and produce what you can in the hours you are at the shop..if you don't like the situation move on down the road.

    just a sidenote in this recent economy we are facing i know a sign company that put out an add for a position such as yours (designer, operator of 2 printers and a cutter at the same time, quoting duties, phone duties, and some assembly) pay offered was $9.85 per hour no benefits, college degree required minimum 5yrs experience. they received over 2500 applications in less than 2 weeks. the job market out there is not good even if you have the skills to pay the bills.
     
  21. mark in tx

    mark in tx Very Active Member

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    So, you are the artist and the production person?

    That's two tough hats to wear when you don't set the priorities, so you need to document what you are doing.
    Get a notebook and start recording what you do.
    1 line for each task and time spent. After a week or two, show it to your boss, and let your boss know that you need to be able to set priorities, or at least have input on realistic scheduling.
    Also let your boss know that it can be hard to be creative when your mind is on the print run, and the ink levels, and the customer proof due, and etc...
    Tell them you enjoy the challenges, (even if you don't) but you need a little more understanding from them on what it takes to make the customers happy, and you think you can be even more productive if you just get a chance to breathe.

    If nothing else, you are getting experience that will be valuable down the line, when its time to move on to bigger and better things, whatever those things may be.
    You are building skills and knowledge that can get you down the road to DFW.
     

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