Bonnie Siegler | Essays

Dear Bonnie: Lost on Long Island + Stuck in Schenectady

Editor's Note: Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and invite our readers to submit their questions directly to:[email protected]

Dear Bonnie,

I’m currently working with a client to create his business' website. During our initial meeting, he signed a contract and paid me 100% of the fee for the quoted work: and that was the last thing he gave me. He’s given me no information about his business — I even had to recreate his company logo from scratch because he was unable to get me a digital copy of it. I took some liberties on the site, but obviously it’s been difficult without any input from him. In the end, I was able to complete the site to my satisfaction. The deadline has come and gone, and now I want it to go live, but my client hasn’t responded to any of my phone calls or emails. As I’ve been paid 100% for the job, I really don’t know what my next move should be.

Lost on Long Island

Dear Lost,

I can appreciate how frustrating it must be to not be able to see your work “live,” but to be honest, my first thought was that maybe your client died. Usually people don’t pay for work in full and then disappear. The fact that you completed the job despite not having heard from him testifies to your (borderline compulsive) work ethic, even if you would have preferred to have had his support.

With the exception of your client’s possible demise (a big exception, I know), I don’t think this is a particularly terrible situation. Look at it this way: you’ve been paid. You had creative freedom. You had no arguments about fees or, for that matter, about revisions. You can put the work on your website and show it to anyone as part of your portfolio. You didn’t mention whether you're able to do this contractually, but if your client doesn’t like it, maybe you’ll hear from him and get some answers. Like where he went, for instance.

Maybe he just lost interest in the project, or perhaps he lost his funding. Or maybe he’s on the run from the law. Have you Googled him?

I agree it’s an odd situation, but you've done everything you can. At this point you may never get the answers you're hoping for, and your best bet is to move on to clients who return your phone calls.

Dear Bonnie,

Sometimes I get stuck and inspiration simply doesn’t come. Do you have any tips for overcoming this?

Stuck in Schenectady

Dear Stucky,

This happens to absolutely everyone and it may take years for you to find and develop the best methods for getting your brain moving again. It’s different for everyone of course, but here are a couple of suggestions you can try.

They really all add up to taking a break — but there are many ways to go about this.

1. Change your scenery. Take a walk. Get away from your computer. Get a cup of coffee (iced coffee with coffee ice cubes is my personal favorite right now). Physical change often yields psychological change. When you return, things will look different.

2. Pull out an old design annual. Something with lots and lots of different solutions for different kinds of problems. Just flipping through the pages might push something lurking in the back of your brain to the front.

3. Look at your favorite artist's work. To me, this is a kind of meditation. You can get lost — completely entranced, really — with the beauty of someone’s work. You may not get specific ideas from it, but it will make you happy.

4. Force yourself to put five ideas on paper. Quickly. Don’t think: just do it. In many cases, our internal editing devices are our worst enemies.

5. Talk to someone in person about what you’re thinking. Sometimes having to articulate what's actually going on forces a solution to present itself.

6. Most importantly, RELAX. In general, NOT thinking about the problem for a bit is the best way to get un-stuck and begin thinking clearly again.

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Posted in: Business, Dear Bonnie

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