Welcome to Part 2 and a discussion of topics which, if you follow me on Twitter [@notesonpaper], you might have already seen me raising before.
If I’m honest, it’s the subject which has given me the most pause for thought within this whole series, making me question whether or not I, as someone wanting to continue building relationships within the industry, am stupid to point out any of its flaws?
Maybe I am.
Of all times I’ve mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook I’ve only ever had two responses!
Both were in fact supportive but noteably they were both from well-established industry figures.
I guess it's understandable that people whose goal is to get a place on a DT, or those already happily recruited to one might not want to be seen joining in a critical debate about them!
But for this series - how could I truly offer up advice about how to spread your creative wings … if I neglected to warn you about the possibility of flying into plate glass doors?
The thought of getting a place on a DT can be so absorbing and exciting ["Ooh. Yay! Pretties! Popularity! Free stuff! Go me!] I just wanted to offer you a wider picture to help you focus your energies and avoid frustrations from the start!
NB: I MUST be clear here ... or else they may disown me! But ...
- None of the following applies to any of the teams I’m currently on or have been on in the past.
- It's all drawn from time spent browsing DT calls and requirements online and discussions with other crafters over the last few years.
What does a DT want from you? What do you want from them? - Balancing their expectations against your own.
You're going to need to get that notebook out again in a minute ... Got it? OK.
- Maybe I'm lucky;
- Maybe I chose well;
- Maybe I've never actually applied to any team who I though wanted more from me than they were offering in return.
However each of us has to decide our own balance of what is reasonable and what is generous and what we're happy to work for.
Assess your availability before you begin.
Before you begin looking into which DT you'd like to be on, before you get swept up in the thrill of possibilities which a new call can spark, before you decide you want to work for XYZ so badly that you barely read through their list of expectations ... you might want to ask yourself:
- How much time can I realistically set aside each month to create new DT projects?
- How much time can I have to spend photographing, editing and subsequently blogging the finished items?
- How happy am I to use spare time in the promotion of my projects and the team I'm on?
- How much 'payment' would it take to make this worthwhile?
- Can I live happily the balance of rewards / effort?
- How long can I keep it up?
Some example requirements.
The following is list of some typical, not-so-typical and becoming-increasingly-typical requirements DTs are combining in their calls.
- 3 - 4 projects per month / per kit
- 4 - 5 items per month
- Blogging on the manufacturer's / team's blog
- Weekly blogging a new project on personal blog
- Maintain a fresh, regularly updated personal blog
- Participation in blog challenges and blog hops
- Commenting on the work submitted by blog readers to any challenges
- Frequent contribution to the site/blog's in-house message board / forum
- Uploading projects to online galleries eg. Two Peas
- Regularly submitting work for publication in magazines
- Interaction on the site/blog's Facebook page
- Answering queries on product etc on Facebook
- Promoting blog posts / competitions etc via Twitter
- 'Daily interaction on our message board'
The less I respond to this particular criteria here the better for all concerned.
[I'll save that treat for James who has to suffer my rants on some of the, quite frankly ridiculous, expectations some teams have of people who they pay in supplies. And ... breathe ...]
Over time, after reading through increasingly demnding criteria, I've almost come to the conclusion that there'll come a point where a DT requires from you:
- 4-5 creative projects per month;
- plus custody of your first born;
- and first refusal on any of your vital organs should the need ever arise ...
Which is purely down to you to decide for yourself.
I'm not here to say you're decision is wrong. In fact, in later posts in the series I'll be backing your decision 100% and highlighting ways in which you can improve your chances of being selected.
... but ... daily interaction?
Are you sure?
I'm raising all of this in the hope some of you will realise your worth, your value, what YOU are offering to a DT.
Because sometimes creative people need to place themselves and their work on the same level as the Design Team they admire. It's not like they're doing you a favour.
Remember that for all DT work may fun, interesting and challengingit is still work! It's still a contract based on supply and demand.
A few last minute grumbles.
After you've worked-out the level of work/compensation you're happy to work for, you can then throw yourself wholeheartedly into the application process.
 The Application Process
The broader topic of making a good application and even gaining the confidence to apply is actually something I'm going to be covering in Parts 3 + 4 so stick with me until then.
However, as those posts are more upbeat in attitude than today's, I thought I'd squeeze in this minor point of note here instead!
Briefly: many DTs ask simply that you email them images of a few of your best projects or else send links to your blog / gallery etc. Which, to me, is ideal for those of us who don't like to broadcast that we've applied for things in case we don't get selected.
[I did afterall mislead my entire family about the date on which I'd find out my Degree results ... just so I could collect them without feeling any pressure!]
However, I've noticed a recent trend for increasingly public applications:
- In these, you're asked to apply via a post on your own blog.
- You present your chosen projects [sometimes even with a tutorial to boot!] and state your intention to be in the running for a place on the team.
I'm simply putting it out there so you now know everything I know. Forewarned is forearmed ...
And finally ... I'll leave you with one bug-bear which I know for certain I share with many others out there.
. Lack of communication
Some DTs openly state in their recruiting blurb that they will:
- Neither acknowledge your application
- NOR inform you if you've been unsuccessful.
Maybe that's just me being touchy, but really ...
- they decided to issue the call at this particular moment in time; and
- they are the ones seeking assistance in the promotion of their company/blog.
- I too have other things to do [amazingly!] yet I put myself out to carefully follow your application process;
- I would appreciate the common courtesy of a response.
But is a BCC email sent out to all of the unsuccessful applicants in one go - or even several batches if there's that many - really too much to ask?
- Be clear on what's you can offer and what you expect in return;
- Know that there will always be someone who doesn't mind any of the points raised in this post who will happily take your place and accept having to do more work for less.
- Decide if you can live with that - and if you can, don't take the role, find something more suitable to you.
- But if you can't - and you want to be on that DT no matter what ...
- Plan to capitalise on your time there as much as is humanly possible! And watch out for the rest of this series where I'll be backing you, come what may!!
- How much of your content are you happy for another blogger to use?
- I know of cases where whole tutorials have been used without prior persmission - with only a link to the original post.
- Similarly I know of people who've had their projects just pop up on someone else's blog with not even a friendly heads-up about it.
- Also you may get asked to contribute existing posts or guest-blog on other sites.
- When any of this occurs consider what your blogging time is worth and what you'd like in return.
- Personally, if I know another blogger is, like me doing it as a hobby [i.e not a salaried blogger] I don't mind the exchange of my content for the chance to promote myself and share my work with their audience.
- If you want to make it clear to others how you expect your content to be treated - consider having an 'etiquett'e type page on your site spelling out what is and is not acceptable to you.
- For examples see this from Crafterminds and this from Kelly Rae Roberts.
- for a charity;
- to gain experience or
- on the assurance it was as a one-off / trial-run and that the next time I would be compensated. Which I was.
Finally, here's the best advice I received when I was debating an uncertain offer around unpaid work:
"Do you think they pay for their office furniture in 'product'? Do you think they get a plumber to work for them by putting a link to his blog in their sidebar?"
If we don't respect the value of our creative work how can we expect the non-creative world to?
Right ... I'm carefully stepping down from my soapbox now ...
Join me later this week for Part 3 of 'Tips for the Design Team-curious' where we'll be looking at preparing yourself for success and basically making yourself irresistable ....
Please note: During the series I do NOT refer in a negative way to any teams or companies by name. I ask that, if you share experiences or opinions in a comment, you stick to this too. Thank you in advance … you can collect yourself an ‘I Play Nice’ sticker for your cardigan on your way out. ;-)