Tirekickers & Co. Ltd.

Yes, we still get requests from people that want us to work for free or deliver comps and sketches “just to see”. And we did some work for tire kickers in the past and once got really screwed by a couple of con-men. So actually we do have some advice for young creative companies and students that work in our field.

Tire-kickers? Tire-kickers go check out cars whenever they can. They act as if they want to buy the car and ask for special deductions and conditions and they take 20 test-drives just to “change their mind” in the end. The true reason why they don’t buy is: They don’t have the dough. Wherever there is something to buy there are tire-kickers. As a creative person you must have encountered lots of tire-kickers. Here is how to deal with them:

Tire-kickers usually ask for tons of free work, comps and estimates on and on, but no real project ever evolves out of that work. The problem when dealing with tire-kickers is that the tire-kicker often acts as if he were a decision maker. He promises you many follow up contracts and tons of money. But nothing ever happens, often “because things have changed”. The true reason is: He is not a decision-maker.

Tire-kickers are not to be confused with con-men. Tire-kickers are not evil. They’re just wasting your time. A full on con-man that asks for free work and then runs with it to produce your ideas with a cheaper agency. Yet the line between tire-kickers and con-men is not always clear.

How do we deal with tire-kickers? Only work if you have a contract. If you don’t because you’re too lazy, that’s your fault. If you don’t even though you asked, but you’ve been pushed to go a step further, it is still your fault, and you have an indication that you might be dealing with a serious tire kicker. You know, from “a step further” to the “next step ahead” it’s only a small step. Before you know you’re mid way up the mountain. The more steps you have taken the more you have invested into a tire-kicker and the more difficult it is to draw back.

Of course, you don’t want the decision-maker to feel like a tire-kicker. One thing you should always do as well: Ask who is making the decision on the project. Decision-maker will directly tell you that it’s them. Tire-kickers have trouble about being clear on this point. (Tire-kickers that say they make the decision while they do not are con-men.) What are the signs of tire-kicking?

  1. Did you get a formal, signed RFP (request for proposal), before getting into it, or is all you have an email? Alarm Beige.
  2. Can the guy that asks for work make the decision to buy the work he is asking you to do? If he can’t: Tire-kicker Alarm Yellow.
  3. Have you dealt with the same guy before on a very promising project that didn’t go through, “because the boss doesn’t understand”?: Tire-kicker Alarm Dark Yellow.
  4. Have you met the person that makes the decision? If you haven’t: Tire-kicker Alarm Orange.
  5. Have you had plenty of meetings and delivered loads of estimates and comps and the project is still only “soon going to happen” but you still have no contract? Tire-kicker DefCon1.

Why do tire-kickers kick tires?

  1. Lack of attention: They’re unimportant and finally want to feel important too.
  2. Career desperation: They think that when they produce a lot of new projects their boss will promote them.
  3. They’re bored: Especially when you work in a creative field you have to watch out for those guys who just like to hang out with “cool designers”, a hard to deal with crowd that usually acts snobbish and arrogant to the outside, especially with unfashionable people in cheap suits.
  4. They just love it: Tire-kicking is a sort of sport that some dudes get into.

What to do with an identified tire-kicker? Don’t answer emails. Don’t pick up the phone. Don’t write new estimates. Just forget about them.

Art Student Vampires

We discovered the following post of a post on Motionographer. Note: iA did NOT write the following text and neither did Motionographer. The following text was posted on Craigslist as an answer on one of those “seeking artist” ads and was quickly removed.

Every day, there are more and more Craigslist posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service. But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be. […] Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

Read the full post on Motionographer

Ruthless Con-men

Tire-kickers are not con-men. Con-men let you work and then just don’t pay. Yes, even if you have a contract. Never work without contract but don’t put too much trust in the contract. Because a couple of days before you finish the work, a dodgy client might stop the project and never pay any bills—no matter what the contract says. Then they hire an intern programer to redo your work. Really. This happened to us last year.

According to my more experienced friend J. this is a known practice among mid sized companies here in Japan. The rationale is: Suing them will lead to an expensive one year case—that even though they know that you will win—they hope you will back off, especially if you are a small company, as you won’t get the full refund and you will have to invest money for the trial. Believe me. There are companies that are that ruthless.

It is hard to recuperate from such experiences. As a result you do not only not get the money, your portfolio has holes, the climate is suffering, you get paranoid and your cash flow is done. Due to the resulting cash flow shortage, iA had to fire one very talented freshly hired employee—which is really a terrible loss, given how difficult it is to find good staff. Now, after six months, that we have financially recuperated and rehired for the position we can finally write about it without swearing or chain smoking.

Remedy: Always ask for prepayment. Get written sign-offs at every project stage.

You should google your client before you sign anything. If we googled this particular client we would not have engaged in business with them. Of course we will take them to court this year and then you will hear more details about this horrendous story.

Freebies for Insolvent Clients

Freebies are totally your fault. Yes it’s nice to give the client a little extra for his money, and make them especially happy. But only if your budget allows extra time effort. If you work outside your budget you’re making a mistake. Unless it is a really good long time client, you are not supposed to give out freebies. If you do a good job, there is no need for freebies. Remember: the extra time you invest in a project is not just a present, it is taking away from further acquisitions. So you do not just not get paid for that, you waste time for and money from upcoming projects. Freebies are a mistake as they make the client think that you were overpriced from the start, thus it devaluates your actual work. Freebies are a big mistake with a new client, as he will expect freebies from now on.

There are many other ways to waste time and talents, and if you think we left out some major ones, please tell us.

iA creates digital products. We offer strategic design and consulting services through our UX studios in Zurich, Tokyo and Berlin. To get in touch, just write a short mail to [email protected]. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive brief summaries of our articles and interviews. In case you haven’t, you should now try our apps.