If you’re a creative professional, you already know this game.
Turd Polishing and Baby Killing are two concepts that were laughable in college but have since become my reality as a freelance web developer. I’ve been freelancing for about a year and a half, since I graduated college (Canadian college – before you get unnecessarily proud of me) so my career is still young but trust me – when you’ve been thrown in without warning, you learn fast or die.
Turd Polishing: The art of trying to make other peoples shitty ideas (or content) look good.
This is something my film instructor in college used to say when we were trying to cut together a decent video using mediocre shots.
“You can’t make great video out of lousy shots. If you’re shots aren’t equally as great, you’re just polishing turds.”
The term just stuck with me (insert gross poop joke here).
I worked for an agency in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a short while and through my experience there, I can say that you will definitely do this more if you are freelancing. This is because when you are freelancing clients tend to see you as more of a scribe if you’re not working alongside a team of creatives and under a flock of well dressed c-suites. When the truth is, some of us just work better solo.
It’s because of this thinking clients like to assume the role of creative and bring you their fucking crafts. Brace yourself, as the following are true stories:
“Here’s a bag of product where I slapped my new label overtop of part of my old label, you can take product pictures of this right?” (Nope.)
“I made this flyer in Microsoft Publisher. I want the website design to be similar so I can still use these.” ( F nope. )
And my personal favorite (I’ve heard this more than once) :
“I whipped this up in Paint…” (pls exit)
I haven’t yet found a polite way to tell clients that by bringing me Paint JPEGs, you are only embarrassing yourself. If you’re going to bring in something you “whipped up” in Paint you might as well just draw it on your driveway in sidewalk chalk. At least that would make for an interesting meeting.
Baby Killing : Coming up with awesome, revolutionary design and function only to have the client reject it.
This concept was introduced to me by a rather well known developer I met in Toronto in 2012. At that point my dev career was but a fetus and I had no idea that this man was speaking the damn truth.
You’re going to come up with a lot of effing awesome ideas (because you’re a genius, obviously) that are gonna get shot down. Unless you’re the ultimate salesperson or a wizard, this is unavoidable. After the first like 5, you’ll learn not to get too emotionally attached. Unplug the digital umbilical cord. Store these ideas, use them elsewhere. It’s not your fault you’re smarter than everyone else.
I’m not saying web development & being a creative professional is all bad. Obviously I enjoy what I do and find it very rewarding, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. If you’re any good at whatever it is you do, you’ll have a lot more successes than polishing sessions and more happy clients than slayings. But this crap is just more fun to read about.