Five Questions for New Clients

A signmaker’s queries intended to ensure signmaking remains valued as a craft during a project.

At the beginning of the pandemic, now more than six months ago, there was stress fatigue, a phenomenon caused by the brain’s attempt to process a vast amount of new information (and survive) in a short amount of time.

Since then, we’ve heard about quarantine fatigue, Zoom fatigue, cooking-at-home fatigue, romantic partner fatigue and even actual fatigue as a lingering aftereffect of COVID-19. There’s even a TikTok trend of videos filmed with these sing-songy lyrics in the background: “The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.” But here’s one more thing that is driving tiredness in 2020: workplace burnout.

I chatted with Dan Sawatzky of Imagination Corp. (Chilliwack, BC, Canada) a few months ago as we were organizing the Sign Invitational. (Check this month’s ST Update for a project by Amanda and Rusty Gibbs, the 2020 winners.) As he was planning a multi-day, cross-country trip to a client who needed work done, COVID or not, Dan started talking about how he selects clients and spaces out his work. (Before you scoff, know that he boasts a 6- to 12-month waiting list.)

Whenever he’s asked to do a project, Dan asks five questions. First, is the job going to be fun? In Dan’s case, that means, “Is it going to take us where we’ve never been?” Second, is there enough time? Take your original estimate and add time to it. Assume the job will take longer than you think. For Dan, that means refusing work that would require him to put in overtime, or to push aside work for another customer. Third, Dan asks, “Is this good for me?” He envisions where he wants to be two to five years out, and looks at whether that job fits in with his goals.

The fourth question stood out to me the most: Does the customer trust me? Dan’s unique style is out in the world for all to see. If a client doesn’t trust him to produce something equally spectacular, he knows the job could quickly become a nightmare of reworks and revisions.

Finally, there’s the question that many of you expected to come first: Is there enough money? “Money will not get me out of bed in the morning, but I believe in being paid well for what I do,” Dan said.

The difficulties of 2020 make it easy to take a scarcity mentality to work – and to life. Dan’s refreshing take offers a perspective that starts with valuing signmaking as a craft, a valuable skill to be shared selectively. Perhaps that, more than any Six Sigma training or agile manufacturing course, is the seed of success.

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