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Mind Your Business: 'The Star Trek' Rule of Art Delivery

This month, "Mind Your Business" boldly goes where no column has gone before... Mark Simon reveals the Star Trek rule of art delivery.

Captain Mark Simon. Images courtesy of Mark Simon.

Delivery. The final frontier.

These are the voyages of every artist at the end of every job.

Our mission: To make a living with our art and not have our clients drive us crazy...To seek out new clients; new income producing jobs...To boldly go where our art has never been.

Captain's log. Stardate: Yesterday. Client Q has hired me to design a new quantum animated logo. I've done jobs like this a hundred times, but he wants it delivered at warp speed.

The prime directive is that the client is always right and we should always do what the client wants. But is that the smartest way to run a business? What if jumping through client wormholes and never sleeping is bad for both my career and the client's job?

I remember a briefing at Starfleet Academy when a Vulcan came to speak. He said that what clients always want is a great job. They may ask for the impossible. They may make unrealistic deadline demands, but what they really want is great art. Superior design.

That sounded logical to me.

I was struggling with how to deal with Q, as always, as I was trying to come up with a schedule on this job that satisfied him, didn't drive me crazy and allowed time to do quality work.

There are a few problems with running at warp speed on a project. You don't have time to sit back and make sure the direction you're going is the best one. Unexpected things come up in business and you have to account for the unexpected. Other jobs come up. If you tell a client that you will deliver at a certain time, they don't care if your Delithium crystals exploded and took out half your computer systems. They don't care if the Klingons attacked your network. They only care if they get the work they asked for in the amount of time they were promised and that it looks great.

The Thriving Artist: Make Over $100,000 per Year as an Artist.

As I worked on the schedule for Q's job, I didn't know how much my core crew could take. I called my scheduling engineer Scotty.

"Capt'in. I don't know if the crew can take much more," Scotty said. "They're about to blow! We've just lost two network drives and our workload is expanding like Tribbles."

"Give me everything you've got, Scotty," I said. "How long do you think it will take to get this job done?"

"It's won't be easy Capt'in," Scotty replied. "I'll try to move some things around. It should take me until Friday, at noon. I'm doin' the best that I can."

Mid-day Friday. That's later than the client wanted, but there is always more room in the schedule than the client tells me. I tell Q that we can deliver it by Friday at noon at our normal rate, or he can have it earlier for a premium rate.

"If I have to work my crew overtime, and put other jobs aside," I said to Q. "It costs me more."

As I have heard many other times, his schedule magically got looser when it meant saving money.

The longer schedule allowed us to enjoy the project and put more into it. We would be more proud of it, less stressed and the client would be happier.

Stardate: Thursday morning. I check in with Scotty on our delivery schedule.

"We're just about done, Capt'in," He told me. "We should have it ready before lunch today. But Capt'in, I suggest we sit on it for the rest of today. Don't tell Q we're done yet. Just in case something happens."

"How should we handle this, Scotty?" I asked.

"Hold onto the job until the end of the day. Deliver it to him around 5 PM. That gives us some breathing room and he gets the job a day early. We both win."

Stardate: Thursday, 5 PM. I take Scotty's advice and deliver the quantum logo to Q. I'm proud of the result and he couldn't be happier.

"Your crew never ceases to amaze me, Captain," Q says. "I can't imagine working with anyone else."

Stardate Thursday, 6 PM. I'm back at the ship. I talk to Scotty about how he got the job done so much faster.

"Oh, I always knew we could do it by this morning Capt'in. But you never know when some Romulan is going to distract you and put you behind schedule."

"Besides," he continued. "If I didn't pre-plan for complications that allow me to always deliver on time or even early, it wouldn't look like I'm performing miracles then, would it Capt'in?"

"No it wouldn't, Scotty," I replied, laughing. "No it wouldn't. Beam me up."

Simon. Out.

Mark Simon's The Thriving Artist: Make Over $100,000 per Year as an Artist three-CD audio set offers insider secrets help artists achieve greater success. Learn about three career mistakes most artists make, how to earn 25% more money without doing more work, negotiating and much more. Cover art by Mark Simon and Travis Blaise. Mark may be reached at