I lied to get my first gig.

The little white lie that started my career.

Once upon a time, in a land far away aka Albany, NY, I received a call from a local ad agency for a freelance gig. Wait, let me back up a bit.

SFX: harp music VFX: blurred vision to sepia-toned visuals

After graduating with a BFA from New Mexico State University, my family and I moved back to New York (my mother country). When I arrived, I put some feelers out to let agencies know that I had arrived in the area and was available for work.

SFX: record scratch VFX: blur back into focus and back to reality

So, I received a call from an agency and was asked to go to their office to receive the parameters on a potential freelance project. I was psyched! In only a couple of days of being back in the area, I had landed my first post-college gig. Sure I had several freelance jobs during undergrad. I designed a couple of brochures, knocked out several logos and worked up a couple of book illustrations. I had even won several design competitions. I was hot shit! I was amazing. Yeah. Right.

I showed up at the agency and was escorted into a conference room where I met with the agency principle. Yes, the owner. Let’s call him Mr. Reuckert. I was nervous, but I played it off. We had a nice chat. He asked about my experience. I was only too happy to provide him with my creds. Then it was time to talk about the assignment.

Mr. Reuckert asked if I could help the agency knock out a newsletter design. It was a simple job. An eight-page, two-color document. All images and text would be provided. They had a previous document that I could use for reference. The budget was small and timing was tight. It only paid $750 and I had to have it back to them within a week. Could I do it?

“Absolutely!” I said.

Everything was going well until he said, “The newsletter needs to be done in QuarkXpress. You know how to use Quark, right?” Then it happened. I busted out a stone cold lie that sent a shiver down my spine.

“Sure, no problem.”

WTF did I just do?! Holy shit! Holy shit! The rest of the meeting was a blur. I was so caught up in trying to figure out how in the holy Hell, I would design something in a program I had no experience with. WTF! WTF! WTF! I don’t remember what happened for the rest of the meeting. I don’t even remember leaving the office.

I got back to my car and sat in the parking lot for several minutes. I tried to figure out how I would do the job. Do I go back in and tell him I lied? Do I leave, turn into a ghost and never come back? Or do I try and figure out how to use QuarkXpress?. Think. Think. Think. Then it hit me. I passed a Borders (a bookstore for those who don’t remember or know what Borders is). I drove there as quickly as I could and went to the technology section. After some searching I found it. I QuarkXpress How-To book. Seemed like it was manageable. The book was about 800 pages and three-inches thick. It would surely have any answer I needed. Right?

I won’t get into the details about where I found a Mac that actually had QuarkXpress or how the design process and revisions went. Let just say a How-To book won’t help you with answers if you don’t know what questions to ask. Long story short, the job was completed. The files were delivered and I was paid 45 days later.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson about agreeing to do jobs that I am not be qualified to work on… or did I? I have heard stories about agency/studio people who say they will say agree to anything in a meeting and figure out how to do whatever a client has requested after the meeting. Maybe it’s me, but I think that’s a bad way to do business.

Why?

You’re starting off a client relationship with a lie. You are telling them you can do something that you can’t do. You might get lucky and be able to deliver what they need; however, you might also be unlucky and not deliver what they need. That could ruin a reputation. Now, are you wondering if I have ever lied to get another job?

Uh, maybe I’ll answer that in another article.

BTW, Mr. Reuckert never called me back for another job.

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