Announcing the “What to say when…” series!

Being a creatively self-employed person can pose a myriad of tricky situations. Since you’re in charge of your business, it’s up to you handle them right. Over the next two weeks, I thought it would be helpful to share what to say in certain scenarios.

Since these examples are specific, they’ll need to be adapted to your own conversational style, personality, particular client and situation.

Are there ever situations that leave you tongue tied? Email and let me know.

If money matters are leaving you searching for words—the Creative Professional’s Guide to Money provides great language and guidance for a number of money-related situations.

How to say, "Your (blank) needs help!"


Have you ever seen a really bad web site (or brochure, or wine label, etc.) and wish you could tell the company how bad it is and how much better it would be if they hired you to fix it?

But you can't just call them and say, "Your materials need help" — right?

Well, maybe you can, although you'd have to be more diplomatic about it. And you'd have to be fearless and know you have nothing to lose, if you do it right.

That's the lesson Jeff Tara of BrandVue Design in Rochester NY learned when he did just that. And he got a new client with ongoing work as a result.

Dear CL Vineyards,
I've been a fan of your brand for years, and actually grew up with your wine on our family dinner table. I would like nothing more than to see great brands such as yours to succeed in Rochester, so I've chosen to share my opinion of your recent label redesign of "Name of Wine."

Recently I was given a bottle of "Name of Wine" and didn't recognize it to be your bottle or label design. With all due respect, I believed it to be a price fighter brand, meant to compete from a shopping cart with fluorescent sale signs hung around it. Without your company logo on the front, along with the change from a screen printed bottle to a paper label, too much change happened at once for me to make the connection that this was your product.

I believe there is a difference between a complaint and a criticism, and the difference reflects the desire to help. CL has a great line of wine products, and you deserve to do well. Your "Name of Wine" happens to be my favorite, so I was passionate enough about it to write to you today. I also happen to be a designer, and would be happy to talk with you more about this if you have time.

On a Friday night, Jeff sent this message to the "info@" address since he didn't know who to send it to. Before the weekend was over, he'd heard back from the winery and got an appointment to meet shortly thereafter.

Obviously, this isn't going to happen every time, but there's no reason not to do it, especially when you have strong feelings about a brand or a product.

Have you tried to do anything like that? If so, share your story!

And don’t forget to check out the Creative Professional’s Guide to Money for language to help you handle money-related situations.