Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

In Which I Respond to A Craigslist Ad on My Blog February 11, 2009

I’ve been surfing through Craigslist again & I read this little gem this morning: (I’ve bolded my favorite part)

Book designer (XXXXXXX, TN)
Date: 2009-02-11, 9:07AM CST

We are a progressive, up-and-coming book publisher located in the XXXXXXX, Tennessee area. We are showing steady growth this year, and find ourselves in need of a book designer with the following characteristics/qualities:

– Applicant must be familiar/knowledgeable/preferably expert at InDesign software. A knowledge of Quark would be beneficial as well. You will be designing the interiors of books. You will also be given the opportunity to design covers as well.

– A knowledge of Photoshop/Illustrator is a plus, a big plus. You should be able to edit photos and illustrations for use in hardcover/paperback books.

– You should be knowledgeable about of the book industry – how books are produced, distributed, marketed and purchased. You should know what an endpaper is; you should know a mass market paperback from a trade paperback. You must know that (bookstore name redacted) is not a country western duo.

– You will be designing the interior of books – layout, font selection, rules, styles, parts of a book, type, etc. You should be able to provide us with a few samples of your work that is similar in nature.

– You should be able to work at an acceptable rate of speed. Not sloppy fast, but reasonably quickly with an emphasis on quality. We often have deadlines. You must be able to meet them.

– You must not be a flake. You must respond to emails within one day, preferably sooner. You must be available. Projects must be done on time. Always. No exceptions at all. Again, we work on deadlines.

– You must be able to send/store large files easily and securely. You must be able to send files in a PC format. You should be bondable. You must be comfortable handling copyrighted material. You must not lose the material that we give you. You must take this seriously, very seriously. Our authors depend on us.

– You may be asked to correspond with authors directly. You should be able to do so in English, using proper grammar and sentence structure. Some of our authors are rather well-known, and since you will represent us, your writing skills must be up to snuff. You must copy us on all emails. You must know how to correspond with people in a timely and professional manner.

– It would be a plus if you can design book covers, and can provide samples of same.


– In return we can offer little pay [at present], but lots of opportunity for the future. We are growing, and expect to be around for a long, long time.

– You can work out of your home. After all, it’s probably all ready set up as a studio,so you are most comfortable and productive there. No reason to upset the creative boat.

Our emphasis is on quality, beauty, and content. You will be encouraged to learn all you can to keep your skill set fine tuned. Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about.

Hope to hear from some qualified candidates soon,

(name redacted)

* Location: XXXXXXX TN
* Compensation: Contract per job
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a contract job.
* Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
* Please, no phone calls about this job!
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Did you hear a bang earlier? That wasn’t the weather, it was my head exploding.

Look, I get it – we’re in a financial crisis, and everyone is looking to get the maximum amount of work/stuff, etc for a good price. But to write a laundry list of tasks and then have the, for lack of a better word, BALLS to say “we can offer little pay” – well, all I can think is “no wonder they’ve apparently worked with flakes before – ONLY A FLAKE would answer this ad — you’d have to be crazy to sign up for this!” I mean really… why not, when writing this job description, Mr Job Poster, didn’t you say “Cure Cancer” and “Solve Middle East Peace”?

Oh, one of my favorite parts of this ad is how the job poster even went as far as to throw the “celebrity angle” in there in the sentence: Some of our authors are rather well-known. Yawn – Still doesn’t make me want to bite. This makes me realize that only the well-known author and the publisher will make any money even though the designer will be doing the grand majority of the work to make the book marketable to the average customer — after all, we’re the ones that make a book jump off the shelf and grab a consumer’s eye. And in my experience in design, the more cooks you have in the kitchen, so to speak, the more work there is to be done. And the project takes even longer to complete — for the same amount of money, usually.

I’ve looked around at other postings for jobs in other categories other than “art/media/design” and I never seem to find this low-balling fascination when people post jobs in other professions. The reason we chose to be creative is we like to create. Most of us are damn good at it. And, while we might have gotten used to the term “starving artist”, no one is striving to be one. And honestly, I can go work at the mall for more money than this joker is probably offering – AND when I leave the job at the mall they won’t call/email me around the clock – NOR will they expect me to do MORE and MORE work for the same amount of money. That’s almost always the case when a designer low-balls him/herself.

So, to all you job posters out there, with the audacity to write, well, a book of qualifications and job responsibilities like the one above, here’s a newsflash: most reputable designers have a little thing called “self-respect” and we’ve all met your kind before. You are a joke to us. Stories about you become the “worst client ever contest” of storytelling at our cocktail hours. And we’re not flakes either — but people like you, Mr Job Poster, make us so mad that we turn flaky… of course, what you call flaky is what we call “being compensated for the hard work we put forth for piss poor pay.”

After all, the job poster said it himself: Staying ahead of the pack is what it is all about. I suggest all designers stay ahead of the pack by steering clear of “jobs” like this.

The job has been reposted, and now the compensation reads “$100-$300” per book. Seeing as my minimum hourly rate is $75 per hour, I think I’ll pass. I’ve designed brochures for more money.


9 Responses to “In Which I Respond to A Craigslist Ad on My Blog”

  1. Garland Says:

    Un-effing-believable. I guess they got some response about how few people with those qualifications are going to be interested in giving away their billable time? And what do they come back with $100-$300 per book? Unless these are 10-page pamphlets, still no deal. I designed a refrigerator magnet for a medical supply company last week that paid more.

    Un-effing-believable. But not really a surprise for Craig’s List where there are always folks looking for something for nothing.

  2. Exador Says:

    My wife is finding that the only technical recruiter jobs out there are ones that offer “100% commision” (zero pay). Considering that, in the contract recruiting world, a client typically has to work 90 days before the fee is paid, then the corporations actually process the billing, which could take as long as another 90 days, they expect somone to work FOR FREE for as long as six months, assuming that she gets a placement immediately.

    No Thanks.

  3. missbethd Says:

    Exador, that’s a bunch of b.s. too.

    Since when is it acceptable for someone to work in this country for no pay? According to the history I was taught, slavery was abolished in the 1860s.

  4. What a breath of fresh air – I want to scream most of your reply in at least one meeting room every week – but god forbid I be seen as one of those “temperamental artists”. I’ve even finally stopped with the volunteering stuff because invariably I’d be staring at my screen at 1:am while the rest of the “committee” was at some frilly bar sipping on crantinis and picking apart the last comp I gave them. I finally clued in that I never really got a job as a direct result of volunteering that was even worthwhile – at best it was like “We can pay you for this one we have a bit of money – Here’s $100 – Get stuffed!! I’m done. Sure Xerox is donating the paper! – but they don’t have to pull it out of their ass do they!!

    I do think that we have let this happen to ourselves to a point. I think most of us have bid and lost a job to a newbie that’s trying to come out by charging $20 an hour – 90% of these Newbies came out of some hack skim program that takes people on wether they have talent, teaches them just enough to lower the collective perception of designers. These people are just around long enough to make our lives miserable. My main printer recently called to see if I could help one of these clowns with pre-press on a job – what!!!!! If this kid came out of a decent program he’d know what he was doing!!! Every other job where skills are important, have internships i.e. Architects – even Interior Designers – Where did we go wrong and how do we fix it! One: these Hack schools have to be exposed for what they are. Two: Every region needs to have a accreditation process for membership to the freakin club.
    and the members have to attend monthly meetings where they can have it drilled into their f’n heads that you don’t work for free, and you don’t work for what you couldn’t live on once you get out of you parent’s basement!!!! otherwise get a job at Quick Copy!!!

    Thanks! That felt awesome!
    Mark from canada

  5. democommie Says:

    Dear Beth:

    I would suggest robbing liquor stores or banging nails. The work is hazardous but you get to be your own boss–at least if you do the robbing liquor stores thing.

    I once went to visit a friend who works at a small high tech engineering firm. He introduced me to his boss who asked me what I did for work. I told him I was carpenter/handyman. He said that he always had work of that sort that needed to be done. I told him if he had about $25-30/hour that I was his man. I never heard from him, I was happy not to.

    Working for nothing is a good way to make other folks happy.

  6. dave cadieux Says:

    i have been a prepress technician since 87 (did my 5 yr apprenticeship in what was then called “a photographic lithographer”) this lead to working on digital prepress by the time the 90’s hit) been in the trade since then. Each yr, harder to find work thanks to kids fresh out of voch tech schools, who are taught worthless skills, or competing with a “design school” grad who doesn’t know enough to convert rgb jpgs into CMYK for a press job. I used to make 20-25/hr easily back on the 90’s and now I cant even find a part-time job. (my competition, half the time, can’t even read a ruler, but gets the job because they are willing to work for peanuts !) No one wants to pay for skills anymore.

    dave cadieux (

  7. As a young professional working to break into the industry, I can’t express to you how much I appreciate this post. Craigslist seems to be a magnet for posts like these, offering “exposure” and “credit” for work that is equivalent to that of a full-time, paid position. It’s incredibly insulting to the artistic community, but unfortunately there are people that respond to these ads and perpetuate the belief that working for free/cheap is acceptable and common practice. Ugh. Thanks again for posting this!

  8. andrea s Says:

    $100-300 per book? I create brochures and newsletters for $100 per PAGE. (Egads! how dare I follow so closely to industry standards?) Yet they want an entire book AND covers for the price of a page or two? *laughs hyserically* Smart clients know the value of good design and are willing to pay for it. Someone ought to tell this company the basic rule: You get what you pay for.

  9. Lily Says:

    On a separate but related rant… Really tired of employers who think graphic design and web programming are one in the same, and if you can do one that automatically means you can do the other. Me thinks it’s just another way of saving a buck. Why hire 2 people? Everyone loves a BOGO!!! On the flip-side if they really don’t know there’s a difference it just reinforces the ignorance of people who have no idea what we do.

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