As the year 2019 began to round off, people were frugal with their money so that January 2020 would not come with untold hardship and suffering.  In fact, there was  this saying that went viral about saving up in December because January is always “three months in one”. Only those who have money, however, can relate to such advice. 


Last year was a rough year in terms of making money and having money for me. I was moving from one freelance project to another that could  barely feed me and as a result I couldn’t even relate to the advice that was flying around.  I looked forward to a very promising 2020 because I was already applying for jobs and getting very good prospects. I made up my mind to quit freelancing for an in-house role and I was almost sure that by 2020 I was going to hit the jackpot. In the midst of all these contemplations, speculations and action, I was still very broke. 


 In the last two weeks of 2019,  one of my friends, Kenneth, discussed the prospects of giving me an animation project that was worth quite some cash. While I looked forward to the project and was excited because of the money, I knew I had to decline because I could not pull the project through within the allotted time frame. Guess what my client did…my client increased the money! By then, all I could think of was a glorious 2020, and that song “I didn’t know You will answer me this way” to God. Well, from the post title, we all know it ended in tears and I’m sure you can’t wait to read the full gist. What if I stop the story here and just go straight to the lessons I learned?


January came and the project was awarded. That was the highest paying project I ever had up until the time. I was really excited about the project because it was enough to sustain me for close to two months if not more. It was an animation project that involved animated characters, voice overs and a couple of other things. I was sure I would be able to pull the project off, because I already did things close to that; Not really close, but close. What I wasn’t sure of was if I could complete it in 2 weeks, but that was exactly what my client paid extra for. 


My friend Kenneth was the middleman between me and the client and he took the role well. He was aware of the client’s need for the project and also my plight and intricacies of the project for me as a designer. He had to balance between both divides. 


Another important detail. I had used my laptop to deliver the other “close projects” that I referred to earlier on, and I expected it to be able to do this too. My laptop at that time had  8GB of RAM, no GPU, one terabyte of storage that was almost full and a 2nd Generation core i7.


The laptop was the beginning of my trial and temptation. The laptop could not “can”. It trembled under the strong hand of Adobe After Effects. I really did pity it, the same way a father would pity his son that serves him, but we have to make money, remember, so that 2020 could be plum. 


When the project began and it was obvious my laptop wasn’t going to survive,  I began to think of alternatives. All high-end laptops that I could  borrow were in use. I made attempts to rent a laptop,  but that was also to no avail. It was then I began  to get agitated. By this time, I was already feeding fat on the part payment of the project. There was a ray of hope when Kenneth said  he would be able to give me his laptop for the project. Into the project, we needed voice over for the characters and we went for it and got it, not without its own trouble. 


When we got the voice over, it was then reality dawned on me that my characters had to have lips movement that synced with the words from the voice over. I died. Oh no! I was close to death.


Luckily for me, I found this already made  tool that could  help with the lip sync  problem but it  cost so much, about 25% of the total payment of the project. There was no going back. I added it to the cart and checked-out.


The project continued steadily but slowly  until it was obvious I couldn’t  meet up  with the deadline. The implication was that I had to  refund the extra money that was paid (apparently, the extra was paid to get an express service). Can you feel the tears welling up? If that was all,  I  would  have still cashed out a little.  When the project was  completed, and the clients saw it, they requested a correction in the voice over,  and correction in the voice over meant correction in lip sync. 


Let’s just  get to the part  where it  ended in tears.  After corrections upon corrections,  the final output wasn’t good enough to  start with, and had now deteriorated to the point where it wasn’t   useful for  the purpose anymore. When the clients involved third-parties, it  was already a write-off. I was frustrated. Kenneth was frustrated. He was so  frustrated that he made the move to refund not only the express delivery fees, but the whole project. He didn’t want to  bother me  because I already suffered on the project, but I thought “what are friends for?”,  and that was how the project that was supposed to make the first quarter of 2020 plum ended in hot tears.


I spoke with Kenneth recently and he shared some of the lessons he learned. I learned one or two things too.


  • Never let greed push you to take a project 
  • When it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone and daring new things, you should still use  your senses. Stepping out of  your comfort zone  should be about taking calculated risks  and not careless risks.
  • It is  always safe to ask your client for  more than it would take you to complete  a project. Everything can work as planned until, perhaps,  internet connection comes in as the Achilles’ heel.
  • In every project, try to  get paid for your efforts. Splitting  a project into  different milestones and getting paid  per milestone  may not  be a bad idea.
  • Be smart. Always!


January, 2020, the suffering continued. By February, I got a job like  I anticipated, and I’m  still on the job till  today. Kenneth also joined me much later and we’re working together today as designers on the same  team. 

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