Since I’ve seen a lot of posts lately involving money and client troubles, I thought this might be useful.
1 "Do this one cheap (or free) and we’ll make it up on the next
No reputable business person would first give away their work and time
or merchandise on the hope of making it up later. Can you imagine what
a plumber would say if you said “come in, provide and install the
sink for free and next time we’ll make it up when we need a sink.” You
would be laughed at! Also the likelyhood is that if something important
came along, they wouldn’t use you.
2 "We never pay a cent until we see the final product."
This is a croc, unless the person is leaving the door open to cheat
you out of your pay. Virtually every profession requres a deposit or
incremental payment during anything but the smallest project. Once you
have a working relationship, you may work out another arrangement with
a client. But a new client should not ask you to go beyond an initial
meeting and, perhaps some preliminary sketches without pay on the job!
3 "Do this for us and you’ll get great exposure! The jobs will
just pour in!"
Baloney [sic]. Tell a plumber “Install this sink and my friend will see
and you’ll get lots of business!” Our plumber friend would say “You
mean even if I do a good job I have to give my work away to get noticed?
Then it isn’t worth the notice.” Also the guy would likely brag
to everyone he knows about how this would normally cost (X) dollars,
but brilliant businessman that he is he got if for free! If anyone calls,
they’ll expect the same or better deal.
4 On looking at sketches or concepts: "Well, we aren’t sure if
we want to use you yet, but leave your material here so I can talk to
You can be sure that 15 minutes after you leave he will be on the phone
to other designers, now with concepts in hand, asking for price quotes.
When you call back you will be informed that your prices were too high
and Joe Blow Design/Illustration will be doing the job. Why shouldn’t
they be cheaper? You just gave them hours of free consulting work! Until
you have a deal, LEAVE NOTHING CREATIVE at the clients office.
5 "Well, the job isn’t CANCELLED, just delayed. Keep the account
open and we’ll continue in a month or two."
Ummm, probably not. If something is hot, then not, it could be dead.
It would be a mistake to not bill for work performed at this point
and then let the chips fall where they may! Call in two months and someone
else may be in that job. And guess what? They don’t know you at all…
6 “Contract? We don’t need no stinking contact! Aren’t we friends?”**
Yes, we are, until something goes wrong or is misunderstood, then you
are the jerk in the suit and I am that idiot designer, then the contract
is essential. That is, unless one doesn’t care about being paid. Any
reputable business uses paperwork to define relationships and you should
7 “Send me a bill after the work goes to press.”**
Why wait for an irrelevant deadline to send an invoice? You stand behind
your work, right? You are honest, right? Why would you feel bound to
this deadline? Once you deliver the work and it is accepted, BILL IT.
This point may just be a delaying tactic so the job goes through the
printer prior to any question of your being paid. If the guy waits for
the job to be printed, and you do changes as necessary, then he can stiff
you and not take a chance that he’ll have to pay someone else for changes.
8 "The last guy did it for XXX dollars."
That is irrelevant. If the last guy was so good they wouldn’t be talking
to you, now would they? And what that guy charged means nothing to you,
really. People who charge too little for their time go out of business
(or self-destruct financially, or change occupations) and then someone
else has to step in. Set a fair price and stick to it.
9 “Our budget is XXX dollars, firm.”**
Amazing, isn’t it? This guy goes out to buy a car, and what, knows exactly
what he is going to spend before even looking or researching? Not likely.
A certain amount of work costs a certain amount of money. If they have
less money (and you can) do less work and still take the job. But make
sure they understand that you are doing less work if you take less money
that you originally estimated. Give fewer comps, simplify, let them go
elsewhere for services (like films) etc.
10 "We are having financial problems. Give us the work, we’ll
make some money and we’ll pay you. Simple."
Yeah, except when the money comes, you can expect that you will be pretty
low on the list to be paid. If someone reaches the point where they admit
that the company is in trouble, then they are probably much worse off
than they are admitting to. Even then, are you a bank? Are you qualified
to check out their financials? If the company is strapped to the point
where credit is a problem through credit agencies, banks etc. what business
would you have extending credit to them. You have exactly ZERO pull once
they have the work. Noble intentions or not, this is probably a losing
bet. But if you are going to roll the dice, AT LEAST you should be getting
additional money for waiting. The bank gets interest and so should you.
That is probably why the person is approaching you; to get six months
worth of free interest instead of paying bank rates for credit and then
paying you with that money. Don’t give away money.
Now, this list wasn’t meant to make anyone crazy or paranoid, but is
designed to inject some reality into the fantasy.
You are GOING to be dealing with people who are unlike yourself. Their
motivations are their own and their attitudes are probably different
than yours. There are going to be demands, problems, issues and all the
hassles that go with practically ANY work/job/money situation. Too many
times I see the sad example of someone walking in to a situation with
noble intentions and then getting royally screwed, because what they
see as an opportunity and a labor of love, the other party sees as something
else entirely, not at all romantic or idealized, but raw and simple.
How can you deal with this stuff and still do good creative work? Good
question. THIS is why an education is important. You learn, out of the
line of fire, how to deal with the art at it’s own level and also how
to deal with the crap that surrounds it. You may have tough teachers
and think that it can’t be worse, but wait until a business person has
a hundred grand riding on your art! Then you will know what “demanding” means.
You will then thank all those tough teachers for building up the calluses
that enable you to enjoy the job rather than just feeling like it is
all a big waste of time!
In the end, working commercially, being a terrific artist is about 25%
of the task. If that is the only part of the task that you are interested
in, do yourself a favor. Don’t turn “pro.”