The Issue of Being a Freelance Artist (When working with non-designers): A story by Sean Williams (and future reference for other artists)
Hey guys, looks like its story time… I’m going to vent to you guys about something that just happened to me today, and hopefully you guys can reblog it so that we as artists, can try to avoid this from happening in the future.
For the last month or so I’ve been working on a freelance project for a woman who plans on running a blog about going to College. Throughout this process, I’ve worked with her step by step, going through designs, drafts, re-drafts and etc. After turning in the final design yesterday and being in agreement that the design was good, and that payment should be finalized; she sent me an email stating this:
“I ran the design by a couple of people affiliated with by blog, and I am going to have to ask you to redo it. It’s just not what we were looking for. I’m not a design person at all and I wanted it done, so I settled on it. But this has to be done right”
“Okay, fine” I thought. Sometimes things don’t work out, and designs need to be redone. I was fine with this, and I have absolutely no problem working with a client to make sure that they’re happy; but something about her wording stuck a chord…. She settled. And for reference: THIS is what she said yesterday- BEFORE the email today stating: “This has to be done right”
FUN FACT: I had gone in a completely different direction before coming up with the design I sent yesterday, but after HOURS of working on it and checking in with her (with her telling me she loved the way it looked) –
–I was asked to redo it.
She told me to redo it. A DAY BEFORE IT WAS DUE. Which I did (The design I turned in yesterday). But I digress..
I continued reading through the email:
“If you are not able or willing to take this on, then we can just cut our ties here. If you would like to finish the project in a time sensitive manner and be paid the other 50$ and be featured, then please get me a new design by today.”
At this point, I’d been working with her for a little over a month, (I’m a full-time student, and I work the maximum number of hours that I’m allowed to work on campus, on top of that I’m the president of an animation organization on campus, so suffice to say, I’m busy) and she had a deadline for the project, so there was a part of me that could understand her urgency. We had decided on $100. Half up front and half after I had finished. But now something else had stuck with me: “Please get me a new design by today”
What? Are you kidding me? a NEW design? We had been working together for over a month, and I had worked based on what she wanted, and now she wanted a COMPLETELY new design by the end of the day. A day, I might add that I don’t have free because I have work and then other school-related obligations that I need to fulfill… That would mean sketches to generate more ideas, having to confer with her on the design, THEN actually implementing the design, and having to clean it all up, with 1.) No direction (because the way I designed it previously was obviously all wrong), and 2.) By the end of the day.
This had to be done right, and after all of that working and reworking, I was STILL looking to try to be as helpful and professional as possible. So of course, I was considering starting from scratch and coming up with a THIRD finalized design, until I read the rest of the email… HERE’S THE KICKER: I can’t even make this shit up.
“A few things to keep in mind. 1. I am a professional. I’m an adult, this is my business. I want it clean, simple and streamlined”.
In my head I thought: “You’re joking. You’re going to tell me these things like I’m a child? First of all, I may be a student, but I’m a working adult, I take care of my schoolwork, I pay rent, I pay a car note, I’m ENGAGED, AND take care of a pet Ferret. Beyond that, not only have I worked on this project with you step, by step, but I’ve done COUNTLESS drafts and ON TOP OF THAT, you’ve told me multiple times that the design is perfect for what you’re looking for”…
The email continued:
Are you fucking kidding me. This woman thought it was okay to send me: A designer; this “HELPFUL” link. About tips. FOR NON DESIGNERS. WHEN SHE HERSELF IS NOT A DESIGNER. After this I was LIVID. But I kept my composure and kept reading:
“Ask me questions, read the blog, treat me as if I’m a real client. Let me know your thoughts on this.”
I almost couldn’t contain myself. For a month I’ve done sketches, layouts, and etc… I’d worked with you step by step, following her instructions for the design, FOR EACH ITERATION OF THE DESIGN and I had tailored each of my changes exactly to her specifications. Beyond that I’d read and re-read over the blog multiple times in an effort to come up with a design that would best display her intentions. I was so upset after reading her email that I literally just closed my phone and walked around for a few minutes to clear my head.
After much consideration, I decided to do what she herself had suggested and cut our ties. And I did it in what I feel was the most respectful way that I could while still maintaining my dignity. I sent her a message stating that I’m sorry that things didn’t work out, but that I could tell that she clearly didn’t respect me as an artist, and that I thought it best if we didn’t continue working together. I wished her good luck in finding a designer that could suit her needs, and I went about my day.
Although this situation didn’t end the way that I had expected it to when we began working together, I’ve learned some things, and I wanted to share my story with you all as a way to help raise awareness for things like this:
-VALUE YOUR ART.
-VALUE YOUR TIME.
-VALUE THE CLIENT BUT DO NOT LET THEM STEP ALL OVER YOU
There are non designers who will commission you and be happy that you created something for them, and there are those that will NEVER be satisfied with what you give them. See the warning signs and DO NOT work with people who are going to be difficult for the sake of being difficult.
I’ve worked with more than a few people who don’t appreciate the amount of passion and hard work that goes into art, and it draining, frustrating and its just not worth it.
Another thing that I learned is please please please DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT.
The project that I was working on wasn’t worth $100. And after the second draft it was even worth doing for $200. I understand being a student and needing money, but I’d rather work for free on something that I love than work for pennies on something that I hate.
Don’t take a project just because it pays. AND PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO UNDERCUT YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU’RE A STUDENT OR BECAUSE YOU DON’T FEEL THAT YOU’RE A “PROFESSIONAL” YET.
I have friends in the animation industry who STILL don’t feel like they’re necessarily “Professionals”
KNOW YOUR WORTH. And never ever EVER Let anyone tell you what you’re worth. Especially if they don’t know or respect just how much work and time goes into making the beautiful things that you all make.
I think that’s about it. Thanks for putting up with yet another long rant about me trying to navigate my life as an artist!
(also… completely unrelated: If you’re an artist reading this, let me know! I’d love to follow you and I hope you do the same!)