Recently I had to turn down a freelance job for 2 reasons:
1) The job paid CRAP!
2) Although the job was a small paycheck I figured as long as the amount of time I had to spend on it was not very long it might make it worth it. I was wrong...VERY WRONG!
The job was described as needing a, "group caricature for an event" in a week. When I first contacted the client I found out that he wanted to congratulate his team for completing some kind of project and give the CFO a big print (roughly 12" X 18") of the caricature. He said there would be between 15-18 people in the image and he wanted to show, "everyone's little idiosyncrasies and personalities".
I was alright with that, and I asked him to go ahead and send me the peoples' head shots that he said he had and a list of what each person should be doing in the image. Here's the list of what he had "imagined" I should include in the image for each person to be doing. (I have withheld names and the positions each person held to protect myself but have left the actual descriptions of what they should be doing in the image intact, EXACTLY as I received them:
Person 1: Swimming or getting a massage in Switzerland
Person 2: Flying on a plane cross country, blackberry in hand, with sunglasses
Person 3: On his headset on the outskirts of pictures
Persons 4 - 6: sitting at computers in a conference center sweating bullets, have tons of papers, financial statements, and numbers around them
Person 7: On a a cruise in Dubai (yacht called "specific name removed"), reading over document, pounding fist on table, asking where the commas went.
Person 8: Leaning on a golf club while reading the "CIM document"
Person 9: On a cruise with a martini in hand and "Growth initiatives" written on a crumbled napkin
Person 10: Operating plants & supply chain via iPAD
Person 11: Long ponytail, riding on a Harley / Excel worksheet with words "Tax Step Up Analysis" behind him
Person 12: Trying to comfort his employees and tell them (company name removed) is not for sale, suitcase in hand
Person 13: Promoting (company name removed) at grilling event to "mommy bloggers"
Also in the description were these other objects the client wanted included in the caricature:
Company Logo, A book with the company's founder's photo on it, Cloud with the word "Synergies", Mexican flags and guys in sombreros in background (to give it a "Mexican-Theme"), Company Van.
I thought, ok, maybe this is just his way of giving me everything and the kitchen sink and then letting me tell him what I can and cannot do. I called him and gave him a couple of suggestions about what I think I could do and some JPEG examples. I calmly told him I didn't think I would be able to best communicate all of that information in one 11 x 17 image and that I didn't see any way to portray a cruise in Dubai with people sitting in a conference room surrounded by computers and make the piece have a cohesive look or visual flow. Especially not within a week.
His exact words: "Well, why not?"
Thankfully I was able to bail on the job before even putting pencil to paper to begin the sketch stage but I thought I would post this as a cautionary tale for others that do freelance jobs frequently or maybe haven't done much freelance work but want to in the future. Below are my two major points about this sort of subject:
1) CORPORATE AMERICA THINKS ABOUT ART LIKE YOUR GRANDMA DOES.
Have you ever tried to show your artwork to an old person and then try and explain how you go about producing it on a computer? Yeah, you KNOW you have and it's FRUSTRATING. People in the corporate world are exactly like your Grandma, they have NO idea what kind of work goes into producing artwork either. They have no point of reference in their world. Sure, they use computers but they all think that artists use a pencil and colored pencils to create art and they know they can write really fast with a pencil so OBVIOUSLY we will be able to DRAW with one, EXTRA REALLY FAST and produce their project at lightning speed! So, it will take maybe an hour, or maybe 2 at the maximum, to create this type of image, RIGHT?! Then coloring it will take like another hour because their 5 year old can color a page in a coloring book in like 5 minutes and you're a trained professional? You should be able to color things MUCH faster! When you tell them that you use a computer to color things and it takes longer than that they always look surprised and will invariably just think you push a button and things fill with color...RIGHT?!
I'm being overly sarcastic but most of these sarcastic exaggerations come from my real-life experiences that are not THAT far from the truth.
2) IF YOU ACCEPT A JOB FOR LESS MONEY THAN IT'S WORTH THE CLIENT WILL CREW YOU OVER NEXT TIME...OR SOMEONE ELSE.
I turned own the job because it wasn't worth it monetarily. How bad did the pay suck? The guy wanted this fully rendered, digitally colored piece for $300. Now, some of you are thinking, $300?! Why didn't you jump on that man?! Look at the facts and then tell me it's worth it. We're talking about 14 full-body caricatures with props, 9 different locations for these people to be in and then coloring on top of that, in a week's time. If you figure that each of those things will take you an hour you're looking at around roughly 30 hours of work. Now, divide that by $300. That's $10 an hour people. That's almost like working at McDonald's. It's not worth your time or effort. Plus, if you accept this one job from a client like this you won't teach him this is chump change for the type of mess of a project that he's proposing and he'll think that's just fine to screw over artists left and right. Please, have some self-respect about your profession and DON'T UNDERCUT YOURSELF OR OTHERS.
This little rant may be a little long but it's an important issue and one that I hope gets talked about more than just on here. Please, feel free to leave your own horror stories on here or just leave your comments about my experience. Do you think I bailed for a good reason? Would you have taken the job? Other thoughts?