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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?

Discuss!
  • Listening to: Nothing
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  • Watching: Kill Bill Vol. 2
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  • Eating: A Breth Mint
  • Drinking: Water
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:iconthurop:
thurop Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2011
Aww man, I wanna draw that...
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2011
Feel free my friend...feel free. When you're done he'll pay you in butterfly tears and left over meatloaf...at least I think that's what it said in the contract.
Reply
:iconcogwurx:
cogwurx Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
[link]

A great place to read about freelance and client doozies.
Reply
:iconleighyoung:
leighyoung Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
That site is fantastic! I'm going to have to go there on those days where my own clients are annoying. I won't feel so bad!
Reply
:iconcogwurx:
cogwurx Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
I go there often. It's rather therapeutic.
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
Awesome Rome! Thanks for the link! I just submitted my horror story so we'll see if it gets posted.
Reply
:iconcogwurx:
cogwurx Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
Good luck with that!
Reply
:iconslaterdies:
SlaterDies Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
I have to swear right now, so please forgive me.... I'm sick of non-creative types in management (so many managing creatives btw) expecting the world of designers and illustrators... they honestly think (I've conversed getting their views) that doing what we do is as simple and easy and enjoyable as playing videogames. I once worked for this company where whenever I did anything that involved illustrating (99% of my work) of what I did, they treat me like I was lucky and the work was a breeze as they did detailed and hardcore work. Also, I'm sick of management asswipes who treat creatives like business-retards and play the quote game. I once had to manage a team of illustrators and the upper-dooshbags tried to get me to play that game,,, I didn't last long because I know how shitty it is to treat people like that. It's just that, they think that drawing something is so easy and little to no work is done in the preparation stages.
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
I hear that! Illustration is hard. REALLY hard at times, and man is it ever hard to explain to a non-creative WHY it's so hard. I've always turned it around on a few of them and asked them how they'd feel if I told them their job seems easy because I know how to use a calculator and it seems all day they just sit around and punch numbers.

I've found that if you educate non-creatives to the amount of time it actually takes and then take their budget and break it out to an hourly rate you can then ask them if they expect you to work for "X" amount of money. Usually I've found that your hourly rate when you break down their budget is always minimum wage rates and then they're dumb-founded that it might actually cost them in the $1000's to get their images produced.

Gotta' love the corporate world!
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:iconslaterdies:
SlaterDies Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
amen!
Reply
:iconmolsillustration:
MolsIllustration Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
my art is extremely cheap and it wouldn't even add up to $300......it'd be about $2000 based on how my commission prices add up D:
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
Do you mean $200 or the $2000 you typed? I'm just checking because one version of that statement would mean I was pricing myself too high and the other way I would have been pricing myself too low.

I personally would have been looking for at least $500 for the piece myself but his budget was only $300 so I figured, "What the heck I'll take a look at what he wants for each person." What I got was a good laugh out of it and a nice "no thank you" call back to him.

The reason I would have said at least $500 would be because in reality he was looking for 14 separate pieces but wanted to go cheap. So he decided to make the artist figure out how to make that mess work and the amount of time it takes to produce 1 simple caricature is NOT the same as figuring out how to create 14 caricatures and then make them look good in one piece. I don't know, I guess I just value my time more than others perhaps.
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:iconmolsillustration:
MolsIllustration Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
$2000 is what I meant :)
it's $15 per full-body person
plus objects it really adds up
but that's only for private commissions - also take in being rushed to get it done in a week O_o
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
Oh good. I thought that maybe you were saying I should have taken the $300 and I was like, "WHAT? Are you kidding?!"
Reply
:iconmolsillustration:
MolsIllustration Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
XD No no :lmao:
Reply
:iconleighyoung:
leighyoung Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
HOLY CRAP! That should have been at LEAST $300 per person!

That's pretty hilarious how much detail they wanted, like the person on the boat. "On a cruise with a martini in hand and "Growth initiatives" written on a crumbled napkin" Was he planning on giving out magnifying glasses so people could see the art?

Thank goodness you got out of this one. Cripes!
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
That's what I told him!

What scared me more than anything else was the fact that when I quoted him the $300 price he said that he had 6 other bids and one of them would do it for $175!!!! However, he had not shared the hilarious details at that point to any of us, and he thought my artwork was better so he wanted to see if I would do it for the $300. I figured if someone was going to put themselves through the hell of this project they needed the money more than I did!

Had any doozies when it came to freelance projects?
Reply
:iconleighyoung:
leighyoung Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
$175? That must have been a first year art student hoping to make beer money. Ridiculous!

I got roped into doing a BUNCH of art that involved a book, then random graphics, then updating crap artwork on a board game all with the same theme. I started being paid peanuts, then it was a % of profits. I pretty much just finished what I started, didn't begin anything new for them, then cut my losses and got the heck out of there. I was just out of school and really needed work and experience to fill my portfolio up. Once I got in over my head, I tried to bow out as carefully as I could. Did I mention I still haven't seen any profits from anything?
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
Maybe you should look them up and send them a nice invoice stating that you'd like a sales report showing their sales of the items that you created artwork for so you can get paid. HA! Just kidding, you were smart to cut your losses.

I once had a client in art school that asked me to recreate these little microsoft clip art frogs he found in Word or some other program like that. Something that was pure clipart and obviously would have been copyrighted by microsoft or at least by the original artist that sold them to microsoft. Well, the guy brought a print out of them to our first meeting and asked me to create cartoon frogs like these that were all using his sporting equipment which he sold to stores across the state. I took the print-out home and created cartoon frogs and MAN! they were the cutest cartoon frogs you ever saw. Then I sent the guy an e-mail with the sketches of the frogs and got a call the next day.

Client: "Yeah, I've got a ruler here and your frogs heads are like, a 1/4 of their full body and the ones I showed you were more cartoony looking and their heads were like (shuffles papers, remeasures) 1/2 of their total body. Can you just redraw these frogs I gave you only with sports equipment in their hands?

Me: No, I really can't do that, those images are copyrighted I'm sure. I can redraw the ones that I just sent you and make their heads bigger.

Client: I liked the other frogs.

Me: We're done, thanks for paying me half up front. This will just about cover my time.

Client: What?!

*I hang up phone.

2 weeks later I get called into the Dean's office and asked to explain why she's got a client of mine calling the school saying that I've cheated this guy out of his money, etc. I explained the story and the amount of time I'd spent on the project and she completely sided with me and called him back and explained to him that I had done half the job and he had paid for half of my time so we were even. I loved it!
Reply
:iconleighyoung:
leighyoung Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Those things that happen are SOOO frustrating at the time, but later they become pretty good stories, don't they? It's all lessons to learn, when you know better you do better. Too bad the people who hire us don't seem to learn anything.
Reply
:iconhobbit1978:
Hobbit1978 Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2010
True Enough!
Reply
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