Top 10 Lies told to Naive Photographers, Artists and Designers

Monsters Of Rock (Zaragoza-Spain 2007)_060Today I was doing some peaking around and came to my attention this brilliant article by Mark W. Lewis that showed me some of the errors I have done in the past and let me wonder - what if I knew this before I accept the job?

The examples presented here are the most common ones used by almost any person and in any language... believe me and I speak a couple of them.

So read it carefully since you could eventually come across one of these situations if you do not pay the right attention.

I transcribed the full article to here so you can better read it fully.
This is the the kind of things that sometimes you are so excited you have got the work that you don't even think of them or with so many things to think of you left them behind.

So above all beware of the Sharks.

Top 10 Lies told to Naive Photographers, Artists and Designers

1 "Do this one cheap (or free) and we'll make it up on the next one."
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 likelihood 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 crock, unless the person is leaving the door open to cheat you out of your pay. Virtually every profession requires 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. 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 my partner/investor/wife/clergy."
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 CANCELED, 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 too.

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 financial? 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."

Keep up the good work and enjoy the weekend.



Anonymous said...

Great post! This also extends to ANY freelance or self-employment position. As a full-time-self-employed programmer/designer, everything you mention here is gospel to this industry as well. It's amazing, the minute you leave your guard down or show a vulnerability, someone WILL take advantage of the situation.

MytyMyky said...

Then there's also the 10 signs you charging too little, and the 10 signs you're charging too much, which are also great posts :D So funny, but soooooo true...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Article! By reading those points i had to say "damn right" to myself...

It's hard in the world outside but by following those advices you can stay away from painful consequences.

Sometimes you will have to brush a customer aside but it can't be wrong if you run in troubles by working with him.

Thanks for this great post!

Anonymous said...

Even if you have a trusted long time arrangement with a client, the lower or less of a desposit required for good business is a mistake in my book. The money suddenly doesn't come in full or on time with the excuse "We have to pay our rent." Well, the problem is that I have to pay my rent too, and you just made sure that wasn't going to happen by taking up my time that I could have had actual paying clients. ALWAYS stick to your standards for payment in advance of work. . .if they don't have it before the job, the odds are that they won't have it after the job.

Also, its not your job to play band manager and deal with their finances and lack of getting everyone to chip in. Deal with the guy that signed the contract only.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the opposite kind of list: how to better deal and negotiate with designers, photographers, artists from a client's point of view. I run a publishing company and I've wasted gobs on money on photographers and designers who didn't deliver results that I liked. any help for us?

robotsluvme said...


It drives me absolutely bonkers that some clients think they can get away with any or all of these issues. As a freelancer myself, I've gone through every single one of them at least once. It's hard to turn away business sometimes, but there's a ton of comfort in knowing that you won't have to deal with any of these shady tactics clients try to pull.

Anonymous said...

im gonna translate this one to french and send to anyone who asks me for anything that looks too close to something on the list :p