During my daily internet surfing the other day, I came across a nicely designed/illustrated article entitled The 50 Things Every Graphic Design Student Should Know. It was very informative and had a lot of great tips.
It also contained a glaring error:
This is not only a horrible lie, but also the absolute worst advice that any design student could get. If you go into this business assuming that all your prospective clients are as educated, responsible, and ethical as you are, you are in for a very rude awakening. (Assuming, of course, that you yourself are any of those things.)
Not all clients are bad, of course, and the onus definitely should be on the designer to try and make the designer-client relationship work — i.e., just because they don’t like your aesthetic sensibilities doesn’t mean they’re a terrible client. But some clients simply are bad, and if you’re not prepared for them, they’ll walk all over you.
I’ve been pretty lucky — most of my clients over the years have been a pleasure to work with, trusted my artistic instincts, and (best of all) paid promptly for services rendered. But I’ve had a rash of bad client experiences lately, mostly relating to payment — or a lack thereof. I’ve definitely learned some hard lessons over the past couple of years about proper client contracts and invoicing.
This latest incident probably takes the cake. I was contracted to do a “sexy librarian” illustration in the style of a classic pinup girl. I jumped at the chance (because, well, who wouldn’t?), and lowballed the budget, knowing that this would be a fun gig in line with my Rad Project Discount. The client agreed to the budget and I began doodling.
Along the way, the client had a variety of artistic changes that clashed with my own artistic vision for the illustration. “That’s fine,” I thought, “I’ll give them what they want and then do my version for me afterwards.” But the tweaks and unplanned changes were definitely racking up more hours than I had wanted to spend on the project. I negotiated a very slight budget increase in an attempt to make up some of the difference, but was beginning to regret taking the project on.
I finally finished the illustration to the client’s satisfaction and sent an invoice their way. (Thankfully I was smart enough to not also send along the final files — another lesson I learned the hard way.)
Almost a month passed.
I emailed the client and informed them that their check had not yet arrived. They told me that it had slipped their mind. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Two more weeks went by.
The client then informed me that they had run into some financial issues and while they still intended to pay me, it might take a little more time. I replied that while I didn’t want to seem unsympathetic, this job is the sole source of income for my family and I can’t simply defer payments that are already over a month overdue.
Then the client finally let me know that they had maxed out their credit cards and were being pursued by several creditors, which would have been nice to know at the beginning of the job. Funny how this sort of thing never comes up until after the work is done and the invoice is sent.
That was about a month ago, and I’m still following it up, but who knows when (or if) I’ll see the money from that gig.
I hate being the bad guy. I don’t want to contribute to anybody losing the roof over their head. But this job is how I keep a roof over mine, and sometimes that means holding people accountable for what they agreed to pay you.
In the meantime, though, I finished up my version of that pinup illustration, and I’m pretty pleased with the results…
In an effort to recoup my losses from this job, I’m selling prints of this fine lass in my online store for the mere price of $10!
Have you ever been hung out to dry by a bad client? Do you like classy art to hang on your wall? Are you a philandering philanthropist who loves literacy and leggy librarians?
Then do me a solid and buy a print, or send this around to your friends — or better yet, do both! You’ll get some nice art and I’ll feel like this job wasn’t a total wash.
And design students: there are bad clients. Some are truly out to get you; some are just not very fiscally responsible. But they do exist and you will run across them. Consider yourselves warned.
I’ll be back next week with more new work!