“It’s good, but that’s not really me. Can you make it more pink?”
I did what she asked — delaying dinner with my wife to make a “more pink” design. The queen of pink was my most demanding client at the time. She was also paying me $0, which made taking her feedback a little tough. All the paid work which was supposed to happen after my free work mysteriously disappeared. She stopped answering my emails after the final assets were delivered.
I didn’t miss her.
It is the nature of creative work, I think, which tempts people to believe the work itself is easy. From an outsider’s perspective, the artist sits down, thinks a while, and then magically appears with an idea.
After having worked in graphic design, freelance writing, ghost writing, and video marketing, I can’t help but notice the same ignorant conversation happening over and over:
“Yeah, I need a logo designed for my new company.
“We need it to be really flashy.”
“It needs to get people’s attention.”
“Like people need to see our logo and feel they can do anything.”
“Do you know the Red Bull logo? We like that can you make something like that?”
“Oh, but it needs to be really fresh and original and like nothing nobody has ever seen before.”
“Our budget for this project is $11.34. You’ll be paid when the company takes off.”
“If you could finish it up by tomorrow afternoon, that would be amazing.”
These conversations sound insane. But I say yes to them all the time.
Do you know why this happens to me? Because I allow it happen.
I didn’t call the above conversation “stupid.” I called it “ignorant.” Non-creative people typically have no idea the cost and nuance of creative work. Rather than appear a mean and nasty fella, I smile and bow and do what I’m asked. (Which is a big reason I simply don’t talk to that many people).
Originally, I tried to title this post “How to *Not* be Taken Advantage of!” or “10 Sentences to Guarantee you Get Paid for your Creative Work.” Then I realized the immense hypocrisy of writing a post like that when I am about to jump on a writing call on Sunday for free. It is more fun to be honest than it is to get claps.
Probably I won’t stop. Probably I will keep doing things for free. Probably some of those things will pay off, while some of them won’t.
But here’s a promise I made to myself when I hire:
- I will ask creative people what they charge up front.
- I will pay for creative assets rather than steal them (e.g. the rose up top).
- I will pay creative freelancers what we agree.
- I will pay them on time.
Maybe eventually I will get better at charging myself.
Much love ❤