At some point I went from being a “young gun” to an “old dog”
I didn’t notice it happening it just did.
Along the way I’ve taken my fair share of of bumps and bruises
in the world of art.
Over the years I began to make some rules for myself in order to
save me from getting the short end of the stick when it came to
money or nut-so freelance projects.
With all the fly-by night clients and art directors that are mad because you “can” and they “can’t” an artist needs some
rules to live by.
I’ve gone ahead and written out some of my so called “Golden Rules”
They may not work for you and they may not work in every situation but hopefully
they will give you somewhere to start and put you in the mindset to make your own set of
rules that work for you.
Art is tough enough. Protect yourself.
The rules are in no particular order and I’ll hopefully be adding and streamlining them in the future.
1.) If the job is over $500 bucks always get half up front and a one page contract that explains your policies.
I’m not talking about a $20 convention sketch or that $150 logo you did for your cousin’s brother’s friend. I’m talking about the gigs that will take serious time and effort and keep you from other gigs that will potentially make you money. This is an important rule because if a client can’t come up with at least $250 bucks what business does he have contracting an artist. This weeds out the flakes. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are passing up a gig. If someone is serious they won’t balk at the money. Hold the line! A quickie one page contract that has your quote and your basic policies is important. Have it signed or make sure it’s in the body on an email with the client accepting the terms. Again if they don’t want to accept the terms ...uh are they really worth working for? You need to make that call.
2.) Never give more than two round of changes.
Unless you fucked up. I say this because it’s important to set the rules of the job with the client up front. A lot of non/pseudo creative people don’t understand how the creative process works and they think despite their direction that artwork can be changed at any point in the process despite the amount of work that’s been done. Every job is a different beast so use your best judgment. As a hard and fast rule. I charge between $50-$100 an hour in general but I charge that hourly rate for every hour after the first two round of changes. You would be surprised how fast choices get made when they face hourly rates.
3.) Despite what a client or an art director will try and make you think. This is not your last job. (Attack on the mental and emotional state of the artist.)
Let's face it most people think you do art because it's a lot of fun. People will say things like "God Given Gift". Not realizing you've spent years working your butt off to become good at what you do. This confusion often leads to problems when dealing with clients. They assume you are doing this for fun and fame (fame in art please!).
They will approach you assuming this.
Art directors and clients will try and play off your fears and emotions.
They want you to think this is your last job and the most important you’ve ever worked on.
There is this fear that if you quit this job or call them out you will lose this job and some how never get another.
Rest assured they are playing off your fears to get you to work cheaper, harder or bring a level of stress or confusion to the job that will put you in a position to be taken advantage of. I know it sounds harsh. Not all clients are this way but the few that are will attack your confidence. Which as we all know is true power base of your artistic ability. Safe guard and protect that confidence. Keep in mind they don’t care how long you have to stay up or what physical stress you have to go to make their life easier.
I’ve had clients tell me things like “aren’t you excited that your work will be shown in (fill in the blank)”. Does a plumber care who shits on the toilet he unplugged?
It’s a job and you need to separate that in your mind and the clients mind. Like most business there is a fair share of manipulation involved. For your own safety and happiness leave the rose colored glasses at the crib and don't be afraid to stand up for your rights. Just because they pay you does not mean they can treat you like a slave. I'm not saying be difficult to work with. I am saying use your common sense and instincts. If it feels wrong..it's most likely wrong. There are always more fish (clients) in the sea.
4.) It’s their work not yours.
Now on the surface this seems like an easy thing to keep in mind. Yet it’s one of the biggest hurdles I see facing young or inexperienced artists.
Just because you created it does not mean it’s your artwork.
If I draw a picture of Mickey Mouse and an art director tells me to change the foot. Don’t fight it. It’s not your personal expression artistically. Just make the change as fast and as well as you can and move on. Trust me when I say divorcing yourself from the process and the product of your artwork is a liberating thing. Save your battles for when you are trying to get the most out of your personal work. That’s where the true artistic battle is waged during the time when you are learning and forging new avenues for your artwork. Not on a freelance job that will be a distant memory as soon as the check clears.
5.) Do the numbers or reality check
I know most artists hate the business side of art. I can’t stress this enough. DO THE NUMBERS! It’s all basic math.
Here is how I do it:
Spec a job.
That means how long will it take me?
What’s my deadline?
What are my deliverables?
Can it be done in the time alloted?
What is the size of the company?
For shits and giggles I’ll give you a scenario.
A client wants you to do two illustrations. They want them fully painted.
Go back and think. How many hours will it take me to do this illustration?
Lets say it will take me two 8 hour days.
Let just say my rate is $50 bucks an hour.
$50 bucks an hour for 16 hours is $800 bucks.
Let’s say talking on the phone with the client 3 more hours $150
Now we are at $950 bucks.
But let’s say something happens and you have to work on it more than expected.
I factor in another half day of work for babysitting the client or sitting around uploading artwork to servers or explaining to the in house graphic designer how you made the file. Whatever. The idea is pad it. Half day 4 hours at $50 bucks. $200.
Plus $75 an hour for changes beyond the first two rounds of changes.
If you are in the U.S. I’d say factor in your taxes...but that’s a story for another day.
You plug your own real world numbers in and hopefully you will find a basis for proper quotes.
That’s it for now. I hope this helps. Everyone has their own way of handling things. These are just some ideas to get you started.
I look forward to reading everyones posts with their ideas and "rules".
The most important rule above any other is to respect your ability and your work. As an artist you have an ability people will pay for. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.