When I was a teenager, a friend of my father asked me to make him a logo for his car repair business, he had no idea what he wanted but he knew he needed something to represent his company. I accepted the challenge and spent two weeks working diligently on a variety of concepts for him, I made multiple logos and chose the best one.
He was amazed at the results, he told me he would print business cards, make t-shirts and paint the logo on the side of his building. He asked me “How much do I owe you?” and considering he was a family friend I replied “Whatever you want to pay for it”, his immediate response was “Well, how about nothing, I want it to be free!”.
Remember, I was young and inexperienced so I didn’t understand how I put myself in that situation, after all I was happy to help but at the same time I expected some payment for my work. I never got paid for that project. Over the years I learned valuable lessons from my experience as a creative professional, so I’ll share some of them with you:
1. Don’t work for free
Your time is valuable. As a creative professional you want to be taken seriously, right? This means no spec work. Do not give away your talents for free. It has taken you a long time to get where you are so if you are good at something, never do it for free.
2. Set your prices
The value of your creative work can be hard to quantify but don’t be afraid to set a price for your services, over time your clients will decide if your work is worth the price tag.
3. Get paid before work begins
Very important. You can set a minimum amount paid in advance and the balance when the work is complete, this shows commitment on the client’s part and covers the initial costs of the project.
4. Put it in writing
Find a lawyer to write you a contract that protects you and the client, make sure it includes:
- A description of the project
- Project start date and deadline
- Your terms of service
- An exit clause
- Penalties in case either party fails to deliver
5. Get to work!
Negotiations are complete, it’s time to focus on the project. Communicate with your client and stay within the scope of the project. Remember your client’s needs and when it is time to deliver the finished product, do it on time. Remember, under promise and over deliver.
A few extras
Keep a detailed log of the project, this includes interactions with your client, dates and times to keep track of everything, if communication is by e-mail then keep a record of that.
Preferably don’t work for family since there is a risk of unnecessary drama. You can work for friends or even befriend a customer, but remember, when money is involved things can turn sour in an instant and the friendship won’t matter much.