Do Not Follow the Carrot
Too often, designers, illustrators, and small agencies have to interact with prospects who want a discount on their project based on the promise of future work. This is a dirty form of business, and creatives need to avoid these pondscum clients like the plague.
One of the issues that has plagued my freelance career — and I suspect the careers of others — is the insistence that a current project’s price can be devalued based on the promise of possible future work. Clients routinely ask me for a discount on a new project because “there’s tons more in the pipeline.”
While I find this mildly insulting, I find it even more incredulous when someone not only demands a discount, but hinges the promise of future work on a forthcoming judgment of the work I have not even done yet. This is like demanding to buy a cake at half price because you might come back to buy another one, if they’ve met your arbitrary expectations on this one. I’m not sure where people find that reservoir of arrogance, but they need to plug the leak and get a grip on reality.
No future project — no matter how lucrative, portfolio-worthy, or paradigm-shifting — is worth any discount on the current piece. Unless there is a signed contract outlining every detail of both current and future projects, taking a financial hit because the client is promising a fatter, juicier carrot just over the horizon is as criminal as spec work.
It’s important for designers and illustrators to bill themselves fairly. Compromising this not only enables a client to get away with an unfair business deal (essentially cheating you), but permanently establishes the fact that your ethical fiber can be bent, which will haunt you down the road. (“But you charged me a fraction of this last time. Why do I have to pay more now?”) You also don’t want to have to pass on legitimate and fair opportunities because your production schedule is flooded with low-paying gigs.
Unfortunately, the world is teeming with knuckle-dragging cheap asses. The same ones who demand discounts are the same ones who seek out students for free work, amateur designers for a “partnership with longterm potential,” or illustrators for an opportunity “to get their name out there.” These guys will spin whatever tale is necessary to lowball a hard-working artist. I know — I field their calls several times a month for my own business. Avoid them from the outset or they will plague you for years.