Logo design nightmare #4: total payment drought
Anonymous designer and illustrator, south-west of England
“I agreed to design a series of six logos for a company that had six key products they wanted to represent. The fee that we negotiated was hugely discounted because I was doing the job partly as a favour.
I ended up spending far more than the allotted time on putting all the logo designs together – while the fee wasn’t high, I still wanted to do a good job. After all, it would still be a reflection of my work and would be going into my portfolio.
But although I approached the actual creative work in the same way that I would a much higher-paying job, my big mistake was failing to take the same approach to my relationship with the client. I neglected to define the parameters of the project. In particular, we didn’t agree on how much time I would spend amending the designs; the client kept coming back with more and more alterations.
After all that, it took six months for them to actually get around to paying me, despite regular reminders. They claimed they didn’t mess people around but, once I’d finished all six logos, they did just that. Every time I asked about payment, they’d ignore me or come out with a ridiculous, irrelevant excuse.
Looking back now, I can see it felt as if the client had the upper hand the whole way through. Even if you’re working on a project partly for exposure, you still need to approach it just as you would if the fee was much higher.
If you do something for less, the client actually expects more because, psychologically, you’ve already given them the upper hand. You need to see it as a formal arrangement and have a contract in place, whatever discount they might be getting.
All in all it was a very disappointing experience because although I was really happy with the final designs, the client hasn’t even got round to using any of them yet.
And the sad thing is, I’m not still in contact with them. They’d talked about the possibility of more work in the future and I was initially keen to make that happen, but after my experience on this project I’d naturally be pretty uneasy about working with them ever again.”
What to do: our advice
Don’t make the mistake of only taking a professional approach to the design work itself: remember the relationship with your client. It’s vital to make proper agreements, even – or especially – if you’re working for a modest fee. It shouldn’t be a cue for them to take advantage of you.
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