Pay for creative work.

Design_for_free_billboardWould you work for free? If you do creative work (designer, artist, coder) you may have seen something like the following example that I see far too often in online forums, direct emails, or via face-to-face networking. It goes something like this:

I have a small business and I would like to re-vamp our Logo and such for our website, signage, business cards, clothing, etc. I’m hoping to find a new or aspiring graphic artist that would like to help create our new look, and at the same time build their portfolio. Sorry, but this is not a project I can pay for, but it may be good experience and an opportunity to build your portfolio and gain a great reference.

What kind of “great reference” offsets being paid for hours of work? If someone asks how much you paid for all this creative work do you say, “Oh, I told them I didn’t have much money so they did it for free and to build their portfolio.” Finding that out, will your next “client” ask you to work for free also? My advice for any designer/creative type engaged in business is simple: Get paid for your work. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting out or not. If the client/business is already established (in this case, needing a “re-vamp”), then they should have a marketing budget set aside for design work. If they don’t, you should still be able to negotiate a pay-for-design rate, get a signed agreement, and proceed to do what you’re contracted for, and only what your contracted for. Don’t let the client come back with excessive revision requests unless you’ve built that into your contract.

Let’s put it another way. Dave wants a house built. He finds an architect and a builder that are just starting out and requests to meet with them. At this meeting he says to the architect, “I want you to design a 2,500 sq. foot house for me.” and then turning to the builder, says, “And I want you to build it as modern as possible with granite countertops, walk-in shower and hardwood floors.” Then Dave adds the kicker – “I don’t have any money to pay for this, but this house will look great in your portfolios and I’ll give you a great reference.” Do you think the architect and builder are going to accept?

What makes people assume that creative work should be performed for free? A good designer can be an asset to your business –  like a good employee, accountant, lawyer, supplier, etc. One shouldn’t think of creative work as a “one-off” relationship. What if you need additional work like a promotional piece created for a new product? Are you going to place another ad looking for free design work? Or are you going to contact “your designer”, the one that you have a working relationship with, that understands your business because of the time spent working together on your branding/marketing materials. The designer who can get it done quickly for you because he/she understands what you need designed without a lot of input/micromanaging from you?

Graphic designers and other creative folks need to get paid the same as you need to get paid for your products or services. We have families to feed and bills to pay, just like you do.

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