Artists and clients. The downpayment.

25 01 2010

A client and an artist get in touch. The client wants an image of his RPG character and his magic Pegasus, his magic sword and this great background… or maybe is a portrait of his wife and his three children… or perhaps a doll to dress up and commercialize in a game. The artist evaluates the task at hand and asks for $X, half as a down payment and half after the work is completed. The client insists in having the sketch down and then pay after he can see if he likes the sketch.

Familiar? I think most of us have been there. As an artist I feel frustrated about this. But I think there is a lot that the potential client does not realize.

a- If you are hiring the artist, then you know that you like the style, you know how the artist work. You do not need a sketch to get an idea of if you like the art or not.

b- When an artist asks for a down-payment is because sketching is probably the most important stage of the creative process. And it is work. Not a lot of people would work for free… artists are part of that group that rather to eat this month. Sketching is not something that “it’s easy and takes 5 minutes!” as I’ve heard over and over. Sketching is defining the basic elements of your future image, it is creating a composition, flow, finding what elements will be included and what won’t in the image, etc. It does not take five minutes. A good sketch takes many minutes of just thinking, even hours!  Many times it also involves research about what we are going to draw. And it is not easy. If it was easy, you, the client, could do it yourself. But as an artist you studied for years before getting to the stage in which you can sell your art.

c- Please, do not offer me $5 as if you were doing me a favor. $5 is a latte in Starbucks, less that a day’s food in my house… and I am a frugal cook! I understand that there might be artists that live in other countries for who $5 is quite a bit, I live in Pittsburgh, $5 is not much really, just taking the bus to work is more than that every day.

d- Art is a luxury, not a necessity, if you cannot afford it, it is OK, you can skip it. Don’t lie to the artist into drawing for you and then you’ll never pay. Please, think that we also need to pay bills!

e- Don’t have the money and still want the art? That is fine! You can do a few things.

1- You can save. I save to buy the things I want.

2- You can ask the art for your next birthday, or the money that you can use to buy the art.

3- Still no money? You can get creative. Maybe the artist would want something that you want. You have a restaurant? Offer a coupon for a nice dinner. You are a web designer? Design their web as an exchange.  Many artists would have no problem with this.

The important point is to know that the artist, as you, needs the money for paying bills and eat. Artists are not happy being poor, as they show in the movies, we rather to have a decent life. Respect the artist, as you expect your boss to respect you.

Do you have any experience you want to share? Feel free to comment, I would love to hear it!


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12 responses

25 01 2010
Thyme2dream

I agree 100%- my ex husband was an illustrator and the thing he hated most was someone coming to him asking to help them with a project “on spec” (ie you get money if I figure out how to get money and am still in the mood to give you money when I get it).

As for the “show me the sketches”~ there is a small (now failing) restaurant in our town with a sign created based on one of his sketches that the client rejected…so yeah..dont give anyone any artwork without getting payment up front:)

26 01 2010
faerywitch

Wow! I am sorry to hear that but I actually have never met anybody that had their sketch used.

25 01 2010
Angela R. Sasser

I actually do not expect my customers to pay until I provide them a quick thumbnail. These are very quick to get down the basic ideas and generally do not take me more than half an hour. If they like this generic idea, THEN I ask for payment. If they like the idea, but want to change it, I also ask for payment before changing it.

This system has worked for me so far and I have never been stiffed by any customer. By my logic, they should be able to see a general idea of what they want in order to encourage them to pay me so that they will have full faith in the product they’re receiving and be more likely to be prompt in their payment.

I may end up changing this system, however, if I do end up having problems with non-paying customers in the future.

26 01 2010
faerywitch

I am glad it has worked for you Ang, and I hope it keeps working! It is refreshing to hear that someone has never been left cold waiting for their money!

26 01 2010
Angela R. Sasser

I am pretty brutal as far as hunting down debts owed, though usually I find people who are late generally have just forgotten and needed a good reminder. Paypal’s invoicing function has been invaluable for me. It’s a quick easy way for people to pay the money and keep track of what they have already paid (and what they owe still). You can send reminder emails via invoicing too.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that if people know what to expect with you right-off the bat, they tend to know there are no excuses that can be made for their mistakes later on. Of course, I know this is not the case with everyone!

26 01 2010
faerywitch

So far I’ve never been left unpaid, though I’ve had costumers that did disappear along the process of working for them and I had one that I had to be very insistent about payment… he ended up paying but never replied even once to my emails.
The paypal invoice sounds like a great idea.

26 01 2010
Hanna

If I did a sketch worth $5 it would be so rough that no one would want to pay me the rest of the money!

26 01 2010
faerywitch

😄 That is so true!

27 01 2010
faerywitch

Hanna, I was once offered US$@2.5 to draw images for commercialization. When I declined, the lady insisted. I explained her that I could not even afford a pound of meat with that money, and she still felt that she could persuade me. Mind you, this was for a commercial project, not for a charity or personal image.

26 01 2010
Rita

Couldn’t agree more.
I guess sometimes, as art is not “necessary” people tend to think, that artists do their art as hobby or because they NEED to do, and they should be happy, if they could show their work somewhere else…

26 01 2010
faerywitch

Oh! Don’t get me started with the ‘exposure’ reason!😄
It seems to be a favourite out there, but still it does not pay the bills!

26 01 2010
Thyme2dream

Lol, yes my cynical ex used to tell people “you die of exposure”….some of his problems were definitely related to his karma in general, but I did learn a lot from helping him with the business when I was young.

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