Ask Jenny: The Hard Question.
March 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Ask Jenny: This weekly post features questions from you guys. If you have a question about any thing creative business related, ask away! Shoot me an email, message me on Facebook, whatever you’d like. I’m here for you guys.
It’s so important to value what you do creatively. Some people don’t get that. I hear it a lot from friends. Doing charity work is one thing. Doing per diem to get the job is another. And friends asking you to bend over backwards is a whole different discussion in itself. What do you do when your friends or family ask you to do things for them for free with nothing in return (trade or trade plus pay is also another option)? Read on to find out.
Q: So, I think the question all freelance artists have to grapple with at some times is: What do you do when your friends ask you to do work for them at a discounted price? I’ve been having trouble with this a lot lately as my friend Steve has been asking me to do a bunch of things for him. I painted the bathroom at his work for $200 when any self-respecting artist would have gotten $1000 or $1200 for it! Now he’s asked me to design a t-shirt for him, and I told him that $30/hour IS a discounted price, but he still wants me to do it for less.
Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this?
A: Yeah. I have a few. Here’s what you could say.
A) Sure! I’d love to. Here’s my contract. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer if it’s breached.
B) I worked really hard to get where I’m at, so discounting it more isn’t an option. Would you work for a third of what you’d normally charge?
C) I can do it for $25/hr plus 5% of sales paid to me monthly.
D) You’re abusing our friendship and it’s not getting you anywhere except on my bad side.
The dilemma with right now (and with certain people and companies) is they use circumstances to make excuses. The economy, our friendship, the experience, the work, the addition to your portfolio, etc. None of these are appropriate. All of these are abuse. As an artist, you don’t have to take the abuse. It might mean “less work”, but it’s also less heartache.
People and companies that START OUT by asking you to bend over backwards won’t stop there. That’s only the beginning. Once you’re in the door everything WILL NOT be roses and sunshine, but quite the opposite.
They will ask for more work. More cheap labor. More changes. More “stuff that should be easy” (that’s my favorite). It’s never ending. It doesn’t get better. It’s always abusive.
This can be a hard thing to grapple with when you really what work. Or when the person is super consistent (aka a pain in the arse). They’re like an abusive boyfriend that makes it feel like it’s you’re fault. You’re the crazy one. You should change your perspective. You should do it. You shouldn’t be this way or that. Not cool.
So on that note my answer would be: Don’t work for these kinds of people. You want to work with the people that see such high value of your work that they’ll pay what you ask and then some. The people that are so grateful, they buy you lunch, tell their friends, share it on social networks, get you more gigs, and love you till the end of time. Just like you’d want in a significant other.
Some friends or family members just aren’t good people to work with. If they’re unhealthy in other areas of their life, there’s a good chance this is no different. Some people just can’t see boundaries. And you trying to guide their way isn’t going to work. You have to do what your gut tells you regardless of who the person or company is. Remember: if you’re doing a job you knew you shouldn’t have taken in the first place, you won’t leave room when the “right” project comes along.