Through the years I have had the displeasure to do work for client who, how can I say this, were not very honest. Like many other artists, I was often asked to do ‘spec’ work. It is a pretty common request, especially when you are just starting to get your business up and running. At some point though you simply have to put a stop to it because, after all, the reason to have a business is to make money. Sure, there are always occasions, say for charity or a friend or a very special client, where a job might be done for free. But now these situations are the rarity rather than the norm.
Back in the day, my wife use to say, “we put the ‘free’ in ‘freelance'”. Well, not anymore. Those days are gone. But then again a client comes along who thinks they shouldn’t have to pay for the work they commissioned. This happened just last month. I got a call from a person, we won’t mention names – it’s not polite, who wanted me to do a project for them. We talked at length about the project and I quoted them a price, to which they agreed. They sent me a check for our standard down payment and I began working on the project. Our initial agreement was that I would send them a initial draft, to which they would critique and I would make a change. We had allotted up to three changes. The client seemed very happy and I was ready to finish the project.
After a couple days, the client called again. They had been doing some more research and decided they wanted to try a different approach. Although the project was finished, I agreed and sent a new draft. They liked it, but could we make another change. OK. Then another. And another.
A couple days passed and the client calls again. Seems they wouldn’t need the project any longer and wondered if I would still require them to make the final payment. Well, uh…YES! Of course. Not only did I do the project but I went above and beyond the initial agreement. The client eventually agreed and said they would send payment but would not need the final files. I insisted that I would send the files anyway, once I had received payment. In that instance, they said, could I make one more change.
Since they had agreed to pay me, I agreed to make the one quick final change and sent the proof to the client. A few more days went by and I hadn’t heard from the client. In the coming days I left numerous messages on their voice mail as well as email messages. None were ever replied to and I still haven’t heard from this client. At this point I can only assume that they are not going to pay me or some tragic accident has befallen them. If the latter is the case, I apologize profusely.
Now I’m not sure but I assume there must be a moral to this story somewhere. Can anyone tell me why some people feel they don’t have to live up to their obligations? I know we live in a society where your can walk into Sears or KMart, buy an item, and then return it for whatever reason, but I believe this is a totally different scenario. I produce a product based on the clients needs. Just because this client suddenly decides they don’t need the product, after it has been completed to their specifications, does not free them from fulfilling their contractual obligation. I know for sure that, had I taken the clients down payment and not completed the project, they would be demanding their money back.
After all is said and done I am pretty sure that I will never hear another word from this particular dead beat client again. If I do I will gladly post an apology. In the meantime, should any future potential client find themselves interested in hiring me, or any other independent artists or business, please keep this in mind – if you make a contract for something, you should be prepared to pay.