It all started with a retweeted message that someone was looking for an artist in the area to design a mascot for a site and create 12 illustrations of said mascot for said site. The tweet came from the guy's intern but she's not the problem here so I won't mention her by name; I want to keep her out of this entirely, I've accidentally interned for people with how do I put this politely diminished moral judgment. I don't blame her, I only hope she doesn't pick up on his sordid (and I use the following word in the most liberal sense) business practices.
But I digress, the company in question is called Tenno Media, Peter Bierhuizen is the person this post is about. He appears to be the owner and sole employee, save for the aforementioned unfortunate intern who has since left. The site the designs would be used for is fitness-ferdie.nl
Because this happened locally, i.e. in the Netherlands, I will provide translations of our correspondence as well as screenshots for any Dutch speaking person to verify that the translations are accurate.
I invited the tweeting intern to look at my site and mail me if she liked my work. First e-mail.
"Sending you an e-mail following your tweet.
I design websites as a side job and my boss has asked me to design a character. Simply: a frog in an orange shirt with FF on it. A reference to Fitness Ferdi, a web shop where people can buy fitness appliances and goods.
Of Ferdi, the frog, he thinks he'll need 12 drawings (illustrations) that will be used in various ways (websites, flyers).
I don't know what kind of budget is available. This would kind of depend on the amount of time the designs will take to make.
Vaguely said, but if you think you can create Ferdi I would like to receive a message.
First reply, I explain my process, how many hours I will need and how much I charge; minimum wage is about €9,20 for my age bracket. This will be relevant later.
I can definitely design a fitness frog.
My hourly wages are €10,- ex. taxes
First I will make a few sketches to your specifications, about 6 sketches will take 2 hours, so you can decide what kind of design you'd like or if you'd like to see more sketches. As soon as you pick a design I will customize it until you're satisfied, how that long will take depends on you (plural).
From a sketch to a coloured vector (which can be resized to any size) takes about 4 hours x 12.
With the cost are also commercial rights, I only retain the right to include the illustrations in my portfolio.
- Kind regards, E. Palli (my real name, I use my real and artist name interchangeably)"
Second e-mail, with this sketch attached. I sized it down. I told them I can do 6 sketches in 2 hours, they ask for 10 in 3, I comply.
I've discussed it with my boss and we'd like to get about 10 sketches (3 hours of work) of different kinds of frogs. One illustration we can picture is a frog in a circle, met a happy smile. He's wearing a sleeveless shirt which reads "FF" across his chest in white letters.
The plan was that I was going to do the sketches myself, but I think this will cost me too much time, which is why I went looking for an illustrator. I've included the first sketches, so you know what direction we want to take.
Once we've received the 10 sketches, we'll see how it goes. We'll have to think of the poses we want.
I send them these sketches a week later to help them nail down the design they want.
"Without shirt, it will be added later.
Did you have an address I can bill?
Kind regards, Thaily"
Get an e-mail a week later, but there's been no mention of a deadline or anything, so I'm not too bothered.
I only work Tuesdays at Tenno Media at the moment (the company you drew for).
My boss is going to look at the sketches one of these days and as soon as I hear back about it I'll contact you again.
You can send your bill to Tenno Media.
I really like your sketches, nice style!
Listen to me smalltalk, yap yap.
Thank you, I hope your noss (typo) likes them too :P
- Kind regards, Thaily"
While I asked for a billing address, I hadn't billed them for the first batch of sketches yet. Keep in mind; 10 sketches, 3 hours of work, €10,- an hour = €30,- so far.
We had a little meeting and we'd like to see another ten sketches. Some comments: The head can be fairly human, like the middle frog (touching his upper arm). The body can be broader and more muscular. This will be another 3 hours of work.
Furthermore we'd like to see sketches of Ferdie:
1 holding weights.
2 spinning on a bike.
3 running on a treadmill
4 flexing his muscles
5 holding a sign
6 pointing left or right
7 in a round logo, like in my sample sketch.
Because of my internship I stop working at Tenno Media after next week. You can mail the sketches to my boss at firstname.lastname@example.org en/or email@example.com. The contact will be via Peter. He is my boss.
Ferdie will be the mascot of FitnessFerdie.nl. The web shop for it is being perfected and is temporarily placed at this url: [obsolete link]. Maybe the site's lay-out will help you with your sketches.
Have a nice and greetings,
I take a little over a week to respond this time because I suddenly got slammed with unexpected work; friend told me at the last minute he had gotten me an art panel at a convention, so I suddenly had 3 days to prepare for an art show. Augh.
How's the frog coming? :)
I managed my art show, then did the second batch of sketches and sent them to both the intern and Peter, the intern's boss whom was now my contact. I explain, for a second time (first being in my first e-mail to them) that they need to settle on a design before I can start on the final illustrations. I've even made it easier for them by putting all the sketches on the same sheet and lettering and numbering the heads and bodies so they can just tell me which body and head they like best so we can combine them and move things along.
"Hey X and Peter,
Sorry for the delay, I was told at the very last moment that there was an art panel reserved for me at an art show.
Here's the second batch of 10 sketches; I added numbers and letters so you can easily indicate which combination of heads&bodies you like, as soon as we decide on a design I can start on the sketches for the illustrations.
- Kind regards, Thaily"
At this point I decide I'd like to get paid before we go any further, so I send Peter the bill for 20 sketches; 6 hours of work is €60,-, plus taxes the total came to €70,80. Again I remind people this is essentially minimum wage, this will be hilariously relevant in a moment.
"Dear Mr Bierhuizen,
Here is my bill for the 20 sketches.
- Kind regards, Thaily
[I attached the 2 specified bills as PDFs, they are from Gear-IT.nl which is my husband's company, because it was easier at the time]"
Here's where it took a sudden and sharp turn downhill; the intern gone I was left to deal with Peter who (perhaps after being faced with a bill and the realization that yes, I expect to be paid for my time) suddenly felt all my work was unsatisfactory and unusable. He says he's looking for a specific type of frog, but despite being prompted to tell me which design comes closest to what he wants, he decides he wants to back out of the deal without paying me for the work he has already commissioned and has already been provided.
I have looked at the sketches and I'm missing that which X asked for. X gave a whole list with situations and positions that we wanted to see sketches. However I don't see any of these positions. So I can't do anything with your sketches. To be honest I couldn't do anything with the first batch of sketches because I asked for (at least X) what I wanted. So I'm not very happy because you're sending me 2 bills for things I can essentially do nothing with. I'm looking for a particular type frog (see the list of X further down in the mail (was the same list translated further up)) depicted in a number of fitness related poses but I have received none of this. So I'm going to stop because I'm not sure this collaboration is going to be successful.
I hope to have informed you sufficiently.
Assuming the best, that he is merely confused, I explain for a third time that he has to pick a design before I can do the illustrations from the list. I don't wanna do 12 sketches only to have him change his mind about the design before I can finalize. Plus it would cost more, I'm trying to save him money.
"Dear Mr Bierhuizen,
The sketches are to determine the design of the character, once the design is to your liking (the customer picks a design they like or a combination of designs they like) I will finish the sketches; the 12 sketches of the character on a bicycle/with weights etc. so all the illustrations will be to your liking and consistent.
I have only billed you for the 20 sketches at the price we agreed upon beforehand.
- Kind regards, Thaily"
TL:DR, Peter still fails to understand simple things. 2 notes about that.
1. I was completely bewildered by his failure to understand this simple procedure. First you decide what the mascot looks like before I draw the mascot doing various things. It's not rocket science. And I know it's not me because I've designed numerous characters for various people, if anything people are excited when given choices and the chance to customize the character to suit their personal tastes. I've never had problems with anyone in this matter.
2. He says that if he makes me do the sketches he'll have a spent a fortune before he has anything that looks anything like something he can use; in addition to the procedure I gave him my time estimates and hourly rates beforehand. This only became a problem the moment he actually had to pay for completed work. Allow me to iterate; a fortune. Literally, he uses those words; "Een vermogen". Minimum wage. Aw yeah, I be ballin' with my €10 an hour!
"It clearly describes what X wanted to see. I'm sorry but I think your work method is kind of too vague. If I let you make the sketches I'll lose a fortune before I see anything that looks anything like what I want. I don't think that can be the plan. If you included what I wanted to see a la, but this isn't the intention."
As a side note I should indicate that he dropped all civilized pretense, as well as his ability to capitalize, punctuate and spell (I'm fixing this in the translation for legibility's sake), giving the impression he can't be bothered with it anymore. I know how he feels, so I give him an ultimatum, pay or lose any claim to the work.
"We can do 2 things:
- You pay me and you can use the sketches and designs, if anything to give to another designer to finalize the work.
- You don't pay and I will sell the designs to a third part to compensate for my financial damages and you cannot use the sketches; so you can't pass them on to another designer without infringing on my copyright."
He takes a few days to respond.
"go ahead and sell them. i can't use them and will never use them"
So, he had all my info ahead of time, knew what he was getting into and is not backing out of payment for work he commissioned and has already been completed; breach of contract.
I inform him I will be letting my colleagues (hi guys!) know about him since you know.. Whether or not I manage to mitigate my financial damage, he's still breaking his contract and likely to do it to the next person as well.
"Okay, I'll my colleagues know that you break your contracts.
Good luck (with your future endeavors)!"
This, perhaps predictably, leads to further deterioration in his ability to communicate like a professional.
"My god, you are such a vengeful type. I'll tell your colleagues that you (read Gear IT) simply don't deliver what is asked for and that YOU are really (and easily provable) not delivering on your obligations. THAT my dear is actually the real problem. I ask A but get B. Think about that and stop (zeiken, crude Dutch for taking a piss; bitching, moaning, whining, carrying on etc.) pissing on about it, toddler"
I iterate, Gear IT is my husband's IT company, we just sent the bill under that name because it was more convenient at the time; I didn't have a PDF and was too busy to make one, but the bill was specified and obviously from me, this is was not in dispute (just that he had to pay it).
I correct him since well, Hiryu doesn't do illustration and design, he does hosting (sites, Minecraft servers etc.), security, domain registration and so forth. So if he wants to complain about the right person (i.e. probably lie his pants off) he should complain about Spirit Link Studio.
"- Not Gear IT, Spirit Link Studio.
- Be sure to present all your "evidence", k? :D"
Further breakdown in communication and him not understanding simple things.
"So why do you send bills with Gear IT on it. I added it just in case you forgot. Fucking (fokkin = Dutch white trash way of saying "fucking") vague as far as I'm concerned.
Read your mails there's enough evidence that you don't deliver on your promises.
I've had enough of this stupid pissing on. I'm going to stop replying."
I explain simple things with small words.
"Because it was easier at the time.
Good luck (with your future endeavors)! :D"
True to his word, he has yet to reply. But it's only been a day or two and sometimes he takes a week to respond, so there might be more swindling man-child rage to update with later.
So uh, in short; don't work for this guy. He only likes your designs until the first bill shows up, then things quickly deteriorate into ignorance, lies and cussing.
In a related note, if anyone wants to buy a frog adoptable, I have some available here :D
Edit: Thanks for the input guys!
Yeah there might have been a miscommunication, the "customer" was vague and told me to draw another 10 sketches "kinda like X". Had he gone "Oh that's not what I meant, I meant Y." the miscommunication could have been dealt with in a civil and mature manner. It wouldn't have been a problem. Unfortunately he immediately broke the contract by pulling out without paying, not to mention the condescending attitude and crass language.
I managed to stay civil even after he said he wasn't going to pay for my time, so I don't understand his outbursts at all. In years of doing commissions, he is only the second unhappy customer I've ever had, and it's due to his own lack of patience, understanding and basic manners.
I'll probably stay away from similar contracts for the time being, because they cost more time and aggravation than they're worth (especially when you're not being paid) and if I do take a design contract, I'll make them pay part up front like with normal commissions.
Lesson learned, I'm moving on to my paying customers ;P