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Responding to "freeloaders"

I'm sure many of us have experience with this issue, and I'd like to get some input.

I get a lot of inquiries from people about helping them with logos, drawings, custom products, ect. And quite often, I get a blank face and "you're going to charge me?" or "you can't do this for free? It won't take long", when I bring up my rates. What's the best way to explain to someone that this is a business, and that time/effort/supplies do not come for free?

I really don't know how to confront this anymore, as people don't seem to understand when I explain the previous to them. And even if I don't have outstanding work, that doesn't mean that my free time should be used for an unpaid job either. I've invested hundreds of dollars in my Adobe bundle, camera equipment, art supplies, ect. I don't break even on those by giving out free art.

Also, in regards to contracts: I've decided to require a contract, or an email stating the expectations of the project for everyone, including friends. If you have any personal experiences working with friends, or how you did your contract, I'd really like to hear them.
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( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 24th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
"What's the best way to explain to someone that this is a business, and that time/effort/supplies do not come for free?"
I think you answered this yourself. I'd just say that "I do this as a business and my time and effort does not come free". If they can't grasp that, I don't think you're required to try to explain it or continue the dialog, just end it politely. At best you could do a comparison that they understand, like "would you do your work free".

If they originally thought they'd get free work out of you, they're not likely to shell out any money no matter how hard you try to educate them and if this is a common issue, you could use the time to do better things.

Of course there's things like "should I work for free" chart and "what if all businesses were expected to work free" floating around the internet, which might work as rebuttals if linked but I'd avoid them.

Edited at 2013-07-24 10:02 pm (UTC)
Jul. 25th, 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
See, I try that. And it seems to always be a conversation that goes in one ear, and out the other. With one friend, they wanted a full sleeve drawn up. When I quoted them, they disregarded everything I said, and said I would be getting "free advertising".

I like your "would you work for free" comment a lot. I think that's a good way to give people some perspective when they're asking me to spend hours and my supplies on their project.
(no subject) - epiceternity - Jul. 25th, 2013 11:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
Very simply put, explain that you want to make a regular wage just like everyone else on the planet. It's not terribly difficult to do when put in that sort of context. It's just part of being a freelancer, as many folks take artists for granted. Just have to politely educate them on it, as it's usually just ignorance of the subject.

Or simply say "Sorry, I don't have time for non-paying work right now! Thanks for the interest!" and leave it at that.

As far as contracts, there's lots of information about how to draw up a professional contract, in fact so much that I'm sure there's some here in the AB tags if you look!
Jul. 25th, 2013 04:32 am (UTC)
be careful with the use of "right now", though. it implies that non-paying work is something that you do, and might think if they ask again later you may have time
(no subject) - neolucky - Jul. 25th, 2013 05:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 25th, 2013 02:27 am (UTC)
Unfortunately there's no block button for real life conversations. I wish it was that simple. :(
But that seems to be a good way to address it. Short, sweet, and to the point.
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
I would respond with "What would you say to someone who wants to hire you for a real job with absolutely no pay?" Honestly, if telling them you don't do work for free doesn't get it through their heads, I don't think any other response would as most responses are variants of each other.
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
I'd use HollyAnn's "If Furry Artists were Vending Machines" to respond to freeloaders.
Jul. 25th, 2013 05:11 am (UTC)
I love that one!
Jul. 24th, 2013 10:54 pm (UTC)
If it's an email interaction, I'd just... not reply if they ask you to work for free. I am kind of an "explainer", I used to like to explain why I can't work for free, why my prices are what they are, etc, but I've found that is a waste of time and invites arguments and pleading.
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC)
Really glad this showed up as it's been on my mind as well.. I'm not active in the furry community but I do many anime/cosplay drawings, tattoo designs and the like and have been approached about some to be used. Although it is my hobby for me it's a main source of income to alot of people. Even as a hobby art supplies are expensive and I never seem to get people to understand that not only is it my time but my supplies being put into the work.
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
I really really enjoy making gift art and requests, however, if I do this on an "all request" basis then I would be flooded and it would bring stress to my personal and commissioned work. I solved this by putting up a list, where anyone can write their name and write/link a reference, and I draw them in the order they wrote themselves up in. This list have two rules - I will draw from the list when I have time/feel like it, and there are no guarantee it will be exactly as requested, as I require some artistic liberty with free work.

The reason I bring this up, is so if someone wants something for free I can refer them to the list and say I will eventually get to them, or they can pay for a regular commission, since paid work gets top priority and is done exactly is described.

I feel this isn't rude, but still firm. Then again, this might work very well for me, and not so well for others :)
Jul. 24th, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
I personally wouldn't waste my time trying to convince anyone who seemed reluctant to pay an artist for their time. The kind of client who thinks that somehow art-related work should be free probably has other unprofessional opinions and habits that would make them a pain in the butt client, so you are just dodging a bullet, really. There are many other potential clients out there who already get it and don't need convincing, so focus on them. For all inquiries, I have a standard sort of reply that briefly outlines the process of getting on my commissions queue, including the fact that I provide a price quote at the start and that roughly half the final price is required as a non-refundable deposit at the start, to lock in their place in the queue. If they replied asking for a discount or free art, at most I would just say my rates/deposit are not negotiable and wish them a nice day.

And your friends should understand why its important for you to be paid for your time. If you decide of your own volition to make them free art, that's your prerogative, but no friend should *expect* free art just because they know you.
Jul. 25th, 2013 12:01 am (UTC)
I agree with what the other people said re: those individuals who don't get that you can't do work for free. Some people honestly don't know and a bit of education for them can go a long way, others will argue with you about it and you probably don't want to work for those types anyway.

As to working for friends (or family members, for that matter), honestly I usually avoid it. If I do work, it's as a gift. And I do gifts infrequently enough that my friends/family understand that when I do decide to do a gift, it's a big deal. (Also I'm lucky, my entire immediate family is made of artists of various sorts, so we're all well aware of exactly what kind of time, effort, and materials art takes and how obnoxious it is to be nagged for free stuff.)

That being said, if you decide to work for friends, treat it exactly as you would work for a stranger. Make it clear from the beginning that they are not an exception to your business rules--you don't have to be rude about it, but if you don't stand your ground on your business terms it is very, very easy for things to turn bad between friends. Which is why I usually avoid it, I'd rather do infrequent gifts and keep my friends than accidentally have a business deal go bad and lose friends.
Jul. 25th, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
If someone messages me wanting free or discounted work, I just ignore them. If they're persistent, I block them. I already have it outlined in my FAQ page in detail why I will not work for free. It's not my problem if they can't be bothered to take the time to read and comprehend my policies prior to contacting me.

Very few people in real life even know that I am an artist. Situations like this are EXACTLY why I am selective about who I will share my work with in real life. If they don't know what I do, then they can't bug me for free work.

The next time someone approaches you for free work, ask them, "Would YOU do your job for free?". If they still don't get it after that, they are not worth any more of your time.

Jul. 25th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
I respond to a lot of emails with "No, sorry." Simple and it doesn't invite them to argue with you if you don't list reasons. I used to try and explain things when I declined them (wholesale requests, quantity discounts, bloggers trying to get free stuff, etc) but it took up a lot of my time.

I do my best to actually respond though, even if it's just those two words. I feel like purposefully ignoring emails/notes/etc isn't the best option. Who knows if they'll be paying customers later? Best not to turn them off completely by ignoring them.
Jul. 25th, 2013 06:01 am (UTC)
"What's the best way to explain to someone that this is a business, and that time/effort/supplies do not come for free?"

Tell them that directly, although it doesn't seem like that is working in this case.

Depending on your client (if you know him personally this may work, but if it's a professional type of situation, a simple "I do not do speculative/free work, I'm sorry, but I can not take your request." would do. Then ignore if it continues. It would be very unprofessional if they continued to contact you after "no." No matter what he comes back with, ignore it.)

Otherwise, compare it to a computer repair man or a car repair man. Most people can relate to this in some form or another.

When a computer (or car) goes down, most people will call or hire a computer technician to check it out. Then ask them "so when he's done fixing the computer, do you not pay him, because he got into the computer fixing business because he likes and enjoys computers?" or "So you tell him that his payment is that you will show other people the computer that he fixed?"

The problem is that these people see it as a hobby, not something that you do as a service. If you fix computers, then most likely you will fix your own when it's broken. If not, then there's a guy you call on to do it for you because you can't do it yourself. If your company needs a logo to make their company look attractive or art work on a dry article about economics so people don't die from boredom before the end of it, since they can't draw it themselves, they HIRE a person who PROVIDES A SERVICE of drawing the art. If you want a painting on your wall, or of your ideas, and can't draw them yourself? Hire a person who provides that SERVICE.

I find a lot of people will back off or sometime even apologize if you do explain it like that to them. For the ones who won't... they aren't a good person to be working for or with anyways. You aren't loosing much business wise from refusing to do their work.

(Sorry for the text wall, but man this topic ruffles my feathers!)
Jul. 25th, 2013 07:31 am (UTC)
"What's the best way to explain to someone that this is a business, and that time/effort/supplies do not come for free?"

Because you have bills to pay and this is your job, the electric company, the phone bills, water and waste, mortgage; none of these companies will accept "You can't provide me your services for free? It won't take long!" as payment.
You don't have time to do handouts because you need to work for paying customers to make ends meet. And odds are, the person asking you doesn't work for free either, they expect a paycheck at the end of the month. If at the end of a month of work their boss told them "Oh you didn't do that for free?" they'd be super pissed and up shit creek without a paddle because they can't pay their bills.
To ask that of you is incredibly presumptuous.

So in short, why don't you work for free? Because you have bills to pay and this is your job. And they also get paid for their job; asking you to do otherwise is a dick move.

As for working with friends, I have a fairly clear TOS and make them read it. I've done logos and we discuss the terms beforehand. I've not had any issues yet, knock on wood.
Jul. 25th, 2013 08:27 am (UTC)
When I run into people insisting I do free work for them, I usually just tell them that the time used on their free project is time I have reserved for jobs that pay my bills, so if they want my attention, they need to show me the money. It may make me seem greedy or petty or whatnot in their eyes, but I don't really care because I know why I deserve to be paid and if they can't see that, it's not my problem.

So my advice would be to simply stay polite, but firm and don't get baited into arguing about it. Many times these people do realize why they should pay you, they just don't want to, so they'll disregard everything you say no matter how reasonable your arguments are.
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