Freelancing question (being paid for concepts)

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fullmontis
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Freelancing question (being paid for concepts)

#1 Post by fullmontis » Wed Apr 17, 2019 7:34 pm

I'm a complete newbie when it comes freelance work, so keep this in mind while reading.

I had someone offer me work for an illustration. He said he'd pay me a flat fee for the illustration, half before and half at the end. All good this far. What seems strange to me, is that he doesn't have a specific idea to develop, and he's just expecting me to come up with a design on my own that he likes. And, here's the important part, he wants to pay the first half only when we've decided on a specific design to work on.

I've already completed a simple sketch and from his answer he's looking for something completely different, so it feels like it's going to be a while before we settle on something he likes. He's like, "let's brainstorm some ideas together". And to me it feels like I'm already doing work for him, but not getting paid for it.

Now, this isn't a huge job nor a big time investment, so this isn't really bothering me that much, but I was wondering if this is the norm or if he's taking advantage of my ignorance. At least so that I know how to act in the future if it happens again. Should I ask to get paid for the concept part too, or just do as he says?

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Re: Freelancing question (being paid for concepts)

#2 Post by somni » Wed Apr 17, 2019 9:02 pm

Clients to avoid #573: "I'll know it when I see it."

Unfortunately, you are already doing the design work for free.
Next time, take payment up front before submitting any art - simple sketch or not it takes effort to interpret someones ideas. The best clients will be prepared with a clear vision and are able to articulate the details but the majority will take some effort on your part to understand. Once you can agree on what the thing is supposed to be, then payment is usually what follows before you start drawing.

Unless you are paid by the hour, both of you going in completely blind and drawing whatever pops up is not how this works.
You should demand payment before doing anything else with that contract. Otherwise, just tell him to contact you when he's ready and be prepared to part ways.

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Re: Freelancing question (being paid for concepts)

#3 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:58 pm

Concept work is entirely different from illustration work. Concept work is much more time consuming - and yes, it should be charged for separately.

A client can be a little fuzzy on what they want for a concept, but they should have a fairly concrete idea for you to pursue - for example, "The character is an 18th century pirate in his mid-20s, mischievous and attractive to the ladies. I think he should be light-haired so he is visually different from pirates like Blackbeard and Jack Sparrow, and I want him to have an attractive scar visible somewhere. The world is mostly realistic to the time period, but not strictly so. He'll need a design with an overcoat for night and sailing, and a design with no coat for cabin scenes."

When contracting for concept work you also need to set limits - like "I will develop 10 different concept sketches based on the brief we discussed (that thing I wrote in the last paragraph might be an example of this - though the client should also provide more detail on the world setting). You'll pick one of those concepts that we will develop further. This includes up to three rounds of iterations on that concept to refine the idea. Once the final concept is agreed upon, I'll provide a color character concept sheet as the final product for you. If you change your mind after the three rounds of iterations or final concept sheet, there will be additional costs of X amount of money for each additional iteration."

Remind the client at each stage of where you are at in the process, for example "Here is the first iteration (out of the available three). Let me know of any and all changes you'd like me to make on the design - if any."

And like Somni said, it is always a completely valid option to say to a client that they need to think things over more before contacting you again. When I was doing corporate design work, I would sometimes have a client that would say, "Change this." Then another email or call 15 minutes later. "Hey, change this too." And then, 5 minutes later, another email. "I almost forget, I want to do this too." I would then tell them, "Hey, take 24 hours to look at the design and think about ALL the possible changes you want to do, because if I make these changes right now and you contact me again in 2 hours with more, you're going to get charged again. Slow down, take your time, and contact me with your final list of changes tomorrow." Sometimes they would say, "No, I'm sure. These are the only changes I want." And I would repeat for them, "OK. I'll make these changes right now if you want, but you do understand if you have any after this, you'll get charged $X dollars, right?" And if they said "Yes" I proceeded.

Manage your clients, don't let them manage you.

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Re: Freelancing question (being paid for concepts)

#4 Post by fullmontis » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:13 am

Thank you, somni and LateWhiteRabbit! You have no idea how useful your posts are to me right now.

Technically we don't have any contractual nor monetary obligation, just a verbal agreement, so I'll talk with him and see how it goes.

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Re: Freelancing question (being paid for concepts)

#5 Post by puppetbomb » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:43 pm

On top of LateWhiteRabbit and somni's excellent advice, I'd like to add that you can ask the client for a design document/references. In this case, it'll be concepts or images of characters that resonate with him, whether it's a character design or a character trait.

If you're starting completely from scratch, the first two sections of this character creation sheet can help get them started.

Something I'd also like to stress if things go south, is that you can always stop. You are not obligated to do anything without payment, and even with payment, you can still quit whenever you wish for whatever reason (though it's best to politely and professionally message them that you will be doing that).

You can say "I'm sorry but some things have come up and I won't have time to work on this project in the meantime (and add a few references to other resources or artists you would recommend)" or "thank you but I'm currently not available for concept work at the moment". You don't have to explain yourself or reveal anything in your private life, and these statements are true for that particular client.

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