9 Warning Signs: Bad Clients

thundercake's avatar
By thundercake   |   Watch
266 69 10K (1 Today)
Published: March 17, 2009
This is a couple warning signs to help you guys avoid people who are not going to pay you well and who might try to take advantage of you. These people lurk on deviantART to find new talent, assuming you are young and inexperienced and will naively accept crappy jobs. Don't fall for it!

1. They ask for speculative work.

Phrases like "see what you can do" and "find out if you're a good fit" are big red flags. Don't ever do free work for someone who is offering to hire you. Nine times out of ten hey will take the work and use it and never offer you a job. This is almost always a scam. Just say "I have examples of ____ in my gallery". (you should have examples up of every style you can do.) Don't even do SKETCHES for the guy until you've signed something or gotten some money.

2. They offer to pay you in advertising or give you the "honor of seeing your work in print".

It is an honor for THEM to be able to print your art, not the other way around. Seeing your work in print is nice, of course, but if it's not a good publication you're not going to want it on your resume anyway. Don't take payment in advertising either, unless you know the site has a high amount of traffic; most of the time it's not going to pay off.

3. They say "I found your work on deviantart and I thought you'd be perfect".

This is a warning sign, not necessarily a deal-breaker, but watch out for this phrase. To outsiders, dA tends to mean a big collection of naive artists who will work for little pay. Don't accept anything less than what you're worth, and if you're good enough to get offered a job you're good enough to get paid a fair wage.

4. They try to haggle with your hourly rate by claiming they don't pay any of their artists that much.

This is a completely BS tactic. Don't buy any baloney about how they don't pay their other artists that much; even if it's true, it doesn't matter. YOUR work costs as much as YOU price it, period. Don't let some random guy tell you how much your time is worth, especially since he's biased in the first place.

Once you've gotten your hourly rate, STICK WITH IT. Never go down, only go up, because it's ten times harder to go up again once you've gone down.

5. They don't want to sign a contract.

If they ever refuse to sign your contract, especially without reading it, or if they say "let's not bother with formalities", hit the road immediately. They are guaranteed to screw you over.

And yes, you should have a contract if you're doing commission work, even if you only use it for the big jobs.

6. If you're not using a contract, they don't want to put any money down.

It's standard for artists to ask for at least some money up front if no contract is involved, if not the whole sum. Don't buy their concerns that you will disappear with the cash. YOUR reputation is on the line, not your client's. If we disappeared with the money, do you think anyone would ever buy from us again? But clients disappear without paying us all the time, and we have little legal recourse against them if there was no contract. Get some money up front and don't send the full file until you've been fully paid.

7. They address you by your username.

I don't know why exactly, but this has always been a warning sign for me. You should have your real name up on your site if you're doing business. If they don't even bother looking for it, there's a good chance that they're going to be a crappy customer.

8. They want to pay you by the week or the month instead of the hour.

This is just code for "we're going to unload a crapload of work onto you and pay you peanuts for it, and then fire you." Your pay should reflect the time you put in, not a flat rate.

9. They won't talk to you on the phone or give out their real name.

Granted, there are a couple legit reasons why some people can't talk on the phone (language barrier, for example) but if they "just don't want to give out our number to someone online", they're going to scam you. If they don't trust you enough to give out their phone number, why should you trust them? Not giving out a phone number means they can disappear entirely. Never operate with just an email address.

And if they don't give you their real name and company info, they're a faker. Run like the wind.
© 2009 - 2019 thundercake
This is another journal of mine that people wanted to save for later. Hope it helps.

Edit: sorry for the first file, this system is confusing.
anonymous's avatar
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Muklins-Art's avatar
Muklins-ArtHobbyist Digital Artist
I know enough artists that think it's great advertisement to sell their work hyper-cheap. :(

It's hard to find customers that really are interested. It's even harder to find customers that are willing to pay an adequate price. I decided to sell my digital work under different licenses, so that I'm interesting even for misers or people that really don't have that much money.

The less the customer wants to pay per hour, the more rights I keep and the less rights the customer get. These are barriers; no matter how big or small a commission is, I don't sell it cheaper than the smallest licence and I won't sell it more expensive than the adequade price. 
My prices are either 5€/hour, 10€/hour or 18€/hour
If you consider that 8,50€ is the minumum wage of an employee in Germany, I think the different prices are okay. The 5€/hour license is not always avialable.
Oh, this sounds like an advertisement-comment. Blush 
I just wanted to share my price-strategy.
I get too rarely commission-offers; most people don't like my style. I'm okay with that, but I also stopped trying to get commissions. (But I'm still open for offers :iggle: )
ZRandomAnimations's avatar
ZRandomAnimationsHobbyist General Artist
Wow. this is totally what I need. Its a shame how people think designers are not worth anything. They like our work but never want to pay ever. This must be favored.
Jra-Art's avatar
couldn't of said it at all better!
Dragonda's avatar
DragondaProfessional General Artist
Excellent text! Thank you! :)
GinsengLag's avatar
Thanks for putting this as a deviation. I will +fav!
Mondai-Guujin-chan's avatar
If I could I would sticky this. Not for the sake of my own work but for those who's work represents their lifes work and possible source of income.

Unfortunately not enough deviants read the forums these days to make it noticable.

Have you tried sending this to a dev to get put out in the next news letter or in one of its own entirely?

Good post by the way, good advice =)
WritingRin's avatar
WritingRinHobbyist Digital Artist
I do #3. I guess I can see how that could sometimes be a bad thing. But sometimes that IS the way it goes. Sometimes for a commission I have to look for a certain style and I may not have someone on my watch list already that has that style (or that's available). So I search DA until I find someone.

And as for #7... The thought of someone commissioning me and including my real name in the message creeps me out. Even if I provided it on my userpage (can't remember if I have or not...) I don't feel like they have the right to use my name if I haven't introduced myself. It just seems really rude. I certainly don't do it to anyone I commision from. And actually, it makes me think of all the spam emails I've gotten over the years that are trying too hard to sound professional and using my name in them, or fans that call their idols by their first names or nicknames trying to seem close to them. Like I said, creepy.

Anyway, this article doesn't come across as "my word is law" or anything so I don't have a problem with what you put--opinions can't be wrong after all. :) I just wanted to put in my two cents as well.
thundercake's avatar
thundercakeProfessional Digital Artist
How is it rude to address someone by their name? And how would you get paid if they didn't know it?
WritingRin's avatar
WritingRinHobbyist Digital Artist
Oh, shoot. Immediately before reading this I read something else about commissioning and so when I read this post I was thinking about the 'clients' that contact artists to get them to draw their characters, etc. (in which case, you get paid through paypal and all they need to know is your email, not your name). But re-reading, I realize you were talking about real jobs and that changes things. Sorry about that mistake.

As for what I meant by the rudeness... It's just that I would hate for a random person that I don't know (like a commissioner--not someone looking to hire me for real) to call me by my name rather than my username. I think it's presumptuous of them. They need to introduce themselves first. If they did that I wouldn't think it was rude anymore. It's just that strangers are not allowed to get friendly with me.
thundercake's avatar
thundercakeProfessional Digital Artist
I tend to view all clients on the same level.. it can help your reputation to treat even the smallest jobs like they're important. I've gotten bigger jobs from previously small-time clients before. (Also, if you send or receive money on paypal, you can find out the other person's name by looking through their records.)
WritingRin's avatar
WritingRinHobbyist Digital Artist
Well, that is a good attitude to have. :)

I don't mind people knowing my name, I just don't want them to use it until we've been officially introduced. And I guess I'm overly sensitive about it. ^^"
WritingRin's avatar
WritingRinHobbyist Digital Artist
Also, I DO think it's a good guide. I'm sure it will provide some help in ferreting out the bad ones!
oGuttermoutho's avatar
oGuttermouthoProfessional Digital Artist
Good advice. I'll be graduation from animation this year here at Sheridan so I have to start myself into the job market somehow, somewhere... and i've always been worried about being taken advantage of. I know a lot of companies, big and small will usually try and take advantage of you... artists as such don't usually get what they deserve :P

Thanks for the tips :)
connorjuv13's avatar
This is really helpful! Thanks! :D
worldofmyown's avatar
i think this is helpful not only to the artist holding commissions, but the commissioners too. Thank you.
xxAlexaBlack's avatar
xxAlexaBlackProfessional General Artist
HOORAY!!! Everyone and their mother needs to see this! Especially if the do any kind of commission or freelance.
flutist's avatar
flutistProfessional General Artist
signed contract can be a problem for both of us (the client and the artist) whose don't speak english, beside it will be "scanned.."

Other way is to ask for their scanned ID and 50% downpayment. This is not very formal, so there's no reason for them to refuse.
djgaijin's avatar
This should really be a news item.
goldenavatar's avatar
I can read that what you're sharing here is some solid advice for others, but the choice of words are just too aggressive and don't very easily lend themselves to be perceived as lacking in personal hostility. That could be potentially problematic as there are legitimate prospective employers who stroll about deviantart to recruit for projects, just as there are those here to defraud artists of their time and services.
thundercake's avatar
thundercakeProfessional Digital Artist
Damn right I have personal hostility towards people who have screwed me over.
goldenavatar's avatar
That's understandable. Thing is, and let me rephrase what I said earlier. Though you're giving some solid advice I can clearly read that you've got issues. Given how you've voiced them here, that may not be for the best, especially when you consider that there are legitimate prospective clients about here on DA who could pass you over for a project, not because of a lack of skill on your part, but that you might not be the most professional person to deal with, and that might not be for the best if being an artist is how you support yourself.
thundercake's avatar
thundercakeProfessional Digital Artist
I don't really want to do business with anyone who wouldn't agree wholeheartedly with everything I've written here. Please don't come to my page and call me unprofessional and say I have "issues", especially when you've never worked with me and have no idea how I conduct myself in a professional setting. No, I'm not formal every second of every day, but this is tame in comparison to some of the things I've read on this subject by professional, highly-paid and established artists.
LeftiesRevenge's avatar
This is extremely helpful! Thank you so much for posting this!
andrea-koupal's avatar
Thanks for writing this.
anonymous's avatar
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