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  1. #1
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    Prelim sketches before payment

    Hi everyone.

    It's kind of embarrassing asking this. I just started freelancing recently. Occasionally private clients who want once off designs for tattoos and t-shirts email me saying they like my portfolio/art and want me to do prelim sketches of their design before they award payment and wait for me to hand in the colour final version. (For all small jobs I ask for full payment up front)

    It's been my policy so far to politely refuse the request. If the client advertised asking for sketches right off the bat to decide who gets the job, that would be different. (I don't respond to those ads) But a lot of these requests come from people who want to see my work and then after looking, ask if they can have sketches of their idea before they decide to give me the job.

    At the stage where I'm still picking up smaller jobs, what would be the best response? Is it paranoid/egotistical to think they would take one of my sketches somewhere else? Am I shooting myself in the foot by declining them?


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    I wouldn't put pencil to paper without some cash.
    My usual policy is 50% down (non-refundable) and 50% after completion. And they don't get the high rez artwork until that remaining 50% is paid out.

    Of course, that is "usual policy" and sometimes I let things go at my discretion and that's when I get burned sometimes. I have found that even when everything looks to be on the up and up if someone can get something out of you nothing, no matter how nice they seem, they will screw you over in a heartbeat.

    They may not take those sketches and do something with them, but they might use several artists' time to decide what they even want and then go with someone else.

    Don't do a think until you get money and contract. If they don't have faith enough in you to do that, then all I can say is make your portfolio stronger so they can't help but have confidence.

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    It's really up to you. You have to balance the time it takes to create these sketches, how much visual info you're actually giving them for free that they can "steal" and run with, and how much you trust them.

    If it's for something like a logo, chances are that they (like most people) can work popular graphics programs, take your sketches and use them without paying. If it's for something like a realistic cover illustration, the skillset needed to realize that is fairly rare and so it's less likely they'll take your quick sketch and "steal" it.

    I wouldn't accept some type of compensation any later than "upon approval of rough sketches" unless I know the client/worked with them for a bit. Or at least I won't anymore...

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    Don't deliver anything unless you've obtained (actually sitting there in your bank obtained) some sort of down-payment. You have to ask yourself why, if these people legitimately want to hire you, there are unwilling to do this. The answer is that either they never intended to pay you anyway or they don't really know what they're doing. Either way you don't want to get involved. Genuine clients will be only too happy to secure your services with a downpayment. And important - make sure all of this is written down in a contract and both parties have signed before doing anything whatsoever.

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    Thanks for taking the time guys, I really respect your opinions and you helped confirm what I was thinking.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty View Post
    If they don't have faith enough in you to do that, then all I can say is make your portfolio stronger so they can't help but have confidence.
    Agreed. Very motivating!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty View Post
    Don't do a thing until you get money and contract. If they don't have faith enough in you to do that, then all I can say is make your portfolio stronger so they can't help but have confidence.
    This is the most prized line. Free pitching is a condomless romp through a crackhead orgy bro. Presenting a strong portfolio and/or having a strong reputation for getting the job done right, efficient, and on time usually weeds the "back-end payment" clients from the serious ones.
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  12. #7
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    Why donŽt you just take a small fee for the sketches? If the client wants to see sketches before deciding, tell him that heŽll have to pay a small fee and if he likes what he sees he has to pay full price. I donŽt know man, just an idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackARK View Post
    This is the most prized line.
    Definitely!

    Quote Originally Posted by OHI View Post
    Why donŽt you just take a small fee for the sketches? If the client wants to see sketches before deciding, tell him that heŽll have to pay a small fee and if he likes what he sees he has to pay full price. I donŽt know man, just an idea.
    I also played around with that idea actually. I'm glad someone else thought about it as well. I think I'm going to just carry on boosting my portfolio so that genuinely interested clients will decide on the spot that I'm the guy for the job.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OHI View Post
    Why donŽt you just take a small fee for the sketches? If the client wants to see sketches before deciding, tell him that heŽll have to pay a small fee and if he likes what he sees he has to pay full price. I donŽt know man, just an idea.
    I did this once. The client got back to me and was shocked, and compared it to X-factor auditionees getting paid to audition. I didn't speak to him after that.

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    You don't have to do sketches unless they compensate you for your time,
    if they want to see what you can do, that is what your portfolio is for.
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    Quote Originally Posted by B u r l View Post
    I did this once. The client got back to me and was shocked, and compared it to X-factor auditionees getting paid to audition. I didn't speak to him after that.
    Having a look at your portfolio is free, this is the equivalent of a audition/casting.
    Drawing a free picture for every interested client, that would be nuts.
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    Thanks guys, I had a feeling that I was doing the right thing by -not- doing preliminary sketches. I felt dumb that I had to ask but you all have been pretty helpful and confirmed a lot of what I was thinking already.





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    What I sometimes do is ask for a payment after I've delivered thumbnails and before the sketch stage. That way the client feels like they're getting something tangible for their money and, in the event they don't pay, you've only lost an hour's work or thereabouts. Trouble is, if you ask for a pre-sketch, post-sketch and final payment then, if your bank is anything like mine, they will flip you over and pound you in the ass for every payment instance. On top of that, the client's bank may demand a fee from the client simply for making payment. If you use Paypal you won't get this but on the other hand you're not protected from chargebacks for digital delivery, so unless you're sure of your client you're taking a big risk if you use Paypal. So I guess the upshot of my waffling is that if you split your fee you may end up paying more in bank charges for multiple payments but you're at less risk from dodgy clients failing to pay.

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  23. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty View Post
    I wouldn't put pencil to paper without some cash.
    My usual policy is 50% down (non-refundable) and 50% after completion. And they don't get the high rez artwork until that remaining 50% is paid out.
    I do the same thing. Also, get them to sign a proper contract-- I find that puts an extra fear of god into people.
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    I totally agree that you shouldn't do anything without at least the promise of payment. Doing artwork to see if the buyer wants to use you is call "on-spec" and should generally be avoided. If you're drawing then you're doing work for that client and there's no reason they shouldn't pay for it.

    Quick question about contracts: Do you guys mail out a physical contract to be signed and mailed back? Doesn't that take up an awful lot of time?
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickTrip View Post
    Quick question about contracts: Do you guys mail out a physical contract to be signed and mailed back? Doesn't that take up an awful lot of time?
    Initially make yourself a contract- include blank spaces for dates, client, contractor and amount to be paid and payment schedule.
    Fill in the blanks for each specific contract.

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  28. #17
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    I used to have a similar policy of making preliminary sketches before invoicing the payment. After I had been ripped off by two clients who had the sketches made and simply left, ignoring the agreement, I changed the policy.

    Now I require a safety deposit of $100 from private clients with whom I work on verbal agreement basis. I don't start working until I have the money. This deposit counts towards the final cost of commission, but is not refundable in case the client walks away. Has worked like charm to ward off freebie seekers, too.

    So either require written contract, or use the safety deposit method.

    If the client begins to protest that they want to check if you do a good job for them, point out that 1) your agreement can include revisions made to client's specification, so if they aren't happy you'll fix whatever they don't like; and/or 2) your portfolio represents your style and ability, so you don't have to prove anything to them - if they like what they see in your portfolio, then they must expect you to do a similarly good job for them as well.

    If a client does not get reasonable and insists on a "trial" after that, they are most likely a scammer. I've tried to follow through with several would-be clients who attempted to pull this schtick on me, and they invariably disappeared once they realized I won't do anything without a payment, just like that. Real paying clients haven't been fazed either by the deposit, or by the sketch made *after* they proved their intent to pay. So now I assume that most of those "trial sketch" guys are scammers.

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    This is really useful I've started to get more commissions for caricatures and a contract is overkill for one offs and I always feel cheeky asking for money up front but the 50% deposit sounds like a good compromise.

    It's true though, if someone can get something for free they will, even where I work they expected me to do 10 'quick' cartoons of people for a poster, I turned them down, they weren't willing to pay me and wouldn't let me do it during work hours.

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    Yes, I've been thinking a lot about the 50% deal since I started this thread. It does have a lot of things going for it, personally for small jobs its a real incentive to do great work and get it out there in good time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angel Intheuk View Post
    This is really useful I've started to get more commissions for caricatures and a contract is overkill for one offs...
    ALWAYS use a contract.

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    I've learned time and time again that if they don't show you the money up front then they are not serious.

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    Great advice in this thread. With time, you can start to tell which clients are serious about hiring you. More than likely if they won't sign a contract or pay you half upfront before you start working they aren't serious. Your "portfolio" is all they need to see.

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