Blog . The Biggest Mistakes I've Made Working for a Client and How to Avoid Them
I've worked with all different kinds of people doing different things, mostly animation and video work. Recently I've been making physical sculptures for clients. The majority of my experiences are awesome, I've made so many friends creating artwork and it's the greatest feeling in the world to see something I made make someone happy. I encountered some tough situations that could have been navigated better with prior experience. Everybody will have those moments in their career and this is not to scare you, only to remind you that human beings make mistakes and I hope it will be helpful to share some of my "oops" moments in case you find yourself in a similar situation. Make a mental note of my stories, and keep Murphy's law in the back of your head. "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."
I was shooting video for an anniversary, my first experience in videography. I had recently purchased my new baby, the Canon Mark II and was stoked to capture with it. I rented a shotgun mic to get clear audio when the guests congratulated the couple on tape. The microphone was supposed to be loaded and ready to go with batteries, but it wasn't. I didnt realize this until after arriving on scene so I had to completely improvise the audio, editing the clips to a song instead. Always check to make sure your equipment has batteries, and bring extras. Do not rely on equipment rental places to be on top of things. Halfway through the event, I saw the dreaded "battery low." My battery ran out of juice. I was horrified and battery-less because I didn't bring an extra. My inexperience with my new camera lead me to overestimate the battery life. I quickly learned to bring an extra battery and memory card for every job.
I was contacted to make a short animation for a fellow artist. I took the job the summer before my senior year at CIA to make some quick money for rent. It wasn't quick, the job ended up lasting all summer long and even into my first semester because the client wanted so many changes. No matter how good of an artist you are, you will encounter this type of person. It is very important to write a detailed contract including how many revisions can be made until the client starts paying for your extra time. That way, you don't get stuck making tons of revisions and grinding your teeth because you'd rather get paid than not at all.
Decide with your client what the output size and ratio will be and include that in the contract. If the client needs different sizes for different uses, for example a YouTube formatted version and an iPad formatted version, charge for both. Never give away an uncompressed file. If the client asks for your PSD files, AE files, whatever program you are using draw the line and say no. I have had to say no to this scenario, my client wasn't happy but grudgingly gave in. I wish I had talked to the client and made it understood that my project files are not part of the package beforehand. You are giving away opportunities to make money and also making yourself vulnerable to the client making derivatives of your artwork. The master file is yours to guard and protect, save forever to go back to if different formats are needed.
This seems obvious, but you may find yourself being asked by a family member or friend to help them design a website for their business, or design invitations for a friend's wedding. I've heard it numerous times from my professors at CIA, to make a contract even if you're working for your aunt Sally. Don't let anyone sweet talk you out of making a contract. Let friends and family know that it is not a matter of distrust, you just want to get into the good habit of making contracts for job prospects. I was contacted by a friend I went to school with for some digital painting work and was persuaded out of a contract even though my professors' warnings echoed through my head. Guess what happened, I did the work, my friend changed their mind, and I didn't get paid. Lesson learned.
This tip will be more useful for those in jewelry or other craft majors. I design sculptures and sell on Etsy and have been offered many wholesale opportunities in the short time my shop has been up and running. It's so exciting getting the first offer, but don't jump on it just yet. Do your research on wholesale first! You may end up deciding that due to the amount of time you spend making each item that consignment might be a better fit for you. There's a difference between wholesale and consignment. Wholesale is selling in bulk at 50% off what you normally do, while consignment is "selling" for a smaller percentage. Notice I put "selling" in quotes because to be able to offer items at a smaller percentage the retailer must be able to sell your items otherwise return them to you. Wholesale is a great opportunity for many craft artists, before diving into it know your stuff! Etsy has an amazing Tools For Success blog post on how to approach wholesale.
If you have a job while attending college, you probably already raided the mailbox for your W-2. When accepting work from clients, it is important to get a receipt for the work done and to get into a habit of saving all reciepts for supplies purchased or even internet usage for work done on the computer. I wish I started doing this earlier. The more money you spend on supplies and utilities, the more money you can get back at the end of the year if a good record is kept. Not to mention if freelance work ends up being the only source of income, practicing with a few jobs here and there can prepare you in the long run. With my sales on Etsy, I can deduct Paypal fees and postage costs.