Just A Professional Thought

This is an old post I’d put somewhere else, and I felt the information might be a point of professionalism so I’m putting it here. Edited. A little.

So yes, I’ve got some things published and available through Barnes and Amazon. I do more than create e-book covers for other people and make comics. Overall when it comes to making a living, I’m doing things I’d been taught and trained to do since I was a child, and I like what I do – which makes me luckier than most. I just… don’t make much of a living at it.. ha ha… anyway.

A repeat client contracted me to do a bit of work for him. He had a mixed history with me: he paid well on some accounts and not at all on others. The circumstances with the previous nonpayments were unusual so I gave him one more chance. After a month, I still had not been paid. Not it’s been six months. I’ve gotten emails promising payment. Pestilence found record of this client stealing my artwork, claiming someone else had done it, and gathering quite a pretty penny with donations on Indigogo. But I’m still minus my payment, which I’d take in installments of $5.

The long story short, I wasn’t sure what to do so I took my problem to a public forum to ask and was attacked, called unprofessional, and accused of various narsty things. What got me the most was the person who gave me a heated lecture about how I had to understand that the economy was bad and I should understand how hard it is for the poor, self-published author.

So. Out of this comes a bit of advice which I feel I’m pretty qualified to offer, being a poor author and supporting artist for poor authors. If you want to become either of the set, then consider this.

1. Professional means that.

Yes, deadlines are fierce. When you’re a self-published author you have to do the work of several people. You do your own marketing. In many cases you do your own editing, formatting, the works. In my case I even do my own illustrations and cover work.

And yes, the economy is terrible right now. Times are hard for everyone.

Just because times are hard does not mean a client has the right to steal my time and the sweat from my brow, no more than someone has the right to steal yours. This “professional” who came to me as a professional should professionally fulfill their end of the bargain.

If times are so hard a client can’t pay for services rendered, they should never enter into a professional contract. It’s as simple as that.

2. Protect your work.

Artists: use a watermark. If something about that client makes you uneasy, put “sample” in nice big letters across the image

Give work samples that are below the minimum size requirements. Many e-book places, as well as other e-publishing areas, have a minimum size in which they’ll accept artwork. So give your sample below that. They’re samples, not the final work, and the client shouldn’t complain if the picture is too small for them to use. They’re not supposed to be using it until they pay for the right to. They’re only looking at the image to ask for changes or approve it.

3. Require partial or full payment up front. Work with it.

This particular option is something I’m firm about when it comes to e-book formatting. I will take the job and insist on not getting paid until I’m done. When I’m done, I tell my client this and they pay me. Then and only then do I deliver their finished file. Ever since then I’ve only had my hard work stolen one more time, and that was by a client who had earned my trust. Well, she won’t be getting it twice!

This is one option a lot of clients get upset about. Some have been burned by this: they have paid in advance for work only to never get it. They’ve a right to feel that way. If that’s the case, then you can take Guru.com’s option: the money gets put into a special account to be released upon completed project. Clients who are leery of contracting for work that requires payment in advance can simply contract through a site like this, and have a level of protection.

Be willing to work with your client on payment or, if you’re the client, understand your freelancer probably has a family to feed. Okay, so the final bill is $200. That might be a bit much for the client: accept payments. Clients, if you’re driving your freelancer crazy with changes and it’s been three months into what should have been a simple project consider sending a little bit along. In the case of my thieving client, I’d take $5 a month even. It all would add up in the end, and the money all goes to the same place. He could then pay me, and I could buy ramen once in a while. It’s a win win situation.

4. Finally: Build a good reputation and remain communicative.

This is the hardest work both the client and the freelancer will have to do. Building a reputation means getting a client to trust you, or getting freelancers willing to back you. For freelancers, it means building a resume that displays a long history of completed, satisfied clients. It means being willing to start at the bottom and work your way up, as well as remembering to email your client at least every other day to tell them, “I’m working on it! I have this much left to go and I’ll be sending you a sample very soon!”

Nowadays a good deal of my clients are repeat customers because of that last, valuable bit of hard work. They know I’m out there, even when I fall deathly ill and can’t work for a month at a time. In some cases, they’re willing to wait for me. In exchange, they’ve built a good rapport with me so that I confidently can send them their finished piece in advance of payment. I know they’re good for it, or at least if there’s a delay they’ll tell me something.

And that’s all for today, folks. Until next time.