Imagine going into a clothing store and walking out with a completely new wardrobe of clothes, without paying or saying anything to anyone. When the alarms of the store go off, the workers confront you and claim that you are stealing the clothes. You’re reply is “Well, I am going to wear these clothes for a while, and if I like them, then I might pay for them, but if not, then I will return them.” You would be arrested on the spot! They would lock you up and throw away the key.
Unfortunately, this happens every day in graphic design. It is called spec work. This is a thorn in the side of the very profession that we love so much. Some clients expect us to create a medley of designs, with no contract, and if they like something, then they will buy it, if not, then they send you on your way. The problem with this is that you just did work for nothing. This cheapens the work of the great designers out there, and make their work seem like it is worth much less. Word gets around and clients say things like” Well my nephew can do this for half the price that you want to charge me.” My reply is simply “Do you trust the branding and identity, the very future of your business and its existence, as well as its success or failure, to the hands of your nephew?” The room usually gets pretty quiet then.
Another plague to the creative professional are these sites where people from foreign countries and that belong to these bidding web sites who will design a logo for $200.00 or create a web site for $500.00. This is ridiculous! Many people will try to take the cheap way out, which leaves them with a sour mind for our profession, because they are left with a lackluster and bland result, and we miss out on real business. It takes money out of our pockets and food off of our table.
If you aren’t sure how much to charge your clients, I might suggest joining your local chapter of the AIGA, and networking with other designers to see what the average rate in your area is, or purchasing the Graphic Artist Guild’s Ethical Pricing Guide. It will go over how to set your rate, so that you get what you deserve, without undercutting other designers unfairly and selling yourself short. My advice would be to stay away from these sites where you are asked to submit a design before getting paid, or that you compete with 100’s of other designs. It makes you waste your time and only contributes to the destruction of our profession as we know it.