Am I being made a fool of?

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mccardey

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5. Don't give discounts. When friends ask for your services, throw in extra stuff for them, but don't give them discounts.

Should be tattooed on the forehead of every babe of woman born. Give gifts, not discounts.

Discounts, however generous, however well-intentioned, just scream "HEY! YOU'RE PAYING TOO MUCH FOR THIS, STUPID!"

Learned that the hard way. Apparently everyone does.
 
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EMaree

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Holy smokes, I want to print out Putputt's post and frame it. There's so much life advice there that I wish I'd learned earlier, and the point that people value free gifts more than discounts is blowing my mind with its wisdom.
 

Ravioli

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I'm a private contractor. I do work for my friends all the time. What I see in the OP is a failure to communicate on both sides. She doesn't have a clear idea what to pay and you don't have a clear idea what to charge.

Moving forward, you need a price sheet: either an hourly rate with an estimate on how much time a job takes, or a straight fee for service.

From there you can give a friend a discount (I do). You could also consider some of your early work pays less but helps build your resume. I do that too. For example I might spend an hour with a new client discussing how I can help them. I chalk that up to marketing and don't send a bill. The next time I meet with them it is consulting, and they get a bill.

I also provide services (tying up loose ends) that are not profitable because I make a good profit from the same client for the bulk of services I provide.

My clients don't suggest prices, that comes from my end. I never ask them what they think something is worth.
I used to have a fixed fee ($10/hour for personal stuff, never thought about what to take for commercial stuff as I never planned on doing any), then got desperate for money and asked people to make offers as I was scared of scaring them off with my hourly rate. This was clearly a mistake. But I'm pretty sure she knew what to pay. She decided to budget by category rather than absolutes, including the category of graphic design and its application, and factored me into a tiny 3 digit budget shared with the company that would then print my designs on her goods and told me to adjust to that so she can stay within budget - I told her hell no, and that's how I got promised the smallest value on the 3 digit spectrum. I remember a transaction we had years ago, where she also got away with severely underpaying, but that was because I didn't know the value of what I was selling - she did. I know for a fact she did, and she made me an offer at least one zero short because she knew my ignorance. She's not clueless, she's stingy.


You sound resentful that her Etsy business might be profitable (even though it might be a bust, who knows). That is not something tied to your fees for your work. Maybe it's the norm to do so in graphics work, but it sounds like something for an established business rather than a new one. A high end client is worth a lot in advertising and referrals for your business. Not all profits are monetary.
No, I wanted her to succeed because she'd been dealt a rough life until recently, and now I don't hope for her to fail, I just don't care either way anymore. What I'm resentful about is how I'm neither getting a fair, nor any share of our deal when my work is clearly contributing to her cash flow she's bragging about. Nobody buys a product if the packaging is crap, and I made the packaging.
I'm resentful that she's twirling through Apple Stores blowing her earnings on toys while not paying me my puny 2 digits and royalties for contributing to those earnings. As business partners, this makes her "only" unprofessional and unreliable, but since we were also friends, it's downright inhumane as she knows I need every penny to even eat and keep my special needs dog from dropping dead, and I need every penny NOW. It's also not just Etsy anymore, she has deals with retailers to stock her stuff in brick and motar stores. She defied all expectations, so I leaned back and guessed, a few more days and I'll be getting paid... weeks... month... months... okay, I'm out.
She's no high-end client, and I don't need to be paid in exposure or the promise thereof. You can be (super famous person here) for all I care, unless I get my money in a spendable form in a short amount of time, you can show yourself out. I need to be paid in what covers my bills as I can't call my landlord, "Hey listen, I'm broke, but I just came into a lot of exposure, can I transfer some of that by having you gaze upon me admiringly and consider me to design your wedding invitations if you ever find a girl?". I'm not even running a business; I sporadically offer simple portrait commissions, and when someone has an offer that doesn't sound like a total pain, I do it.

You told her she didn't need to pay you after all. That was exactly what she wanted. Chances are you were chosen precisely because she knew you were having a difficult time. I'm not as charitable as other posters in thinking people doing these things are making honest mistakes. Most of the times I've see it, it's been on purpose, it's been skilled, and it will happen again.
I know she knew what she was doing, but while I didn't "actively think" she was hoping for this conclusion, I believe you word for word. It fits a pattern I've observed with her. I admire people who can exploit the hell out of others without batting an eye, but I prefer staying off their radar.


My point here isn't to blame you, as it's hard to see coming. It's more that being aware of it makes it easier to direct your reactions. What reaction will benefit her? What reaction will benefit you? Waiving the fee benefited her, as did your explosion. She can use that to paint a picture of you being the problem. Even now, you're feeling bad and don't want to make it public as it might harm her business. Both of those things are to her benefit, not to yours.
I kinda did see it coming though. I hoped to be wrong as my distrust in her stems from a time where she had specific problems that I assumed made her flaky. But I still had doubts. My mother often tells me I have great intuition and am a frighteningly great judge of character. I know she's right, but I also know I got mental issues, so I tend to dismiss my intuition as that of a crazy person who is letting her crazies and her childhood trauma of exploitation and betrayal - I was a "rich" kid with poor friends, go figure - cloud her judgement. And almost EVERY SINGLE TIME it turns out I was right to doubt someone. It's especially funny and ironic because I know the world isn't a fair and honest place, so the fact that I ignore my intuition and tell myself to expect the best of people, then blow my top when they turn out as rotten as my intuition told me they are, makes me quite the joke.

It sucks that I played into her benefit. But at this point, I don't care. I lost money, lost bragging rights, but it feels so relieving to just not have her bragging on my feed anymore while having to gingerly remind her that I want my damned money, and choosing my words so that she won't give me the "Jeez calm down, some friend you are" bull.


It's time to switch around the thinking. Forget about what's good for her. What's going to help you right now? Sorting things like price lists is a good idea. Given what you've said, looking at POD art sites might also help you. It's less money per item, but once it's set up you can let the company handle most customer issues. This can run in the background earning some money while you handle bigger commissions.
Isn't POD print on demand? How does art come in?

MaeZe gives great advice. You sound like a bright woman who is more than capable of managing a functional business if you keep your emotions in check. You say but the expectations and pressure will be very much easier to handle than this sort of thing - believe me. Plus you'll get yourself financially more secure - and that will be wonderful for your dogs and yourself.

Big breath. Print MaeZe's post out. Give yourself time to regroup and restructure yourself and start over with some new (paying) clients.

Good luck!
Thanks... I'm trying to better myself in both work discipline and controlling my emotions. Two things I'm shit at. Baby steps...

Take this as a lesson learnt and move on. Get better with your skills, not just on the artistic side, but on the business side as well.
Yup, exactly what I'll be doing. Thanks a lot for your pointers and experience. You're especially right about valuing my own work higher. I tend to underprice myself out of insecurity, when everyone is all over me about how great my work is. I mean, there's better than me and much of the praise comes from not having seen better yet or, y'know, niceness, but I've seen people sell f*cktons of commissions for more money and less skill, simply because they know how.
 

Polenth

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Isn't POD print on demand? How does art come in?

This is sites like Zazzle and Redbubble. They have a range of products. You set up a design for those products. When a customer wants one, the company prints it and sends it to the customer. So it is print on demand, but what they're printing is art on things, rather than books.

The disadvantage is it's a small amount per product, so you need to sell quite a few to make a stable income. The good side is it doesn't cost anything to set up and you can work on sorting designs when you have no other work. It's basically hitting the market of people who like your art enough to have it on a mug, but they don't have any need to commission you for something.
 

Gale Haut

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It could be a more profitable investment of your time to work on your portfolio or CV. Cited from personal experience.
 

EMaree

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Regarding print-on-demand, some of the best margins right now from my own research...

INPRNT, an art print site. (Margins are ridiculously wonderful, 50% profit goes to the artist, but it is a curated site and you need to be accepted to join it.)
Teespring for limited run t-shirts and high profits, if you have the audience to make it work. Better for pop culture designs rather than original art.
A shop like Shopify, Bigcartel or Storenvy hooked up to a print-on-demand service like Printful. (Margin comparisson to Society6 here, but note that the article is biased and compares apples to oranges -- generic t-shirts to American Apparel. Also some of the shopfronts like BigCartel may charge a transaction fee or monthly fee, need to research this). Margins can be good here but it will require effort and a business head.
Society 6 or Redbubble for a large range of art print-on-demand products with low effort required to get it all running.

I'd like to see more AWers making a profit on their brilliant work, there's lots of talented artists here.
 
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EMaree

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I'll definitely check those out :) I just opened a Patreon, what's your opinion on that system?

It can be a really fun way of building an audience as long as you can produce quick content! But it's not a great fit for all artists, and it's an especially bad fit for artists who dislike pressure and tight deadlines, since there's a constant push to keep creating or lose backers. And losing backers often feels like quite a personal blow.

Backers are also very unreliable, such is the nature of any random person donating to you, so don't count on any of those funds until they're in your bank account. The amount of declined cards when payment day comes is often shocking. There have also recently been some scammers throwing in massive donations to Kickstarters and Patreons using fake or stolen credit cards, and it's crushing for the creators when huge amounts of funding disappear on payment day.

Having a print-on-demand shop tends to work better for artists with high levels of anxiety or busy lives, because it's "passive income" -- your art is completed, and the products are quietly earning you a profit month by month. Patreon is "active income" -- you have to keep feeding it new work, you have to keep producing. If that pressure works for you, and you flourish in the face of deadlines, it's brilliant.

The only way to learn is to try it! And if it doesn't work for you, there are always other options. We're living at a good point in history for artists, the range of options, methods, and potential reach is larger than it's ever been.

I hope you have a great time with Patreon!
 

Polenth

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I have a Patreon which I use as a tip jar, so it doesn't take much of my time. The extra money is not much, but it all helps. However, if I did offer rewards, it wouldn't be worth it. The big issue is it's for people who are already your fan and willing to commit to regular payments. It doesn't work well for attracting new fans. Rewards could easily end up taking all your time if you're not careful, for very little return.
 
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