I have some friends who are graphic designers & developers. Over the last few years I’ve watched an interesting phenomenon develop. People expect them to work for free. Friends, family members, even some would be clients ask them to donate their time for free. Or they want to pay rock bottom prices because “I just don’t have much budget to work with.” There are four reasons this needs to stop:
1. It’s their livelihood. I don’t care if it’s not a graphic designer’s full time gig, it’s still how they feed their family. It’s not some casual hobby they’re doing, it’s their career. So if you’re going to ask them, at least start your sentence by saying, “Hey, here’s why I’m not going to pay you for your livelihood.”
2. You pay your mechanic. Next time your car breaks down, bring it into the shop and tell the mechanic you want them to fix it for free. Or tell your plumber you don’t have much budget and offer him 25% of his normal rate and see how long he stays at your house. Just because design and development might seem like the arts, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth money.
3. Most “quick tweaks” are neither quick nor tweaks. Whenever a friend wants a favor they position it as a “quick tweak.” They don’t say, “I need 10 hours of design,” they say, “It will be easy, you can knock it out quickly.” Here’s the thing though, true craftsmen and craftswomen only have one type of work they can do, amazing. A good graphic designer or developer will feel physical pain if you ask them to “just whip something together, it doesn’t have to be that great.” I can’t half write something, I either kill it or I don’t do it. You either employ your full range of skills, something I teach in my new book Do Over, or you don’t do it.
4. You take away their chance to be generous. I know some awesome graphic designers and developers who donate their skills regularly. But that’s their decision. They have to be the one that makes the sacrifice and the gift. If you force it on them, it removes their opportunity to give you what you need for free. I could probably create an even longer list and graphic designers and developers might add to it. So what do you do if you honestly don’t have money and you need something done? Well, I think you barter. I think you have to offer real things that have real value though, not the often fake notion of “exposure.” I personally have written free projects for graphic design work in exchange. Or I have written free projects for real exposure. I spoke three times at the Dave Ramsey team for free because I needed the practice and the exposure more than I needed to try to ask for a few hundred dollars. And I would do that all over again if I had the chance. At the same time, I’ve also learned to charge for what I do. Last week we said that good photography is expensive because it’s worth it. The same is true for graphic design and development.