Graphic designers are artists, but they are also professionals. Unfortunately most people don’t understand design. Usually good design is not actually seen, it’s just felt, and instinctually or intuitively understood to be…good.
There’s good design everywhere. It’s such a normal and everyday part of our lives that it seems easy to people who aren’t in the field, especially when there are software tools that allow “anyone to be a designer,” whether they really master the concepts or not.
All of this too often makes professional graphic artists victims of being asked to do things for free. Again, and again!
Who gets it free, who doesn’t?
Obviously if they’re family or super close friends, you should consider working for free even if you don’t like it. These people care about you, there’s honest give and take in the relationships, so they’ll care about what you created for them and are likely to reciprocate in some way, sot of like the “gift economy.”
But when you create things for a business or company for free because they’re bellyaching over cash flow, or they want to “give you a portfolio piece,” they won’t value it as much as a firm that did pay for it. Not only that, but they’ll expect even more things for free.
In fact, this kind of “client” can be the most demanding of all since they feel no pain in the arrangement and therefore don’t understand a business contract’s limits.
Talent, time, and tradesmanship
Graphic artists are rare, skilled professionals who have combined talent and training to achieve artistry, insight, and skills that are a legitimate aspect of business and trade. For businesses and others to deal with them as anything less than that is insulting. When you refuse offers to work for free you are often put in the position of being seen as ungrateful, or an unreasonable person.
But nothing could be further from the truth — you are holding your integrity and demanding nothing less.
Some clients might sucker you into doing things for them with an exchange for something else that doesn’t cost them anything. Others may act as if you are getting a great experience out of helping them, however; you do not need experience by giving your work away. Instead you could make spec pieces for your own website portfolio of sample logos, posters, or other designs. Then, that “free work,” is towards your own end.
Those of you out there looking for work, avoid people who don’t intend to pay you. They need you, you do not need them.
— Sydney Sheets, Intern, Curren Media Group