Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Samples First, Please

I recently read part of a Tweet coming through my TweetDeck that had to do with pay rates and "seeing a sample". Curious, I followed the link back to the author, Matt Harrelson, asking this: "How do you negotiate graphic design rates when potential employers want you to do a sample first?"

I'm not intending to slam Craig's List, but my observation of the majority of people posting or answering on Craig's List are looking for the lowest price possible, period. Knowing you're walking into that arena, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the end user wants to see samples first. This is a large no-no for a couple of reasons.

First, because people are only willing to pay the lowest possible price for that service or product, their perception of the value of that product is tied to the value of the dollars in their pocket. This decreases the value you, as a designer, bring to the table. I completely understand not wanting to turn away work, and I myself landed my first paying client from a Craig's List post. Having said that, state your prices up front but remove "you" from the discussion: "This service will cost $xx", rather than "I charge $xx for this service". Don't personalize cost.

Second, if someone isn't happy with the style of work you've posted on your portfolio, don't offer to do a sample of what it is they're looking for. It is possible they're looking for a different style and you may be able to accommodate. Under no circumstances should a designer, be it seasoned or new, do a sample for the client to look at. In Mr. Harrelson's case, he was asked to do a photo retouch sample to see if the client liked it before paying for it. agreeing doing this, you're giving away free work, and that also devalues the industry and your skill set.

I compare this tactic to some of the contest sites that are highly visible. They want everyone and anyone to send in a sample or two of the project in the contest, but only one winner is awarded, and all the work is kept by the contest originator. This scenario is no different; if someone asks you to "do a sample", they're really telling you they want it done for free. Politely decline and move on.

Happy designing!


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