When A Beginner Knows He's Being Shafted

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robochrist
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When A Beginner Knows He's Being Shafted

Postby robochrist » Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:18 pm

My reply to David Silver in the Pavilion in response to his query follow-up:

How am I being "shafted"?

We'll start with the simplest issue: we have signed agreement that I am to be paid per drawing, plus a rate for any revisions, and a flat rate (last time I do THAT; I agreed to it because of their budget constraints) for the hours I put into the work.

They are not paying me that flat rate for the extensive hours I already put in. I was up till 3 or 4 am to meet agreed deadlines - at the expense of other schedule priorities - and I haven't been paid for those hours.

The other reason I'm being "shafted" is because I'm doing thousands of dollars worth of work (this is 130 pages of illustrations for a book to be released internationally) for a pittance - given that the criteria for each drawing is very extensive - more so than I anticipated when I took the job (first lesson: with every client look at the criteria so that you can determine the kind of time required for the job, and therefore the pay). NO ONE would do the detailed work she's asking me for the very small amount we agreed to. The normal rate I should be paid was affirmed by two experts in the field with whom I recently met, and a professional who's been in the field for a long time.

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Postby robochrist » Tue Mar 06, 2007 1:39 pm

Let me add a couple of facts so that you understand what's going on and how I conduct myself with clients as a guy starting out:

One, Silver - over in the Pavlion - as well as Pacer - misread the immediate goal in my post: I was not trying to solicit advice, nor am I doing that here; I was hoping that people might relate their various stories of when THEY were just getting started. I wanted to see a tapestry of experiences that I might look at and measure; they may or may not bear similarity to my own current situation. But they don't NEED to. It's a compilation of data I could examine and consider for possible future circumstances.

That's the reason I left out details about my own current situation.

Two, I was angered by Silver's presumption that this might be a naive phase of self-importance and, therefore, I wouldn't know what "being shafted" means. It means I'm not being paid for the hours I put in. (For the record, I am nearing the finish of my Masters, and in this program the professors and instructors strongly counsel you in humility and how to work for clients. They're tough on your work and your performance. So, believe me, I LEARNED professional humility. I bear no feelings of self-importance in this first assignment - though I do have great pride in my work and my abilities. You'll see for yourselves in the near future when I have a website going).

And yes, there are contracts signed - for chrissake!

Including copyright agreements.

Three, I already know how I'm going to work this out with the client. I've already gone after her about this issue. I spent the last several weeks doing so. Weird how people I speak to at first think my too naive to think it out for myself and confront someone logically and professionally about these things.

I'm probably going to do my best to see this thing through, since it is the EXPERIENCE I wanted so that I could learn from it. The hours - that is the flat rate agreement - are based on deadline objectives. The price per drawing (which SHOULD have been much higher - but an agreement is an agreement) is being met every week. What I'm telling her is that I'm simply not going to be responsible for the deadlines if that time isn't paid for - as that IS in the written agreement - although I WILL continue the drawings at the pace other priorities will allow me; but in this scenario, she may not have it al lby the final deadline she set - April 15th!

She will also have to simplify the criteria. You should see the scale of some of the work being requested for the low rate she's paying me! Since she can't afford to pay me for the time required by the more complicated layouts she's going to have to simplify them.

Just for the record - and this is NOT according to me - but to 3 professionals in the field who looked at my work - each of these drawings is worth $150 - $200 a piece. I will not tell you what I agreed to in the beginning (again, mainly because - at first - I wanted the opportunity). It was difficult at first finding out what kind of pay scale should be set on these. Since then, I found out a LOT!

So, again, my objective isn't to solicit advice, so much as to hear some of your own early experiences - whether or not they were ANYTHING like THIS.

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Postby robochrist » Tue Mar 06, 2007 2:50 pm

OK.

I don't mind talking to myself.

Taking Harlan's input on the matter, I'm being a little smarter about it than I'm being given credit for - granting I didn't share the specifics for him and others to gauge:

I'm almost finished with my Masters. Meanwhile, the first professional illustration job opportunity was handed me - a book to be released internationally. I knew nothing at the time about setting fees and negotiating contracts. Knowing that I would learn all that from this experience - not to mention attaining a priceless asset to my portfolio and resume - I decided to get this thing regardless of what happens and use it CHIEFLY as a learning experience.

THIS gig - I decided - would be the one and ONLY one I would make the mistakes on and learn as much as possible from those mistakes. You should see the policy manual I've been putting together based on what I learn as I go along.

The conflict I've been dealing with is the amount of work this lady would ask for - to see how much she could get for as little as possible - and the resentment that can seed in you. I don't express that. I am confronting on these issues professionally - dicussing it to meet a mutual middle ground. For one, she has had to pull back on the criteria she's asking since she can't pay for the time.

I'm holding off direct threats at this juncture of small claims court in the event that I see the money and resolve other issues.

Meanwhile, I've developed - streamlined - my own system by which I can turn out the drawings at a faster rate eliminating the time she won't pay. All in all she's paying for each drawing based on the signed agreement; and at the pacing I'm establishing now I should still see about $6,000.

I will not raise any legal issues until the project is done - as long as I see a continuation of the individual payments.

One of several mistakes I made at the beginning, of course, was asking for and agreeing to so little per drawing (I looked up the typical rate magazine submissions pay and used THAT as the basis). Now I know better.

So, I am strategizing and working out the plan.

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:18 pm

At least you get paid SOMETHING, it's for a limited time, and you'll have something new in your portfolio. Not an ideal situation, but it'll all pass.

If they have a budget problem and you have to give up on the idea of seeing more money, I imagine you could also ask for other sorts of compensation like certain reprint rights, or a guarantee that they will use you on another project with a higher budget. Don't know what one would ask for. Free copies of something or other. I'm sure they're in a position to do you some favors. They owe you. Just my five cents.

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Postby robochrist » Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:48 pm

Jan - except for part of Harlan's input your 5 cents is a lot more than what I've been getting for those illustrations!

What every one seems to be missing in the Pavilion - and perhaps I should scroll back to my own original post to review its wording, as I know I in part was being sarcastic - is that I wasn't requesting advice. I was simply hoping to read the recounting by some people about THEIR beginnings in the professional field.

Of course I know we make mistakes in the beginning. And I'm being COMPLETELY responsible for my own (which I'll have to direct to Harlan).

In the end, I thought - given that I intentionally left out specifics about my Tsituation - that people would just talk about their OWN experiences; instead, I get accused of being some whining air-headed dilettante with delusions of self-importance.

But you struck the one important point behind it all, Jan: yes, I'm getting paid SOMETHING. And since this is my first gig I am trying strategies to avoid declaring "I quit"! Especially since, if I can somehow make this work, it will be of immense value for my resume, my portfolio, and background experience. The issue becomes more conflicting when you're up late hours killing yourself and not being paid those hours when it was in the written agreement. On the other hand, small as the payments are on the drawing themselves - they still help me get ahead while I'm still in school.

So, I'm advising this lady that I will not be committed to deadlines since that's what payment for the hours is supposed to cover; I CAN'T simply because I have to tilt the schedule toward the source that gives me the greater income at this time. (You should see how far she was trying to take the criteria before I began challenging her on this: originally she was not only have me do the drawing and the conception work - and my character designs - but she was asking me to do fonts, type set, and color work as well. No way getting around it, that's THOUSANDS of dollars worth of work. And she didn't want to pay for ANY of it. This is for a fuckin' BOOK and she virtually expected me to stay up all those nights and NOT get paid for it!

So, I told her no way unless I'm paid for it. I did get her to strip back that complicated time-consuming criteria and I'm making sure those drawings are paid for before I do any more; at the same time I've just developed my own system to crank out the BASIC sketches at breakneck pace and get paid for them according to the contract without my losing much time from other priorities now.

The final issue will be AFTER the project is over; I will not mention anything about small claims court unless, in the end, I really feel compensation for the hours AGREED to was never met. And then the issue of royalties for those drawings from a one time copyright release form.

Bottom line: I took this job to learn. I've learned a SHIT load because I stayed with it - and gained confidence in the techniques I'm implementing.

That's not to say I still haven't a lot to learn. But I'm systemizing every step of the way so that I know how to set terms with clients in advance and avoid chances of this sort of bullshit again. No more flakes after this!

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Postby Jan » Wed Mar 07, 2007 9:01 am

Sounds good to me. Getting aggravated about something like this would only affect with your work and life much worse than anything else ever could. Like you say, there's still the pride in the work and the gain in experience.

People here in Germany (and elsewhere too, I guess) do a lot of TOTALLY unpaid work even after graduation (internships). When you're starting out and don't have many choices, experience is always more important than money, as long as it LEADS to (better) money.

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Postby robochrist » Wed Mar 07, 2007 11:13 am

Jan.

Yah. Totally.

I DO have justifiable grounds to quit this project. At this time, she is not meeting part of the signed agreement. It is an issue I have raised a bunch of times; and I'm going to KEEP at her about it constantly - until, assuming that April deadline is really that vital - her concern about finishing gets too much for her. She knows she can't get someone else to do it at this rate, or as (and - yes- I mean this) as WELL as I can; I have TOTAL grasp of what's required in this thing (for one, there are very few Caucasians portrayed in here because so many nurses or multi-ethnic - and because this thing will be used in other countries).

It was really those nights when I was up all night throughout the week - and the unrealistically extensive criteria she requested in her outlines (for the price she's paying me) that I was tempted to either quit or get fired.

I was hoping she'd let me go.

The problem is - as you point out - this is the basis for really well-paying future jobs. The other problem is...I'm just not the time that quits. If she weren't paying for the drawings themselves I absolutely would. But there are several ways I CAN work out the flat rate she owes me.

(An example of the criteria: she needed the blood circulation through the heart and lung shown as a freeway network - with cars representing red and blue blood cells and turnstiles representing the tricuspid, pulmonary, and bicuspid valves, and gas stations representing the alveoli in the lungs, and people stopping at each gas station pumping up the car with 02 and the cars in the lungs progressing from blue to red as the get oxygenated and signs indicating what the valves are and the oxygen stopping stations...ALL this in FULL shot, expecting a reader to be able to read the signs and so on. It was big problem to resolve. Several of her criteria required problem-solving. I solved it for PITTANCE. My mistake at the beginning was not looking over the criteria - a few samples - so that I could estimate what would have been required; I wanted to say "yes" at all costs and I DID!)

I've raised this issue and I'm making her pare back her time-consuming requests as long as she can't afford to pay them.

So - yeah - if I can get around quitting it's in my best interest. I'm just not going to let her get away with as much. And SHE needs to worry about the deadlines, which I am no longer focused on since she isn't paying for it. I MAY still make the deadline, but neither she nor I know for sure. That should make it a worry for HER.

Bottom line: I'm supposed to see about $6,000 out of all this when it's done; and at least week by week it's putting money in the bank. And I've behaved professionally at every turn. THAT part I feel good about.

...and BARBER:

Thank you for your comments in the Pavilion.

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Postby robochrist » Wed Mar 07, 2007 11:25 am

Re: the style being used in this text

Just to let you know, they wanted - as I originally phrased it - a "techno-friendly" cartoon style, with a variety of characters.

My drawing ranges from photo realism to cartoon (animation is one of my long run goals, and the cartoons very much have the look compatible for animation). So, when they saw 5 samples I sent them they offered me the work.

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Postby Jan » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:02 pm

Someone with your range and literary tastes should do something for Dream Corridor, if Harlan does another one.

Personally, if I could draw & paint, I would do book covers, title designs, and movie posters. None of them are what they used to be.

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Postby robochrist » Wed Mar 07, 2007 3:58 pm

I don't have DREAM CORRIDOR and for a long time I wanted to look at a copy to get a measure of John Byrne's interpretation of I HAVE NO MOUTH AND I MUST SCREAM due to its controversy. I've only seen a couple of panels and rather liked it.

I remember having mixed reactions to ILLUSTRATED HARLAN ELLISON. Some of it I liked very much (I'm generally NUTS about Steranko - and he was awesome in there) - some I didn't like at ALL.

Anyway, I intend to have my stuff up on a website by the end of this year (with different "chambers" for different styles and themes). You can see what do and whatever you dig you dig and whatever you don't you don't. Most of my stuff seems to get very good response from all - though the weirder stuff confuses them (as it SHOULD).

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Postby JohnPacer » Wed Mar 07, 2007 6:40 pm

Hey Rob,

Sorry about the misunderstanding. I probably just read your initial post too fast. In any event, I, myself, have learned quite a bit from your posts. Like I said, I've only had one serious gig and everything went fine, so I haven't had a bad experience yet. Your posts have given me much to think about in preparation for the next thing that comes along.

I was wondering if you could post one of the drawings just to see the level of conception and detail they've asked of you. I realize you probably can't legally, but if you had something else that was similar?

In any event, good luck!

-John

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Postby robochrist » Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:50 pm

Yeah, I can't, John. But I'll have a lot of stuff up on a website later in the year.

This time round you got EXACTLY the purpose behind my raising the topic. When people share their own experiences others learn, man.

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Postby robochrist » Wed Mar 07, 2007 10:46 pm

BTW - I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

I'm sorry my posts about all this were so damn redundant. Between sessions I never scrawled back to see what I'd detailed and what I'd left out.

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Postby Jan » Thu Mar 08, 2007 5:21 am

You used copy & paste in your apology.

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Postby David Loftus » Thu Mar 08, 2007 9:14 am

I'm a little bemused that Harlan takes such a hard line on this issue. Not all of us are in a position to change the world as it is, and not all of us necessarily are indispensable at whatever we do. I've written a lot of things for magazines and newspapers that never paid me, that in fact no longer exist. Although I've been paid SOMETHING for nearly every bit of acting I've done in the past two years, in some cases it's been a pittance (but precisely what everyone else on the project was getting).

I'm not such a hard liner on such matters. Not a few creative endeavors are worth more for the practice, the experience, the product, the addition to your resume/portfolio, and just the FUN, than I think the aggravation of fighting over compensation would be.

(Of course, it's more acceptable if everyone understands up front how they'll be using one another; if your current client is not living up to the terms of a signed contract, that's different.)

I suspect Harlan's memory is not all that it could be regarding his past creative experiences. I read somewhere that he did stage work with the Cleveland Playhouse for roughly ten years when he was young. I wonder: Did he receive compensation for all that effort, or was his work there -- in his considered judgment -- not worth as much as his writing?
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus


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