Why a Student Artist & Amateur Designer Should NOT Be Hired Freelance
You are considering hiring a freelance student artist, amateur designer, or a fresh art school graduate online, because you have a project that needs to get done and you want the cheapest design rates and most affordable art services. So you’ve shopped a couple of agencies, contacted a few creative professionals, checked a few portfolio websites, but you thought their quote estimates had outrageous fees for a few drawings and paintings. You didn’t think commissioning an art and design specialist would take up so much of your budget. So to save on costs you even try to get help from your best friend’s uncle’s nephew who took an art class during his undergrad years, but he is unavailable, so you keep searching.
Then it happens…you find an artist! It’s a student artist or a talented amateur designer who does some freelance work. The freelancer has competitive pricing in the quote proposal email, and after a quick chat youre even able to negotiate the costs down even further.
Sounds like the best savings deal on paper, right? You possibly could be the next Nike who contracted a student artist to create their logo for $35 in 1971, which was/is a rare case indeed…maybe you can pull it off. its possible.
But the reality is, it almost never works out that way. And in the end, the whole process will cost you more than if you were to just outsource a professional artist and illustrator who has proven their ability to deliver results. Here’s why…
An ambitious amateur is still an amateur
Okay, lets say you’ve found an ambitious student artist or amateur designer for your startup venture.
The student artist is in their final year or fresh out of art school, or the amateur does illustration and design work part-time, you don’t mind because they’re going to charge you next to nothing. They don’t mind doing a lot of work for little pay, because they are so excited to bring you on board as their first client. However, the student artist or designer tells you that your paid job will help them build their design portfolio and your business will be a great opportunity at ‘on the job training.’
Right at the outset, there’s already 4 problems with this situation that should give you pause.
- An Amateur Is Still In Training. As an analogy, ask anyone who volunteered to get their haircut at the local barber school (yes barbers are cosmetology artists), and chances are they’ll admit to leaving with a much different haircut than they originally intended. You could leave with patches in your head, uneven layers, crooked line-ups, and you might even bleed a little. That’s why barber school haircuts are free, and that is why you have many amateurs and student artists willing to do time-consuming artwork for close to nothing. They are not professionals yet, they are trainees. Anyone in training is expected to make loads of mistakes and missteps that clients cannot afford, especially if they are on stringent deadlines.
- Failure Or Oversight Is A Guarantee. A trainee in any field is expected to make big mistakes and fail many times over because that’s part of becoming a specialist. The student artist simply does not have enough experience to prevent common problems that may arise at a future date, nor do they possess the sensibility to understand what their customer will need now to ensure they are taken care of for many years to come. They will either fail or overlook to do those things because they simply haven’t experienced it before, and it is something you may have to pay for later due to their oversight.
- No Code of Conduct and No Experience with successful operations. If the student artist or amateur designer is starting their career in freelancing without any prior corporate experience. It is likely they haven’t had a platform to soak up any of the successful operations that businesses small or large employ to help them deliver consistent quality and results. Nor have they been privy to any form of a leadership role or a code of conduct that is found in every professional art company or design agency. So if the amateur or student artist have not already gone through the hard knocks of freelancing or been employed at a successful firm before becoming a freelance artist, they would have likely missed out the practices and operations that will bring you the value and results you need.
- Customer Relations Will Be Thin Or Non-Existent. Whether the student artist or amateur designer is freelancing locally or working remotely, you will still have to grapple with communication and customer service. Unfortunately, art schools do not offer customer relations or client retention business classes to help them to understand how to operate inside of a business relationship, and what is expected of them from the average consumer. I’ve found that close to 40% of my new clients were coming off a toxic relationship with an artist or illustrator who disappeared on them, didn’t communicate, or just simply quit because they got bored. Staggering!
So do you really want to entrust everything to an amateur or student artist? Something you’ve been planning for years, something you’ve paid for in time and dollars, and something that you hope will bring you positive cash flow. Do you really feel comfortable putting all of that faith and prospective value into an student artist or amateur illustrator who is treating your goals like ‘on the job training’ or a science experiment?
I doubt it. and so do you.
The amateur student artist, the client, and the professional. A Short Story.
Preface: I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories from clients who contacted me after having a bad experience with a freelance amateur or student artist, and in every story, I’ve noticed several common threads. So instead of explaining everything in a long-form case study, I threaded all of those negative aspects of working with an amateur freelancer into a short story I wrote called, ‘The amateur student artist, the client, and the professional’:
(the story starts.)
Say hello, to the amateur. The amateur is highly skilled in creative design and art and is motivated to get the freelance work done.
Welcome, The Client (that’s you) You have been developing and preparing a new venture for more than a year and so you begin to shop online for an artist to create the artwork that will help you launch your product. Even though the illustration and design work will be a major component to the success of the client’s product, but you want to keep the skills high and your costs low, and so you find a freelancing amateur artist.
The amateur is excited to work with you, plus they have a great opportunity to build their portfolio, and they accept the little pay offered. So you (the client) sign on, and they send you a one-page contract saying what is what and who is who.
Everyone is excited. The client (that’s you) has found a willing designer to help them craft their ideas which doesn’t break their budget at all. They tell their friends, partners, and family that they paid $100 for the services, and that the artwork is expected to be delivered to you in the next few days. After all, the client believes a drawing by an amateur should only take an hour at most.
Meanwhile, a sudden surge of anxiety hits the amateur like a bomb.
This is not a school assignment; the art instructor isn’t around to tell them what’s sensible and what’s not.
The art teacher isn’t available for comment; neither are the art school buddies, who normally helps the amateur mastermind solutions over a snack at the campus coffee shop.
Gone, is the amateur’s regular consortium of like-minded creatives, who can’t be contacted or consulted for critique, because the client asked for a confidentiality clause. The amateur is now left to make their own decisions and creative choices. After all, a professional must have the experience, the embedded instinct, and the wherewithal for research to solve problems on their own.
But what if the client (that’s you) doesn’t like their choices, doesn’t care for their innovations, and won’t tolerate a designer looking to you (the client) or someone else to solve the problems and mishaps?
And How will they deal with the revisions? Wait. They didn’t discuss revisions. They never talked expectations or scope for the project. Nothing of the sort was even outlined in the single page contract.
‘Never mind that,’ the amateur thinks. So, the amateur goes about creating the mock sketches just like what they practiced in school. They want them to be perfect. After all, you are one of their first clients, and they want to make an impression. So the amateur gets to work.
Time passes and so does the agreed upon deadline.
You (the client) don’t hear from the amateur.
And after a few weeks of weekly follow-up, you finally hear from the amateur who is ready to deliver the first mock sketches.
The client (that’s you) asks the amateur ‘where have you been?’
The Amateur apologizes but doesn’t tell you…
A third of their time was spent waiting for the inspiration to start the work,
The other third on the actual creation artwork,
And the final third was filled with debating and second-guessing.
But the Client (that’s you) is not happy with the sketches produced. It is not what you had in mind. You thought you were clear with the amateur when you told them, ‘I want something remarkable for my business. Just use your creativity. But most of all, make something that will POP.’
The amateur is also unhappy, and fear slowly creeps into them. Because the amateur doesn’t know what you want, didn’t bother to ask more questions about your ideas, and didn’t think to request reference materials. The amateur thought you (the client) just wanted them to do whatever they wanted, like one of those dream jobs where they were summoned to create something with unlimited freedom. So due to their talent and skill to create beautiful pictures, the amateur didn’t think any research or questionnaires to figure what the client (that’s you) wants was even remotely necessary.
Panic sets in for both, you (the client) and the amateur.
You both realize you’re past the deadline, money has been in invested, and there is no semblance of results in sight.
The Client (that’s you) decides to give more information to the creative amateur because you believe this arrangement can still be salvaged. ‘I want something big, blue, and sleek. Make it pop,’ you say firmly.
The Amateur agrees to do revisions using your new notes, and you reconvene a few days later.
The amateur delivers the revised sketches. It is still not what you wanted.
You do revisions back and forth every week it seems for another month.
Hundreds of sketches have been delivered. Still. No results.
Each time new sketches are met with disapproval, the amateur takes longer than before to deliver each new rounds of sketches.
Eventually, the amateur goes silent.
The Client (that is you) checks in. ‘Hey how it’s going I haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks,’ the email reads.
The amateur sees the e-mail, and the belly aching starts.
More emails start to pile up as the days turn into weeks.
What was once just written follow-up, now turns into phone calls and 2min voicemails.
As the number of voicemails grow, so does the intolerance and the frustration in the tone of your voice.
Another month passes. The amateur has disappeared.
The amateur sees all the emails, hears all the voicemails, but doesn’t want to respond. They’re afraid to tell you that they don’t want to work on the project anymore. After a while they write you an email anyway, they explain that after spending a month’s worth of working hours and hundreds of revisions without understanding how to get you results, they don’t think the $100 commission rate was worth their time.
The amateur did the math. They spent 160 working hours doing just the mock sketches and revisions for the job, the commission rate was $100.00, which means they were being paid $0.62 cents an hour.
The amateur quits.
But, you (the client) didn’t give up. Besides, maybe it was just that amateur who didn’t understand what you wanted.
So, you repeat the process.
You do it 10x more. The same results.
You’ve now invested a year in trying to find the right person to make your dreams a reality, and you’ve spent thousands of dollars in the process with no results.
(the story continues)
Out Goes The Amateur, Enter The Professional.
You finally decide to commission a professional artist and designer. (that’s me)
I send you a quote proposal for some thousands of dollars. The same amount you’ve invested over the past year trying to find the right artist.
But this time its different than before.
Within a day, you are interviewed by the professional (that’s me) to fill out a questionnaire to understand your project needs. You are asked about your brand, tagline, personal values, end-state goals and then asked to gather reference materials that we will review together. The contract is longer than a single page. The contract has your questionnaire/interview answers written on the first page, while the remaining pages outline the process, usage rights, ownership, deadline, revisions, expectations, and the process of development. You sign the service contract.
The professional (me again) immediately informs you that your sketches will be done in under one week, and follows up with you every other day to ensure you there is constant correspondence.
In three days, you are presented with sketch designs, each of which is offering several creative options, and each is a version that is backed with the research materials conducted to support my design choices. All of these options have been designed to drive your goals.
The Client (that’s you) loves the mock sketches because they resonate with your goals, but you would like some changes to be made.
‘No problem, just send me some notes on the things you’d like to change.’ The professional artist says.
And the adjustments are made, and mock development sketches are approved by The Client.
And a week later, your final work is done and delivered to you.
(End of story)
Moral Of The Story.
When it comes to sensibilities of your customers and principles of business, things like the integrity of service, communication, contract law, leadership, deadline, and innovation are a necessity – not only for a fruitful collaboration, but a successful one.
But as the client, Are you willing to stake…
- Your pitch package to investors for your new IP animation, film, game, product, or service.
- Your children’s book you’ve been putting together for several months
- The series of comic books and graphic novels you’ve been storyboarding and writing for 2+ years…
- The book cover to your epic sci-fi or fantasy novel that you’d like to use to start your career as a full-time author.
- Or your new fashion apparel or t-shirt clothing line you’ve been planning to launch for some time…
- Or even that beautiful brand identity for a startup business that will represent your company for many years to come…
Are you willing to bet all that development, hope, and potential value on a student artist or amateur designer just to keep the pocketbook a little fatter?
I don’t think so. And these are the reasons why an amateur designer or a student artist should not be hired freelance. I am not saying that freelancing amateurs or student artists should not be hired for anything at all – they should. Everyone needs to gather experience and wisdom through trial and error.
But I am advising that a client who has an high-stakes or important project should avoid the inexperienced person to avoid those errors and oversights and start working directly with a professional.
When a client is investing in a project, they must remember that what they invest in is directly tied into what they expect to receive.
And I believe you want to experience service and acquire artwork of the highest quality.
So If you have a serious goal, then you will need to hire a professional artist and designer who is serious about helping you create amazing results.
Drop me an email to request a quote if you need professional art and design services for your project.