What is minimum fee to charge if customer abandons a project

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by nicrose, May 13, 2007.

  1. nicrose macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2006
    Hi, my question is in the title. My customer decided that a poster is not an effective way to market his business, and he wants me to do an e-mail campaign instead. So much for getting valuable print design experience, which is what I wanted. Grrr!

    Question is, should I charge him a minimum fee for the poster? I charged him $50 for the poster (i'm not including printing costs in this quote), this price included one thumbnail sketch in photoshop. Any additional thumbnails would be $5 each.

    (I'm pretty sure that was a dumb way to charge him, because he will probably expect rediculously low prices like that in the future. But I was trying to stay low in price so I could entice him to hire me.)

    He had already paid me way before he changed his mind about the poster. I have not yet cashed the check. I feel I can't charge him a minimum fee for abandoning the poster project, because we had never before discussed any penalties for that situation.

    At the same time, I'm a bit ticked off about it and feel I should be paid for doing that work, on top of the work I will do for his email campaign.

    What is the best way to gently let him know that next time there will be fees for abandoning a project that is in progress?

    Also, how are you all setting prices? What percentage of the total project do you charge when a customer has abandoned his project?

    Thank you in advance.

  2. BigPrince macrumors 68020

    Dec 27, 2006
    yes get a lawyer and have him write up a generic contract for you.

    there might even be free ones on the internet.
  3. xfiftyfour macrumors 68030


    Apr 14, 2006
    Clemson, SC
    $50 for a poster that size? Are you a high school student? Otherwise that's REALLY low. I'm a college student and I don't do much freelance, but I did design a brochure for my landlord just a few months ago and I was paid almost $600 - and I didn't even have to deal with the printer whatsoever.

    Anyways, I'd probably say that the most you can get out of him is the $5 for the thumbnail, since that sounds like the only amount you two ever discussed. Granted, it wasn't exactly "hey this sketch is $5", but at least you two had agreed that that was the cost of a sketch. You could just preface it as, "Sure, we can switch gears, but I already did a Photoshop thumbnail for the first project, and I feel I should be compensated for that work. Since we'd agreed that additional sketches would be $5, that is what I'll charge for the one that would have been included in the overall package."

    To be honest, I doubt this guy will argue much because 1) it's only $5, and 2) I think he knows he's getting one helluva deal working with you, and probably doesn't want to alienate you for future work (because he wouldn't want to pay the price for an actual designer's work).
  4. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Nov 6, 2006
    Norfolk, UK
    Sorry but I wouldn't even consider doing a large poster for £100 (I'm british so according to most American companies we have to pay twice what the US does after a straight conversion :rolleyes:) You are probably looking at a days work at the very least, then there's proofing etc.

    And you never mentioned anything about fees at the beginning if the project was cancelled, that's just silly.

    Technically if all you have done is the initial sketch then its a case of $5 for it isn't it. Personally I would speak to the person involved and see if you can convince him to finish the project atleast upto print stage anyways.

    Alternatively if you're the one doing the online design too, up the price a bit to compensate for the lost time and agree a fixed price and any penalties, I state on my invoice that there is penalties (no amounts given) for late payments.
  5. mperkins37 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 17, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    How much time?

    How much design was done? If he had a finished poster & Decided @ That point to "Go in a different direction" I would charge him full price.
    Half the work half the price. BTW You can bet he will want future jobs as cheap or cheaper now that he knows you have no experience or confidence.
    I charge @ 60.00 hr standard & Give a general Expected amount of time I Intend on spending.
    Additional changes driven by customers is charged @ 60.00 hr NO EXCEPTIONS!
    Find your prices in the fair market & Stick to them, Youll deal with less cheapskates & Get paid fairly. I Have gotten an average of 400.00+ For posters.
  6. chatster18 macrumors regular

    Jan 14, 2007
    I agree, stick to your pricing. Although you didnt layout what the cost would be to "change direction" you still need to be compensated for the time that you did work, or else he is getting your time for free and that is not good for your business.

    Did you complete the poster or did he tell you he wanted to do an email before you completed it? This also changes what you charge, because if you finished the poster you inturn have completed what you have agreed on, and due compensation is entailed. Although if he stopped you before lets say 50% complete, I would charge for the % that I completed.

    I am a video editor, I charge by the hour like mperkins37, giving the client a rough estimate of the time it will take me to complete the project. And if I feel that I might go over my estimate I contact that client before completion to explain why I will be going over the estimate. If they decline the added time. I bill for the time I spent and leave it at that.
  7. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Put this one down to a payment to the school of experience and learn from it.

    Nothing to stop you putting your prices up next time he asks you for a job. (and giving him a clearly laid out payment schedule.) You're clearly just starting out, and thing like this are vital for you to review and learn from.

    I'd avoid lawyers or grumbling or contracts written in legalese. Just a simple, and clear payment schedule, that allows him some leeway to change, i.e. is fair to him as well as to you.

    If it's any consolation, I work with a 5 year old professional theatre company, and we still fall over little things like this sometimes.

    There's people wot pay thousands for MBAs and still don't learn things like this, so you got your lesson cheap.
  8. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Simple, you charge him the amount that you specified in your contract.
    Typically, this would be 1/3 down payment (non refundable), 1/3 at a milestone point (typically where the client has accepted the design concept) and the final third plus any additional charges (expenses, additions, changes) on delivery of the completed art.

    If you don't have a contract (and why don't you??) then to be equitable charge him time and materials for the work that you did do. He also does NOT get the right to use your draft design.
  9. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    if he hired you to design a poster and you did the work to his satisfaction, then he owes you for your work.

    Just because he changed his mind about using the poster doesn't release him from his obligation to pay you for the work you did

    cash the check
  10. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    The minimum fee to charge a customer who abandoned a project that you did not hold a contract for is..... $0.00. Sorry pal, but while you were hoping to gain equitable design experience you also learned the first lesson in working as a designer and that is do not start without a contract that includes an abandoment (or like) clause. You may be able to get him for the fee of the poster, but to charge him something more on top of that and to expect to see it is pretty fruitless if you ask me.
  11. solvs macrumors 603


    Jun 25, 2002
    LaLaLand, CA
    Have you talked to your customer about the charge? You can't be expected to work for free, and you've done the work. Not your fault they changed their mind. I'm sure they'll let you cash the check and just go on with the rest. If there was no contract, they don't have to pay you anything, but since you already have the check, unless they've told you they're canceling it, you should be able to cash it. It costs around $20-$30 to cancel a check, and they'll probably pay you for costs anyway, so it's probably not worth it to them to deal with it. I can you can use it towards future work you're going to do. Have you set the price for that yet?

    Ask them. Your best bet. Mention that you've done the work, and would like to be compensated, maybe even say you'll "discount" them on the next job, but that you'd like to work something out that's fair to both of you.
  12. ATD macrumors 6502a

    Sep 25, 2005
    My clients change their mind all the time, if the work was completed and it was to their satisfaction they get billed in full. If the project was half done then it's half price. It's that simple.
  13. iGav macrumors G3

    Mar 9, 2002
    I think it's very much depended on the scale of the project, for smaller jobs not exceeding thousands then a well detailed statement of works will probably and often suffice.

    But once you're in the tens of thousands and upwards bracket not having a legally binding contract that is explicit in its deliverables and costings is grossly irresponsible and unprofessional.

    It's not unknown for contracts to have a termination fee somewhere in the region of 90%-95% of the original budget to help prevent needless client dithering and indifference.
  14. Turkish macrumors 6502

    Jan 12, 2007
    Best advice in this thread.
  15. Swarmlord macrumors 6502a


    Sep 18, 2006
    Without a written contract with terms and conditions that include termination penalties, you're going to have a tought time getting any money out unless the guy expects to do business with you in the future. Get some boilerplate contracts put together so that you have something ready the next time a job comes along.
  16. G.Kirby macrumors regular


    Feb 15, 2005
    Swansea, South Wales
    I normally inform the client at the start of a job that there is a cancellation fee, which is usually 50% of the agreed charge. However, if it’s a large job I break it down into payment stages. Eg. Ideas and concept roughs, colour visuals, print ready files. After each stage I get paid before starting the next and the client can walk away after any stage (as long as I have been paid) and I retain the ©. :)
  17. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    I say, follow Macky-Mac's advice, but sit down with the guy and explain (basically using the words quoted above). Be honest about it. He would have found out you cashed the check either way so you might as well do it on good terms.

    If he balks, try to explain it from your perspective. A reasonable person should understand. If he refuses, then drop the issue (since you didn't have a contract, he technically would have no obligation) and chalk it up to experience, but this will make both of you think carefully of how you work together going forward.
  18. kitki83 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Wasnt there a book for designers that had template contracts to use? I wonder thats a good starting point for many who need such things. But honestly get everything in writing.
  19. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Yes, look for a designer's association and use one of their standard template contracts.

    Your local university or college (that runs design courses) may also be able to give you a sample contract.

    Failing that, you could ring up some other local designers and request politely a contract. You can always say you are thinking about commissioning some work, and ask for a contract to be sent to you for your inspection.

    If you are just starting out, then avoid complex contracts - they put off clients - and make sure you read and understand the terms of the contract you end up using.
  20. kasei macrumors 6502a


    Dec 30, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree! You never enter into a job without a contract. I know it is a hard lesson to learn, but you are better off in the long run if you want to provide your services to potential clients.
  21. AlexisV macrumors 68000


    Mar 12, 2007
    Manchester, UK
    What are you charging him for the next projects? Decide your figure and charge £xx on top. Over two or three projects you should get your money for the poster without the client even realising.
  22. nicrose thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2006

    I'm not a high-school student, I just don't know what to charge people. In fact, I'm a college graduate. I just never did any freelance before. But I will take you guys' advise and get a contract. I also need to seriously look into pricing.

    Also, when I say thumbnail, to be accurate, I don't do real thumbnails. I do pretty much the entire thumbnail in photoshop down to almost the last detail so that it looks like the final product, because my sketching style is too messy to be readable. And this client is picky enough as it is without having to deal with my messiness. Yeah, I know, I should learn to draw neater, but I have a hard time figuring out if the idea will work on the computer, so I just do it in PS.

    That's why I was mad that the guy wanted to switch to another project--I worked too damned hard not to be paid the full price. I wanted to make sure all my work paid off.

    Part of the reason I'm charging him so little is I need to build up my portfolio, and I need to keep him as a client.
  23. LeviG macrumors 65816

    Nov 6, 2006
    Norfolk, UK
    a picky client with no amendment charges, initially cheap prices, no contract, no termination charges, this bloke must be laughing his head off. Sorry but if this bloke has had a designer before then he must be making a huge profit from this over usual.
  24. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    Agreed. He's really showing you the ropes i.e. what to avoid. Learn from this.

    Also, you know you can build up your portfolio without necessarily having clients?

    One way is to look out for badly done adverts/posters or companies with bad presentation, then redo the material, and stick that in your portfolio, with examples of before / after. Just call it 'spec' work. No need to actually contact the company. (tho you can if you think they might actually buy your work, but expect a lot of rejections first.)

    If you're after making money, need to analyse why they reject your work then meet these issues. (maybe even if it makes your design 'worse' but never say that to the client!)
  25. Father Jack macrumors 68020

    Father Jack

    Jan 1, 2007
    A contract is a must.

    This should have been sorted out before taking on the job.


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