Working While on Vacation is Discombobulating

I took on a quick design job while on vacation. It was a small ad with a quick turnaround. My client was very easy to work with. It was a fun job to do when I had free time between the standard vacationy stuff. My client offered me $200, which I thought was reasonable for something I assumed would only take me a few hours. $200 would have been a cheap, but reasonable payment if the turnaround wasn’t changed from three days to almost a week. In those four extra days I had spent eight additional hours on this project.

Here is why I did not charge her for those eight hours:

  1. She was an awesome client. She knew what she liked when she saw it, responded within a day, polite, not demanding, and could explain what she wanted clearly. She’s also someone I know and like being around. Those people are always difficult to charge.
  2. I wasn’t in full working order. All I had with me was my laptop. I didn’t have a desk (most of the time), an external monitor, my external hard drive with its reservoir of images, a mouse, a printer (I eventually found a CMYK printer to print my final draft), or access to a quiet working area.
  3. I knew I had time to kill, I just didn’t know how much. I was visiting a person instead of a place and we decided our day to day activities that day (sometimes that hour). He had a schedule and I worked within his schedule.
  4. It was a quick turnaround. I didn’t know how much time I would have to work on her project (I only knew during that initial call that I had enough). Entering payment negotiations would take away from the time I could be working.
  5. It’s my first professional print job in a widely proliferated magazine. I’ve designed various printed materials for many people, but I usually had a hand in the printing process. I’ve never designed for this kind of product before and so far removed from the printer. I couldn’t even get a proof. Thank God they posted their printing guidelines online. I spent an hour triple checking that my design fit within their guidelines.
  6. I didn’t have a contract. I didn’t have anything in writing. I couldn’t argue that the project exceeded its projected scope because I didn’t lay out its scope. All I had in regards to payment was an oral agreement of $200, none of which I had her pay upfront (not the best business practice). I don’t doubt she’ll pay me, but I don’t have anything written to back me up if I asked for more money.

Though my design turned out well, the administration aspect was pretty sloppy. I always read in design business posts that designers are never charging enough. In part I feel that this blog post is to help convince myself that $200 is a reasonable amount to charge for this project despite the quick turnaround and the time I had spent it. In any case, it was a great learning opportunity for me and I made money doing something fun when I didn’t expect any money (not a good enough reason to do this more than once).

Would I do it again?
I would accept the project, but I would certainly conduct it differently and ALWAYS start with a contract.

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