Wanted: Graphic Design Monkey Who Works For Peanuts

585 396 Derek Kimball

graphic design monkey

When I was starting out as a designer I was contacted by a Florida plastic surgeon who was wanting a price quote for some graphic design work (logo & stationery). After emailing him my pricing and a breakdown of the logo creation process, I received the following reply in all it’s misspelled glory:

“Thanks for your help! First of all, I loved your work and as an artist, I can tell you, Get rid of the a Amount you wanna spend on your logo shit, Cus if you’re going to charge wathever the fuck you wanna charge please don’t bother. Thanks. And I’m sure there’s a million designers that’ll love to work for less, Cus there’s millions of designers but there’s few plastic surgeons!!! Regards!!”

Admittedly, I was a bit dumbfounded when I read this. Here is someone who undoubtedly charges his clients hundreds or thousands per hour, yet my drastically reduced price quote of just $500 for 20 hours of my time was somehow inconceivable? How dare I charge a barely livable wage.

I typically don’t waste my time with assholes, but I couldn’t help myself. The following was my reply to the surgeon:

“Hello XXX, thank you for the kind words and understanding. After reading through your thought provoking email, I’ve come to the conclusion that you are completely right. My asking price of $20/hr for my “logo shit” was completely out of line. I am one of a million designers and shouldn’t have such high expectations.

To remedy my greedy ways, I’ve decided to reduce my pricing to just $10/hour. I’ve run the numbers, and I think I can make it work…

Assuming I’m able to work 40 hours a week, I’ll bring in $400 a week ($1,600 a month, $19,200 a year). Minus taxes and usual business expenses, I can expect to clear around $12,000 a year.

Sure, it’s a pretty big pay cut, and I’d be below the poverty line… but it’s nothing a second or third job can’t fix. And if I cut my sleep down to just 3 hours a night, I can use this saved time to work on the unpaid portion of running my business. If for whatever reason I can no longer afford my rent, my parents have agreed to allow me to move in.

Well, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I just wanted to thank you for your advice. It’s been life changing for me. Let me know if my new rates are more to your liking. If by chance I’m still out of your budget range, may I suggest LogoMaid or LogoGarden? Both offer the rock bottom pricing you’re looking for, and both have plenty of generic non customizable graphics for you to cluelessly choose from. If you happen to read about the frequent “stolen artwork” claims against cheap logo sites like these, don’t worry. The worst that can happen is you end up with a cease and desist letter.

If I ever run into anyone in need of plastic surgery services, I will surely send them your way. For future reference, could you please forward me your hourly rates? I read online that they can run upwards of $2,000 per hour, but that must certainly be a typo. Thanks!”

Apparently the guy wasn’t a fan of sarcasm, as I never received a reply back. Or maybe he was just busy insulting other graphic designers who wouldn’t work for peanuts. I just hope he’s better with a scalpel than he is with his grammar and people skills.

Have you encountered a similar situation? Please share by commenting below. Thanks for reading.

AUTHOR

Derek Kimball

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm a graphic designer who specializes in logo design and brand identity. If you'd like to receive periodic updates to useful design resources and writings, subscribe to the newsletter.

All stories by: Derek Kimball
15 comments
  • Michelle

    While it’s not a Graphic Design story…it’s another “Doctor’s are Gods” story (I know…not all are, but some people!). My mother ran a small wholesale travel company, charter flights to Mexico. One winter, one of the flights had a mechanical which delayed takeoff for several hours. A week and a half later a man came in who had been on that flight. He started SCREAMING at my mother, wanting a TOTAL refund because his vacation had been ruined by the delay (note…he probably missed 5-6 hours of his week long vacation). She attempted to explain that the mechanical was caused by the extreme cold and that the airline did everything they could to make sure the plane was safe, but it didn’t matter as he continued his vulgar, nasty rant.

    After enduring his screaming for over 20 minutes, she asked him to leave as she held one hand out toward the door, and placed the other behind him in an attempt to escort him to the door. At that moment, he SCREAMED, “ASSAULT, ASSAULT!!! YOU ASSAULTED ME! ! ! “. We couldn’t believe it as we all witnessed this clearly non-assault. And as he left, he screamed, “YOU’LL BE HEARING FROM MY LAWYER!”.

    The next day, as we were recounting the event, one our travel agents told us this was her father’s doctor, AND to top things off, while the doctor was in our office screaming about how he was put out by the delay…her father was waiting in his office for over an hour for his doctor’s appointment. Maybe some take a Hypocrite oath?

  • DesignBuddy

    Haha…great and relevant story Michelle. That guy seems like a hypocrite for sure. Thanks for the laugh. I like your idea of having a “hypocrite oath”.

  • Greg Harp

    Wow, this was a good story. It’s so sad to see how little people value good design work. I haven’t had to do freelance design for a few years, but I remember one of the biggest reasons I decided to stop was because of the rate of pay issue. After doing freelance work for an advertising company for a year at a rate of $15/hr, I decided to renegotiate my contract. When I first started working with said company, I was honestly only worth $15/hr, being new to the industry. But that year sharpened my skills and I felt I was worth more than $15/hr now. When presenting my contract that included a very modest raise in pay to $18/hr, I was told that graphic designers are a dime a dozen in and they can just as easily find another newbie who will take $15 or less.

    It’s sad because they were totally right. The work may be a little shoddy, and the creativity may be scant, but if all they need is a work horse, they can get it on the cheap.

  • DesignBuddy

    Appreciate the comment Greg. It is sad. These agencies are right in thinking designers are a dime a dozen, but their wrong in thinking a good, experienced, and all ready trained designer is equivalent to a newbie. I laugh at some of the design work created in my first year as a freelancer…it was pretty bad. From the sounds of things, you progressed over time as well. Hopefully you found a place that is willing to pay you what you’re worth.

  • Simão Lagoá

    No matter how many of these cases I see, I am constantly surprised at how poorly people think of Graphic Design in general, Graphic Designers in particular. This is a message I got last week – from a “friend” for whom I did 2 FREE Facebook Timeline Covers and offered her Facebook business group another amount of free timeline designs at no cost, with future leads in mind:
    Proposal:

    “Hi SImao I was wondering if you would like to volunteer as the graphics designer for Train for Though. This means assisting with the larger end graphics like creating the posters, flyers and some social media posts/banners. If there are other items that come up that you would like to be more involved in then that would be great.Cheers”

    Me: “Listen I’m going to be very honest and upfront with you. I’ve been looking at your proposal for the last two days and no matter how much I turned it, to me it just reads like this: “here’s work. Do it for free, voluntarily, and if you’d like to be more involved, then here’s more work for free”. Simple as that. That´s how it translates to me at this moment.

    I don’t know what Train for Though is ( – didn´t even spell it right so I had no idea of what it was – ). I’ve googled it I didn’t find anything, you may want to introduce it to me. The way you packaged this request is not enticing me to do it. I believe in giving before receiving in Life and also in Business – I’ve done the giving part with a lot of people, as you´ve seen. What I offered was nothing short of just over $3500 in value. I honestly cannot see where you’re coming from with this request and I do not see what it entails or what benefits it could have for me or why it’s directed at me. Please feel free to explain what your intention with it is and how it can benefit both parties. Maybe then I’m open to that, but like I said, looking at the request “as is”, my answer is no.

    1. What or who is Train for Though? What´s the mission statement?

    2. Who is making decisions on this process? If in some way that I cannot see at the moment, there is any way this could be a beneficial or contribution of my time to a worthy cause, I certainly would like to not be a Designer on Call for it. I want to know what the brief is, the timeline and those sort of details.

    3. As mentioned, I´m a believer in Pro Bono. I don´t believe in asking for free work based on assumptions of exposure and possibility of capturing more work – which usually ends up being at a cut price. I have done my Pro Bono these last months. I don´t even know this a case of that.

    4. For future reference, when speaking to a Designer, or a professional of any other area, maybe you can try to pitch with an initial piece at reduced prices and if both parties are willing, carry the collaboration onto an agreed budget. Example, just yesterday I took on a LinkedIn pitch, in that format: initial job at trial price, if we are both satisfied, there is more work.

    Don’t know if you have my number, feel free to call me – (0)XXX XXX XXX
    Simão

    I will be creating a blog post on my website slfolio.com around these sort of pitches soon and I am taking other Designers experiences onboard for this post. If you want to chip in, feel free to send me your take on this, Derek. I´ve read what you have on your website, but maybe you can drop a more pearls of wisdom :) Congratulations on your work and stance. There should be a lot more of us standing up and flagging this sort of misconception.
    Best regards,

    Simão

  • DesignBuddy

    Simao, I’m glad you stuck to your guns with your “friend”. It’s the only way we are going to break the conditioned idea designers should work for free or on the cheap. It’s already difficult enough for designers to make a living without people asking us to work for nothing.
    Pro bono work (in my opinion) should be the decision of the service provider, not a client looking for hand outs.

    Congrats on sticking up for yourself. I’d love to contribute some thoughts on the subject to your blog. Just let me know what area you’d like me to discuss. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story :)

  • Chaz DeSimone

    What a perfect subject for comparison:

    I”ve seen good graphic design and bad graphic design.

    I’ve seen good nose jobs, boob jobs, face lifts…and horrendous.

  • KarolK

    That’s a really good story to share.
    Your replied on this “potential customer” is brilliant!
    I enjoy reading lots of your articles.
    They are useful, inspiring, and funny.
    Love you sharing with all this tips as a graphic designer point of view.
    I am still green in this field of being a graphic designer.
    I am good at what I am doing now, but I do need a bigger step of improvement on myself.
    Thank you for being so helpful with your articles. :)

  • united in wage wars

    Low wages for graphics workers. Use you resources. Blog -flog any and all employers who dare to pay low. Bitch them out on a home made YOUTUBE site. Can’t we have a black list of crappy companies??

  • Derek Kimball

    Problem with calling out clients is that they have every opportunity to reciprocate with bad Yelp, Google, or Angies List reviews (even if unjustified on their part). Sometimes it’s just better to learn how to avoid bad clients from the get-go. That’s where a good design brief comes in.

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