Freelance art is never just about the art. All too often I read about one artist or another's "horror" story when it comes to dealing with a client. Some don't pay on time, some don't pay at all, some are too overbearing, while some give too little feedback and then suddenly need ten changes in the final stage. We've all experienced one or all of these situations at one time or another, and sometimes it leaves us asking - what the hell are we doing in this field? This is a different kind of story though - so if you are not already too jaded, read on.
For the past 7 months, I have been working closely with a client on a personal venture of his, one planned to be released publicly in the near future. Even though it was only my second big freelance gig, any initial skepticism I may have had about this job was immediately put to rest. First assignment: great feedback, and paid immediately. Second assignment: great feedback, paid immediately... and so on with each assignment. As our business relationship grew, he gave me more freedom to design characters on my own, and he trusted me to invoice him fairly when I was done, all the while continuing to give prompt feedback, and prompt payment. And, unlike a lot of clients and contractors tend to be in this digital age, we were in the same state, about an hour or two away, and planned to get coffee and meet in person sometime.
He has lived in California way longer than I, and would share places of interest and stories. He told me about his daughter, and how she wanted to be an artist, just like me.
About two weeks ago I sent him an email with some progress to critque. I did not hear back in that week..very unlike him. I thought he must be busy getting this business rolling, he was very passionate about what he did. I sent him a new email earlier this week with further progress, and still no reply. I knew something was wrong. One might think it is radical to jump to a tragic conclusion, but I did, because he was always interested, always prompt. I decided we should call him last night. No pick up. This morning there was a voicemail from his wife, he passed away two weeks ago.
I wish that this was just another case of a client bailing on a project, or not prioritizing, or just plain forgetting like I have read others complain about time and again...but it is not so. I hope that I can continue to be a part of his project if and when it gets going again early next year. I hope that I can assist his daughter with what little I know about art, and I hope that she knows how great an example he was for me starting out - - of what a client/contractor relationship could be.
Thank you for trusting me as a designer, thank you for sharing your stories, thank you for being a great client. I hope we can get that coffee sometime.