I’ve been lucky in the past 20 years to have had very rare bad experiences with clients. Most have been courteous, professional, reliable and aboveboard in every way imaginable. The only time I’ve had trouble with a client has been this particular project for a small southern book publisher in October of 2000. I was contracted to do three separate projects for this client, one of them a trio of ‘fat jewish lady’ cartoons for a cookbook (which I haven’t bothered to include here). A series of ‘seafood cartoons’ (of which I’ve included many of them here in this posting) for another cookbook, and finally a color cover illustration for a florida guidebook.
Well, the ‘jewish fat lady’ illustrations came first, they were fairly easy, and went swiftly from sketch to finish without a hitch, and were billed out to the client’s approval. The ‘seafood cartoons’ project was next, and the client seemed to love them all, and they went smoothly through the sketch and finish phase, with only minor corrections on a few of them, and these were approved and billed out. So far so good. I was really pleased with how they turned out, and had a lot of fun with the project, and even now, looking back at them from 7 years on, I still get a kick out of them.
Then came the color ‘guidebook cover’ illustration. I was worried about this one, because the client was particularly vague about what they wanted, so I very carefully went through several sketch phases, including color mockups and approvals on each separate element before putting the finish together. The hand lettering on the ‘florida’ was particularly time consuming, and didn’t want there to be any mix-ups about what I was doing. Well, the sketches were all approved and I was told to ‘go to finish’, but when the final illustration was presented, the client suddenly ‘didn’t like it all’ and wanted to go back to the drawing board and start over with a completely new concept. I explained that since the sketches were all approved, that going ‘back to square one’ would incur additional charges.
There was a disagreement with the client at this point, and the client refused to pay me for ANY of the work, including the two projects that were already in her hands, and presumably on their way to the printer. I did not wish to get involved in small claims court over this, especially over state lines, so I took advantage of my only perk with regards to being self employed, I took a loss on the project and walked away.
I’ve been extremely fortunate that this sort of client has been a true rarity in my experience (even with working for several clients on the far side of the globe), and on the plus side, I still have the drawings. Perhaps I can sell the reprints and have the final laugh in this sorry episode.