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How can you answer a client when...

How can you answer a client when he ask you for free designs to try you out?

He promise you an ongoing project though.. and is 4 designs for 4USD an our a good price?

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Asking for free work is very specifically forbidden by oDesk.

The correct answer is always to politely decline, because you wouldn't want either of you to get in trouble with oDesk, but point out that you will be happy to do a small paid test project, and refer the client to your portfolio so he can see the type of work you do.

Any client who can not accept those terms is simply trying to break the rules and is trying to scam free work from you.

There's so many of them in Odesk. Many client that offer Tshirt design job for their online campaigns get their designs from interviewing freelancers and giving them instructions for try out project wih a promise of ongoing work if they like your designs but after you give them designs they will tell you that they are interviewing more candidates and still choosing the right one. I waited few days and still no updates receive. I also saw my design on a Tshirt campaign website which is very popular now, it was selling $$$. 

The oDesk help document "Client Policies" is clear on this matter:


Requesting free work of any kind is prohibited, including contests in which freelancers submit work with no to very little pay, and only the winning submission is paid the full amount.


But there is no practical way for oDesk to completely police this. It is up to oDesk contractors to enforce this rule.


I'm sorry that there are clients who take advantage of newbie contractors, but the best we can do is to flag those client accounts to notify oDesk when we encounter this. And as a community we should all continue to educate contractors. This problem is caused as much by inappropriate contractor behavior as it is by inappropriate client behavior.

"But there is no practical way for oDesk to completely police this."


But there are ways they could police this better.  Just today I came across a "client" who had posted over 20 ads but made 0 hires. oDesk could definitely review/suspend client accounts when it is clear they're not here to pay people.  oDesk could put flagging options (e.g., requesting free work) directly on their message pages.  oDesk could disable attachments for messages sent before hiring.  And that's just off the top of my head.


I definitely agree with you, Darrin.


ODesk could do better and *should* do better at stopping this kind of behavior from clients.


To their credit, ODesk representatives have stated in a number of places that it is their intention to do a better job on curtailing bad client behavior. They stated so recently in their announcements about "My Stats."


I can recall oDesk representatives specifically stating that they will be doing more to crack down on no-hire "clients."


I can't say how far along they are in their efforts. At least it is hopeful that the problem has been acknowledged.


For now, though, I think the primary line of defense remains the contractors. That may never change.

Yeah, it will always be a case of having to look out for yourself.  No matter what oDesk does, there will always be bad actors trying to game the system.  With oDesk being caught in the middle, I appreciate their job is tough, but I maintain many of the problems that exist are the result of a system that favors clients over freelancers without fully realizing how much harm the bad clients are causing when they are allowed to interact with the good freelancers.


I always report clients asking for free work in the job description. If they want multiple ideas from multiple people, there are plenty of freelance contest sites out there. As with anything, with those you get what you pay for, the higher winning price they put on the contest the better submissions they will get.


If you, in your descretion, as a provider, want to give sample graphic design work to a client, make sure it is clearly watermarked so that they can not "steal" it and put it on a t-shirt. Then you can say "if you like this design, hire me, and I will provide you with the version that does not have a watermark"


Be careful doing this however, as it technically breaks the rules of oDesk as well. This is not a contest site. Working on a project without being hired is also forbidden.


Very good points.


re: "If they want multiple ideas from multiple people, there are plenty of freelance contest sites out there."


This is true. But in my opinion, there SHOULD NOT be freelance contest sites out there. It's not oDesk's fault, of course, and there's not much you or I can do about it.


I just think these "contests" that "clients" use to get free work are morally bankrupt.


(To the people who submit entries to these things, I can only say: For goodness' sake, people, have some self-respect!)


re: "This is not a contest site."

Thank goodness.

Community Member

@Charles C wrote:

Working on a project without being hired is also forbidden.

Oops. I've done this a few times, although only during the interview process. If I get the sense that the client is a) not an **edited for Community Guidelines**, and b) sufficiently interested, then during any lull in proceedings I may at least do some prep work; I figure that if I get hired, great, I'm ahead of the game, and if I don't get hired I've got something that, with a bit of tweaking, can either become a portfolio piece or something I can recycle later if I have a job to do but am finding inspiration difficult.


(Given that a lot of my work all happens in my head -- the process of designing a logo, for instance, is mostly about the ideas, and the actual implementation is negligible -- I almost can't help doing some work on jobs even if I don't apply for them!)

re: "Given that a lot of my work all happens in my head... I almost can't help doing some work on jobs even if I don't apply for them!"


Excellent point, Matthew.


Clearly clients should not be asking for free work, but there may be a hazy line with regards to when a contractor is doing "work" without being officially hired for a contract. I'm not sure how hard and fast the rule about "not doing free work" is...


I agree:

If a client interviews me, they're getting value.


This is one reason why, whenever possible, I am now charging for interviews, even first-time discussions.


In fact, I have a first-time discussion scheduled for two days from now, and it will be conducted using an hourly contract, completely billed to the client.


This is even more beneficial to the client than it is to me, because it means the client can feel free to ask any and all questions that they have, specifically relating to their project, and they don't have to worry about veering into territory that would constitute "work" or paid consultation.


Because we'll already be there.


I don't mind answering a few questions about myself or my availability via oDesk messaging, but as busy as I am now, I need clients to pay me if they want to talk to me live via phone or Skype, OR if they want to ask project specific questions via email or messaging.