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c2ac131d
Community Member

A sample is just a sample!

A client requested a sample for a startup project with potential for a larger illustration project involving 15 books.

 

While trying to remain unbiased, I had concerns about the project scope and payment efficiency based on the client's location/demographic(trying to not believe the steryotypes here).

 

Despite investing around 6 hours of my time and going above and beyond for the sample, the client expected the $200 worth of work to be done for $50 sample. They provided a list of changes, essentially requiring me to start from scratch. To avoid conflict, I agreed to make the changes after explaining the effort involved. However, it is evident that the client does not value my time or skills.

 

I would appreciate any advice on how to handle this situation.

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artist78
Community Member

Hi Sarvanshi,

Generally speaking avoid 'samples' as far as possible. Direct them to your profile/ portfolio with relevant past works. Most honest clients get enough from that and samples are always a red flag to consider. And if some jobs do require it, make sure to confirm with the client beforehand that it will be:
1) As 'rough' and unfinished as possible.
2) Watermarked ALWAYS, no exceptions ever.
3) Professionally explain potential of how it would be improved/ colored etc.
4) Discuss rework but say you cannot commit to it at this point, or do minimal to prove your skills only. If they are still fussy, take that as another red flag.

In your specific case:
1) If a client is asking you to FULLY REWORK a sample without an actual hire or hire with low 'sample' pay, it is most probably they want just that from you... 200$ of work for a mere 50$

2) AND they are most likely using your sample to sell it to a third party (their actual customer). I call these the "sample hunters". This is further confirmed by the fact you say the demographic of the client does not match the payscale they are offering...  they are charging someone way much more somewhere else.
3)Asking changes in a sample with non-commitment is another big sign, as their actual paying client has probably asked changes, and they are giving them 'finished' samples from multiple freelancers to see which style the client will finally pick. So most likely they will not even pay you the 50$ if you are not the one picked.

DO NOT WORK FOR THIRD PARTY RESELLERS EVER as:
1) Might never pay you at all if your work is not chosen to proceed with. But they provided their client 10 different styles of samples for free and got one approved to move on with.

2) Might be charging 2x 3x more from the actual client than what they pay you so the expected workload from the original client would huge in terms of revisions, detailing etc. You will be slaving for peanuts.

3) Feedback and revisions would be cryptic and painful to deal with, as it would be all through a third party you have no direct contact with. So again, slaving for peanuts.
4) They will never agree to any sort of price adjustments, might even quit on you if you ask. And they will squeeze blood out for each penny that they do pay you. They need to keep THEIR profit margins max and work quality best at your expense.

And again, ALWAYS WATERMARK your samples heavily with your name and upwork profile page address and NEVER SHARE ACTUAL FINAL SIZE/ RESOLUTION images.... if watermarks and resolution becomes an issue for the so called client in the mere sample stage, (" the watermark distracts me from deciding", 'I need the right resolution to judge") be sure they are trying to get free work from you to sell to another. They don't want to share your profile address to the client or let the client understand they are just reselling others works for a profit. That is why watermarks are the best way to weed out these resellers immediately. If all these signs are being hit, quit immediately.

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31 REPLIES 31
spectralua
Community Member

Cancel contract. Never work for free in future.

The thing is that technically it is a 'paid' sample!

Requirements changed. You agree for sample for $50 then full work for $200. You must be paid $50 then complete work or contract should be closed if your sample is bad. 1 sample with no changes, as-is = $50. Thats all. Editions and complete work = $200.

I do want to cancel/close the contract, but I'm concerned about the possibility of the client using the feedback maliciously out of vindictiveness, as these types of clients are usually not easily appeased.

You cannot avoid all bad feedbacks. Accept it as-is and move forward. Such client able to leave same feedback when receive full job. "This freelancer wasted 6 hours but unable to provide good result" or so.

Close it and leave true feedback. Then forgot. Spend your time for something good.

You are right, but it will reflect in my JS too. Anything I can write to the client to just closed this contract on neutral terms while minimizing the possibility of a bad feedback? Would issuing a refund work? (They requested revisions on the milestone so I technically wasn't going to get paid anyway.)

Say that you see unable to do it with the best. So will quit.

Or say nothing and close it. You not must to explain anything within rules.

I wrote a message to them explaining that i won't be able to work on their project

 

No, don't do that. It will remove the review from your profile, but it will still impact your JSS. 

 

If the client refuses to pay, dispute. A "sample" doesn't involve revisions--you have completed the job.

To quote some of your own sentences, Sarvanshi:
"Now that I look back, none of these 'sample' clients ever converted to real clients. Instead it enede up leaving a bad look on my profile with this small $50 projects littered around."
"I'm concerned about the possibility of the client using the feedback maliciously out of vindictiveness, as these types of clients are usually not easily appeased."
Seems you know enough about such clients to keep falling for them. As I replied above to Mykola, they hook you with a low paying contract (and possibility of bad reviews) and keep you hanging on for a more extended job that you yourself admit never materializes. So why put yourself through it again and again?


Haris M wrote:

To quote some of your own sentences, Sarvanshi:
"Now that I look back, none of these 'sample' clients ever converted to real clients. Instead it enede up leaving a bad look on my profile with this small $50 projects littered around."
"I'm concerned about the possibility of the client using the feedback maliciously out of vindictiveness, as these types of clients are usually not easily appeased."
Seems you know enough about such clients to keep falling for them. As I replied above to Mykola, they hook you with a low paying contract (and possibility of bad reviews) and keep you hanging on for a more extended job that you yourself admit never materializes. So why put yourself through it again and again?


Maybe because I haven't interacted with that many clients yet, but I will be careful from now on, sometimes no amount of pay is worth so much headache!

Yes, going for the lucrativeness of a 'potential' hire vs wasting time and providing free work is never worth it. If a client cannot be brought onboard with your profile, reviews and even an initial sample...  they are never gonna close as a lead as they are either hunting for free work, cheapest work or selling your work to a third party.
Wish you the best!

Exactly, Mykola...  requirements changed, change the terms accordingly. A trick of scammers to hook a freelancer with a low-paying contract in the hope of a bigger one that never materializes. And the freelancer works more than required on the 'sample' with this illusion.

feed_my_eyes
Community Member

I avoid situations like this by not doing samples or "tests" at all. Ever. If a client wants to see my work, that's why I have a portfolio.

Exactly, Christine. A big red flag for me always, especially in graphical work where even an unsuable sample could be the stolen idea/ concept/ style of work.

Never considered the possibility of my work getting stolen! 

It might have taken Picasso a week of pondering the concept for a piece of art, and a few hours of painting it, changing it, redoing colors and shapes. But I can copy his finalized work in an hour onto a canvas, matching colors, brushstrokes and style. Similarly, they can easily take your great character concepts, look and art style and hire someone else to continue it for them at a cheaper rate. You did the (harder) groundwork for free already. That is why rough as possible with samples. DO NOT GIVE THEM POLISHED FINISHED SAMPLES.

In the visual arts field, the "sample" concept IS 90% of the work!


Haris M wrote:

In the visual arts field, the "sample" concept IS 90% of the work!


Exactly.

That is a great idea but as an illustrator most of my clients wants to see some kind of sample (as they are interviewing a couple of other freelancers too), I generally go with a character sketch for $50 but here I did a complete illustration. Any advice on how I could handel these 'sample' requests? Because I have noticed that they never end up being actual full scale projects!


Sarvanshi B wrote:

That is a great idea but as an illustrator most of my clients wants to see some kind of sample (as they are interviewing a couple of other freelancers too). 


If they're pitting you against other freelancers in a "contest", that's an even bigger "no" from me. It usually means that the client hasn't really reviewed any of your portfolios and given any thought to which style would suit them best; they don't want to go through the process of having discussions, they just want to sit back and pick whatever catches their eye. But everyone in the "contest" will knock themselves out - usually spending way more time than they're being paid for - in an attempt to "win" the project. The client will pick one person (maybe) and give bad reviews to the "losers".  

 

I understand that clients can be reluctant to commit to a multi-thousand dollar project if they're not sure about a freelancer. But I always tell them that I'm not going to actually do the entire project and then bill them for the full amount - we'll discuss their needs, I'll get started on part of the project, then they can provide feedback, I'll make adjustments and then go from there. They can fire me at any time if the work isn't suitable. If you explain this to them, they usually back off from the "testing" and "sample" nonsense.

 


Sarvanshi B wrote:

Any advice on how I could handel these 'sample' requests? Because I have noticed that they never end up being actual full scale projects!


If they never end up being full scale projects, then it should be an easy decision to start refusing these requests. 

I understand that clients can be reluctant to commit to a multi-thousand dollar project if they're not sure about a freelancer. But I always tell them that I'm not going to actually do the entire project and then bill them for the full amount - we'll discuss their needs, I'll get started on part of the project, then they can provide feedback, I'll make adjustments and then go from there. They can fire me at any time if the work isn't suitable. If you explain this to them, they usually back off from the "testing" and "sample" nonsense.


Perfect strategy! Break it up into smaller parts, give them time to be won over with your work and trust and keep things open to end it if it doesn't work. When done with the right clients, it works well and I found they trust meand come back again more in fact. But the scam ones will run away/ not accept it so it works as a great filter as well!


Haris M wrote:

I understand that clients can be reluctant to commit to a multi-thousand dollar project if they're not sure about a freelancer. But I always tell them that I'm not going to actually do the entire project and then bill them for the full amount - we'll discuss their needs, I'll get started on part of the project, then they can provide feedback, I'll make adjustments and then go from there. They can fire me at any time if the work isn't suitable. If you explain this to them, they usually back off from the "testing" and "sample" nonsense.


Perfect strategy! Break it up into smaller parts, give them time to be won over with your work and trust and keep things open to end it if it doesn't work. When done with the right clients, it works well and I found they trust meand come back again more in fact. But the scam ones will run away/ not accept it so it works as a great filter as well!


I break down my process into milestones too! And they generally are convienced from the moment I begin sketching! 


Christine A wrote:

I understand that clients can be reluctant to commit to a multi-thousand dollar project if they're not sure about a freelancer. 

 




I actually make sure to break down the process into as many milestones as possible to give my clients a chance to decide. Even if it was going to be a multi-thousand dollar project, we would have had numerous milestones for that!

artist78
Community Member

Hi Sarvanshi,

Generally speaking avoid 'samples' as far as possible. Direct them to your profile/ portfolio with relevant past works. Most honest clients get enough from that and samples are always a red flag to consider. And if some jobs do require it, make sure to confirm with the client beforehand that it will be:
1) As 'rough' and unfinished as possible.
2) Watermarked ALWAYS, no exceptions ever.
3) Professionally explain potential of how it would be improved/ colored etc.
4) Discuss rework but say you cannot commit to it at this point, or do minimal to prove your skills only. If they are still fussy, take that as another red flag.

In your specific case:
1) If a client is asking you to FULLY REWORK a sample without an actual hire or hire with low 'sample' pay, it is most probably they want just that from you... 200$ of work for a mere 50$

2) AND they are most likely using your sample to sell it to a third party (their actual customer). I call these the "sample hunters". This is further confirmed by the fact you say the demographic of the client does not match the payscale they are offering...  they are charging someone way much more somewhere else.
3)Asking changes in a sample with non-commitment is another big sign, as their actual paying client has probably asked changes, and they are giving them 'finished' samples from multiple freelancers to see which style the client will finally pick. So most likely they will not even pay you the 50$ if you are not the one picked.

DO NOT WORK FOR THIRD PARTY RESELLERS EVER as:
1) Might never pay you at all if your work is not chosen to proceed with. But they provided their client 10 different styles of samples for free and got one approved to move on with.

2) Might be charging 2x 3x more from the actual client than what they pay you so the expected workload from the original client would huge in terms of revisions, detailing etc. You will be slaving for peanuts.

3) Feedback and revisions would be cryptic and painful to deal with, as it would be all through a third party you have no direct contact with. So again, slaving for peanuts.
4) They will never agree to any sort of price adjustments, might even quit on you if you ask. And they will squeeze blood out for each penny that they do pay you. They need to keep THEIR profit margins max and work quality best at your expense.

And again, ALWAYS WATERMARK your samples heavily with your name and upwork profile page address and NEVER SHARE ACTUAL FINAL SIZE/ RESOLUTION images.... if watermarks and resolution becomes an issue for the so called client in the mere sample stage, (" the watermark distracts me from deciding", 'I need the right resolution to judge") be sure they are trying to get free work from you to sell to another. They don't want to share your profile address to the client or let the client understand they are just reselling others works for a profit. That is why watermarks are the best way to weed out these resellers immediately. If all these signs are being hit, quit immediately.

I actually never knew about RESELLERS!!!! That would explain a LOT of things.Thank you so much for taking the time to provide such a detailed explanation Haris! Espically for highlighting each point so clearly.  

 

"Direct them to your profile/ portfolio with relevant past works. Most honest clients get enough from that and samples are always a red flag to consider."

Now that I look back, none of these 'sample' clients ever converted to real clients. Instead it enede up leaving a bad look on my profile with this small $50 projects littered around.

 

I have another question. I had a 2.5-hour voice call with this client to discuss all the project details. Despite their claim of being a startup with multiple team members involved, I still have doubts about the scope of the project and their ability to pay. The timeline they proposed, completing 15 books in just 8 months, seems unrealistic both in terms of my capacity and their ability to pay.

 

Does a lengthy 2.5-hour voice call necessarily indicate that a client is genuine? Additionally, I've noticed that they often take 1-2 days to provide feedback, responding with statements like "Let me discuss this with my team."

You are most welcome. Glad it helps!

"Now that I look back, none of these 'sample' clients ever converted to real clients. Instead it enede up leaving a bad look on my profile with this small $50 projects littered around."....  exactly my point about the "Sample Hunters".

Lenghtly phone calls...  multiple team...  all signs of the same to me. You had a 2.5 hour conversation? Nothing compared to the time some of them spend to get free work. I have had longer conversations with multiple members of a 'team' in the past and they just disappeared the minute I raised my questions and my insistence on watermarks.

Too long for feedback....  another surefire red flag that they are reselling your work and awaiting feedback on their end. How hard it is to look at an image and provide instant feedback? "I don't like his hair color"... simple, one line answer.

 

And the dreaded "discuss with team"...  again, awaiting feeback on their end. Ask them directly who is the decision maker here? I thought you were as you signed me on. Who heads the visual/ design team? Then why am I not dealing directly with him/her? Are you waiting for feedback from a third party? Are your clients slow in response? Try and take them slowly down this line, they might admit it. Or they might not answer honestly but at least you will let them know you have caught onto them.

But overall, know when to cut your losses and admit you've been had, and learn how to avoid it further. Do not fall into the sunk cost fallacy and keep working on it more. As you said, these jobs never materialize to bigger ones.... so why keep falling for them?

Deleted - just noticed that you already covered the point that I wanted to make. But I wonder why you insist on watermarks? The idea is what's valuable, not the execution of the idea. And if you suspect that a fellow freelancer is trying to steal your work, they're even more likely to know how to remove a watermark - it takes mere seconds these days.

Yes, Christine, we are on the same page here so my apologies if I got there first, I would appreciate your inputs on the same as well.
Maybe it is just personal experience but I find watermarking helpful to a certain degree, especially with the recent spate of clients who have no graphical skills and are mostly either outsourcing work and need samples to present to their actual client or just want free final files for themselves.


Responses I personally got:

"I can't present it to the team with the watermark."... got this a lot. The 'team' here definitely is their real third party client because if he/she is the design head as they said they are, they know that watermarks are standard on samples and have no issues "sharing with their own team".

"I need the image without watermark. I cannot use them with a watermark".... that is the point, lol, I am not giving you free ready-to-use images. They have been dumb enough to actually say this to me and cracks me up each time! Sure, pay/ hire me and get your source files at the end. They never do. Maybe robbed my concept but at least I let them know I caught on and didn't serve ALL OF IT free on a silver platter.

It is mainly psychological.... they will immediately know they are dealing with someone seasoned who won't be easily swayed into more free work. Immediate complaints like above are a good red flag because real clients don't ever mind.
And mostly, the folks having an issue with it can't fix it as they are mostly not fellow freelancers in the same field, so lack the skills and the software to remove watermarks easily.

Of course, there is no foolproof way to prevent anything 100%, and you might be totally right. And yes, the concept/ idea can still be stolen. It's mostly a psych game to see how they react early on to get out if things smell fishy.

You are right about me falling into the sunk cost fallacy. It is but natural to feel invested and attached to a project after having a 3 hr call discussing that. And yes, I should have noticed the pattern already. I have sent them a message saying that I will be refunding them for the sample (they raised a revision on that so it wasn't even paid anyway) and that I won't be able to work on this project. 

 

Good news is that I got an excellent client yesterday, what I could have made in 1 month, I am making in a week with this project! 

 

"As you said, these jobs never materialize to bigger ones.... so why keep falling for them?"

I haven't had that many clients yet to be able to spot the pattern so easily, but I am learning to!

 

Again, thankyou so much for the help Haris! Your answers are always so info packed I feel like I am learning more from you than from youtube! ๐Ÿ™‚


Sarvanshi B wrote:

Does a lengthy 2.5-hour voice call necessarily indicate that a client is genuine? 


OMG, no! An interview should be 15 minutes maximum, and be about getting to know each other. You should be asking just as many questions as the client asks you. If it goes on for longer, it's a consultation, not an interview, and you should charge for that. In fact, you should set up a consultation project in your profile and direct clients to hire you that way if they start asking specific questions about your ideas during an interview.

Oh God! It may be because I am fairly new to freelancing but I didn't even know that! During the call, it felt like the I was the one giving business ideas to the client! I had setup not one but 2 consultation projects on my profile, thankyou so much for directing me on how to utilize that and avoid doing samples! Thankyou Christine!

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