Originally posted on 12 December 2005
I get an e-mail “Naina, would you help me out with graphic design/logo design for the business, which earns me money?

I give them the benefit of doubt that maybe they are indeed talking about a paid engagement. So I write to them “Tell me more about your business, your requirements.

The next e-mail I get details their requirements, what they want their website to do and look like, what they want their logo to look like. They go to great lengths to explain what exactly they want. My reply e-mail to them then details what exactly I will deliver to them and I also let them know how much I’ll charge and how I would prefer them to pay me – since most engagements involve long-distance clients.

I never hear from them again.

I wish they’d atleast be professional enough to send me an e-mail and let me know that they can’t afford me and will not be able to work with me.

UPDATE: 29 December 2005

I have recently been involved in an e-mail exchange with someone who needed some free work done and they kept referring to this particular blog post telling me what a sad person I was. They wanted a small logo done for a non-profit and since I have been busy with other [ paid and free ] projects, I declined and told them that if they needed me to do some work for them, they would have to pay me – opportunity cost. And they kept pointing out how I write a blog only because I have an agenda and not a good heart – I don’t think they read the first line of this blog post and have succeeded in completely misunderstanding what I mean. [ It’s easy on the internet – misunderstanding. ]

I never said in the post above that I “will not” work for free. I just said that I hate it when people assume that I will work for them for free and create something for their business “which makes them money”. I am open to working for non-profits and have time and again replied in the positive when I have been approached in the same regard.

Why should I feel apologetic because I am busy and cannot take up another non-profit free project? [ Which basically means that I did feel apologetic in this particular case and thus did not like the feeling ] I could probably have been a bit more polite – but some people just don’t get it.

And oh! When I say that I expect them to be professional and tell me they can’t afford me – of course I don’t expect anyone to say those exact words! Since I’ve written this blog post, I have exchanged e-mails and discussed potential projects with clients and have told them upfront to tell me if they don’t want to work with me – for whatever reason and thankfully “ALL” of those wonderful people have been very upfront about their current situation. Who said a designer couldn’t get a percentage of the money that their client makes from selling their product? [ for the product for which I designed the logo! Of course subject to terms and conditions. ]


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  1. In the last few weeks, your name was almost everywhere on Linkedin groups for logo creation. Maybe that made people think you contribute to business for free or less.

    b/w, I wouldn’t think people will get back to you to say, “No, I can’t afford it.”. And I suggest you shouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s just like that. 😉

  2. Hey Takuya! Yes, I know the LinkedIn Socially Logo was being talked about quite a bit and “all” the enquiries that I got after that design engagement were genuine ones where the people who got in touch with me asked me about how I usually handle payments from overseas etc.

    Its the others who “assume” for whatever reason [ maybe I tend to be very polite and friendly and with just a couple of e-mail exchanges these people think that I’m so smitten with them that I’ll design for their company for free! ]

    While I agree that “that’s how it is” – it should not be. When people can blatantly ask me to contribute for free why can’t they also tell me that they do not have the budget currently? It isn’t that difficult and making that statement does not reflect on the personality of the person – it’s just a fact – sometimes we just don’t have the budget!

    Sometimes it really does get on my nerves! 😀 Thank you for stopping by Takuya!

  3. Hi Naina,

    I would like to narrate two similar incidents which happend with me. I was trying to get a logo designed for my wife’s company. I asked a business friend (whose team is incidentally good at graphics) to do the favor. He agreed. After many days and few reminders he said that his team is very busy with other projects so please wait. I am waiting till date.

    Then I asked same favor from another business friend (who has a small team of two persons including himself). He said that will take some time due to some other engagements. But within a week’s time he was ready with few designs and after some modifications we zeroed in on one design.

    Now, came the time to payback. First friend asked me to write a profile of his comapny and second friend asked for few scripts to be written for one of his client’s site. Company profile of first one is still to be written while I am working on second set of scripts for second friend and that too on complimentary basis.

    My conclusion is to adopt Jaise ko Taisa policy, if opportunity comes in.


  4. Hi there,

    I know this response is a.. few years late after the fact. But I found your blog after Googling, “What if a friend uses me to do design work?” and I am relieved to find other designers who have gone through the same experiences that I have!!

    It’s very disheartening – coming across situations, and in my case- my own friends who think that graphic design is some sort of hobby and don’t mind soliciting us for free design work!! What do they think we do for a living? In addition – I don’t know about you- but I graduated from one of the top design schools in the U.S. (in Pasadena, CA) where my family forked over a LOT of money for my education. It feels like a slap in the face – to some degree, that our profession is taken not seriously. Granted, I have had clients who DO appreciate the work and will pay accordingly as so. But this friend – is a professional product manager of my former employer – she should know better. My first logo for her was for a non-profit… ok.. I was willing to let that go. Then earlier this summer she asked me to create an identity for her friend who is starting up a clairvoyant business – henceforth, he doesn’t have much money.

    (But will ultimately be charging…? Because she has been a good friend to me, I couldn’t say no.. and in return, I got some clairvoyant/psychic readings. Whoppeedo.)

    I mean, I can see it for non-profits when we approach them or if it’s something near and dear to our heart. But even with non-profits, I have gotten to the point where the amount of work compared to the actual gratitude (which often isn’t recognized… or having to go through non-profit politics) isn’t worth the time and effort after a while. But to not have the respect and be taken for granted by your own colleagues and friends is pretty low and makes me angry.

    Sorry for venting. It seems that my friend is upset that the client who I created the logo for got his business cards late (but again, doing it for free on my time when I’m working/going to school full-time). So now she’s pissed off at me.. which makes a whole lot of sense.

    Maybe a better word of advice is to also don’t work for close family and friends. IMHO.

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