Story with client who ripped me off and wants to collaborate again - advice?


New Member
Hello everyone! I am a new (not exactly young but new in the field as I was a visual artist before) graphic designer and illustrator in Greece. I am new to working with clients and I want to share an experience I had, because I would like some opinions. Last month I collaborated with a design studio that asked me to work on two separate projects for them. First design project was a briefed vector illustration-logo for shampoo to be sold in pharmacies and the second was basically a series of 3 (which turned to 4) briefed illustrations to decorate the outside box and inside bottle packaging of house perfume, for the company to give its clients as a Christmas present.

First of all, I don't know what the objectives of the company are with the designs, and they are capable to use it otherwise I think, or to their advantage, which I can't control, but this is beyond my scope of the question and it's also my own suspicion playing out. But we didn't sign any contracts, I didn't ask for a payment in advance and as I am new to this with virtually no experience in finances, I was unaware of how much to charge for this (quite substantial bit of) work, but at least I had done my research. Actually, the discussion on the projects' briefs and the price was oral, via skype meeting. And they told me their budget suggesting a price upon describing the tasks, at which moment I asked them whether the mentioned price was referring to both projects or to each one individually. And the answer was 'for each project' which sounded pretty satisfying to me being reluctant to price my own work yet, although I believe it does have value. So I then started working for the next full 2 weeks on the projects, sharing files and progress with them back and forth (they also asked me for the .ai files before the payment, which I was unsure about but I sent it away anyway)...

I just want to mention that I made my best of work for both deliverables and I really think the amount of money we agreed on was already not reflecting the work I put on, especially for the second task, which contained a main cartoony figure of a dressed-up animal character in the middle (just think about what research for references), surrounded by compact tiny doodles/themed elements in the style of Keith Haring, filling the background, all in black and white, but with quite a bit of research to be done overall on the figures, and also, created all on a draft layer first and then traced out for the final (x 4 times for different scenes/characters).. Believe me it was a lot of work!! And I made it in the best way possible (by this I mean that if we had agreed on less money I would have probably still made it, but in a much quicker or 'sloppy' way...sort of thing).

So, to keep things kind of short, I created 4 instead of 3 which was the initial agreement, full-page illustrations on the second project - series (i think it was an advantage for them to present it as 'series' in order to pay much less, because in fact each illustration should have been priced as an individual illustration). The day came to get payed. We agreed to meet up in person to give me the payment. So I expected a certain amount of money, I opened the envelop after we separated our ways, to find out it was Half the amount they had offered and I had said yes. I didn't have any written email talking about the price, we didn't sign a contract, I decided to let it go and not contact them, after going through a phase of discomfortable feelings and disappointment.

After 1-2 weeks they sent me a message on my phone, asking if I am up for a new illustration. I never saw this message, cos my phone isn't very reliable with notifications, but another week ahead I receive a phone call, which i didn't respond - for me it's better with emails but especially after feeling betrayed by them, I didn't know how to tackle conversation now, since I had decided not act for my right as soon as the incident had happened. They sent me an email telling me about unanswered message and phone call yesterday, and I have to reply back. The reason they contact me also is to give me the final products of the "perfume bottles" which they had mentioned they wanted to give me as the 'creator of the illustrations' (which seems 'very polite' of them, contradicting the event of ripping me off, and making me even question my own initial understanding on the price agreement -?!-) and in fact I would like to have that and I will have to face meeting with them again.

My question for you is how you would have tackled this situation/problem if you were in my position. Did I make a mistake that I decided to not clear the waters when I founded out they ripped me off? Also, what should I do now? I really need clients, and I wish things had gone alright for the collaboration to continue normally with this design studio, but now I don't know what to tell them. Am I available to work for them again? I also think the quality of work that I produced for them was way better than the undervalued price they suggested (but we are talking about prices in Greece too) not to mention the actual money I got from them, which was Half the agreed on price. I still can't believe this happened to me, I know I am no good business person, however I don't want to get ripped off, and I feel that even though I need the clients, I don't want to work for them and produce 'valuable assets for their benefit', for ethical reasons now. Please enlighten me.


Well-Known Member
First of all, there's far too much unnecessary detail there. Basically, you've been taken advantage of, or at least, the lack of putting things in writing, even just with email, has backfired on you.
This is why I always insist on a written brief and quotes etc agreed in writing and avoid zoom meetings wherever possible - things get missed or important details are forgotten or too vague.

However, I don't how things are done in Greece, but why on earth were you paid with an envelope of cash like something dodgy was going off?

I would send them a polite email describing (briefly!) your concerns, along the lines of - I would love to do more work for you, but because I feel I was underpaid for the first work, I would need full costings
this time, 50% up front and a Purchase Order indicating the whole amount. If they don't agree then you need to walk away, you can do without clients like that. Hopefully, they will realise that they're now
working with a professional, and thus they need to work professionally themselves.


New Member
Thank you for your answer, it was helpful. I wrote way too many details indeed. I realise this now reading back to it (and difficult to follow myself for me too).. I was just very emotional about what happened and every detail to the story counted so I felt I wanted to let it all out etc. Anyway, thank you!