I saw this today on LinkedIn:
I paid a name artist five months ago in advance for a pin-up for [series name]. In fact, I’ve had several artists, mostly old friends… all consummate professionals.
Just this one artist, who seems to be a bad actor. At the time he said contact him in two weeks and he’d give me an update on the status. Two weeks later I emailed him — nothing. I’ve been emailing him every few weeks very politely at first. Still no response at all. My last couple of emails were more strongly worded and in my last one I told him I’d be telling everyone I know on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on our blog about it and name him by name. Hell, I’m thinking I’ll put out a press release, too.
What do you think? Does he get away with it, and I have a lesson learned, or do I go nuclear on his ass?
Don’t go public about backstage drama. It can only make the situation worse. First, verify what you can. Is he actually being delinquent? You would look like a damn idiot if you accused your artist of going AWOL and it turns out that he was actually in an emergency room after getting hit by a car. (It happens). At the very least, do not stumble into a slander lawsuit until you actually know (rather than suspect) what is going on!
If you have an editor/publisher, address any concerns to them and discuss whether you need to replace your artist. Unlike publically accusing your artist of fraud, replacing your artist does not open you up to a slander/libel lawsuit if it turns out his absence was totally innocuous. If you don’t yet have an editor/publisher, make the determination on your own. It will cost you time and money and you’ll probably have to scrap most of the work by the original artist. It’s highly bothersome and usually unprofessional for an artist to go missing for several weeks, but switching to another artist may well be a cure worse than the disease.
Finally, besides getting back at your original artist, going public doesn’t actually help you in any way. It certainly doesn’t make it any likelier that he’ll come up with the art for you. It may raise questions about your professionalism and will probably make you look inept. (Don’t give yourself a reputation for workplace drama).
Some other general ideas to minimize problems with your teammates:
- When you work with freelancers, pay no more than half upfront and the rest on completion. This increases the artist’s incentive to complete the job. It also limits the amount of money you lose if everything goes to hell.
- Work out a schedule ahead of time. I’m not sure what the case was above, but making your expectations clear is usually helpful.
- Maybe exchange phone numbers. You may be uncomfortable asking for this if you’ve never actually met your freelancer. However, when you’ve committed yourself to paying somebody thousands of dollars, I think your business relationship is strong enough to justify this request. (At the very least, as a matter of customer service).
- Business etiquette: when should you call (rather than e-mail) your freelancer? Since a call is more intrusive than an e-mail, I would only call if your artist hasn’t responded to an urgent e-mail within 1-3 weeks. For example: the artist misses a deadline by more than a week (without explaining why) and doesn’t respond to an e-mail requesting a status update. If you call your artist, politely remind him about the schedule, ask if there’s anything you can do to help*, and ask about when he thinks he can have the art in to you. *Unless he needs clarification, there probably won’t be, but offering is still friendly.