This story takes place sometime around 2007, after I had graduated college, but before being a full-time designer. This interaction soured me on working with clients so badly that I have not returned to freelance work.
Just after college graduation I was working as a security guard and picking up freelance graphic design contracts. One of my fellow co-workers asked me for my services in designing a logo, letterhead, and business card designs for his start-up company.
Being fresh out of college I only quoted a $300 fee. After a week of design ideas and lots of back and forth we agreed on five design concepts that he would show to his business partners. I fleshed these designs out a bit more and packaged everything into a very nice, very professional, very expensive, acrylic portfolio folder that I was given as a gift from a family member for graduating college.
The following day, when I arrived at my security job, my fellow co-worker called in sick. And the day after. And the day after that… and for the remainder of the week. He then quit. Taking my portfolio folder and all of my design work with him.
After not being able to contact my now former co-worker for well over a month I was resigned to the idea that I was not going to see my work, and my portfolio, again. So, I moved on, using online forums to search for clients.
One of those online clients was looking for a designer to take some of their sketches and convert them into vector designs for use online and for printing. I reached out thinking it would be an easy gig and got an email back containing what they were looking for and images of all of my sketches that I made for my former co-worker.
I had watermarked all of my images when I presented them to said former co-worker; even pencilling in a watermark on my original sketch work. They were looking to have someone remove the watermarks and digitize the work. I emailed from my freelancer account and set up a meeting.
We agreed to meet at a local coffee shop. I made sure to sit in my car until my former co-worker went inside first. I followed behind and sat down at his table right as he was pulling out his chair. He was not happy to see me. Nor I him.
Long story short, after some choice words in a public space, I was able to get my portfolio back. I was never paid. I am so happy that we now live in a more integrated digital age where I don’t have to give out physical portfolios.