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Am I in the wrong? Hoping to be a better seller (LONG)

I’ve been meaning to say hi here but I never did, so, hi!
I don’t think I need to say this really but, don’t do anything to the buyer, don’t say anything, please leave them alone. I’m saying this because I can’t conceal who the buyer was and I’m not writing this to cause trouble for them, this is about me.

I had my first order a couple days ago and it was kind of a train wreck. I know it is at least half my fault, but I’m not sure if I really can blame the buyer for anything.
My gigs have been collecting dust here for awhile, I get that no one wants to be the one to try a gig that has no reviews, but then this buyer comes. They were interested in my character design gig and asked what I would charge for the front and back view for one character and they wanted a long term partnership, I told them $15 per view (front,side,back,etc.), so $30. They said they didn’t like that and asked if it was negotiable.
I started panicking because I thought if I told them no, they would just leave and I’d never get someone to vouch for my service. I’ve had no luck getting a job, so I was really desperate for this to take off.
Here’s where I messed up. I told them that I would instead do it for $15. They then told me they wanted a side view too, so I offered $20. They then said they wanted me to draw the character on the sheet with the same level of polish as in my illustration gig. I tried to tell them that my character sheets don’t have that level of polish (they don’t really need to, right? they’re for reference?), but they said that my gig said they did. I reiterated that they needed to look at my character design gig, not my illustration gig, to see what to expect. They then asked me to show them examples of what character sheets I have done. I literally just sent them what was on the gig page and they said “Cool”, they didn’t acknowledge that it was literally just from my gig page, so I figured that meant they still didn’t look.
Anyways, after seeing that my character sheets aren’t polished like that, they still said they wanted illustration-level detail. They also said I was offering too few revisions. I said during the sketching phase, they could revise as much as they wanted, they were okay with this (this part I think might be fair because they shouldn’t be charged for me not being a mind reader, but as they later prove, it does need limitations, I think). I said I would do what they wanted for only $20 since I didn’t have any reputation at the moment (I figured they were gambling so maybe it was fair) but I wouldn’t make a habit of it.
Here’s where I REALLY messed up. They then reminded me that they were looking for a long-term partnership. Maybe you all would interpret that differently, but I interpreted it as “the deal’s off if you won’t do this from now on”.
You can guess what I did next. I thought to myself “This will totally be worth it once people see I’m legit, even if I have to do extra for less for this one person for a while, it’ll be worth it with all the customers I’ll get later.” I was basing my expectations off of a transaction I did off Fiverr, it went very smoothly, so much so I was able to get it done the same day they purchased it (that was my actual first sale).
We proceeded onto the sketching phase. Now, maybe I just don’t have enough experience to know what being a character designer really entails, but they made so many revisions that, at the time, I thought they were just doing it to see how much they could get away with. They asked for details to be revised one at a time, and only after I take a photo of my sketch and send it to them, at the time I thought, “Why don’t they just tell me all the details they want to change in one message so I can waste less time stopping to take pictures of my progress and to see what they say next?” Now that I’ve had time to think with a clearer head, that probably isn’t a fair assessment to make, because there’s no way for me to say that they were intentionally wasting my time with any certainty, they very well could have honestly just said to make those changes when they thought of them, and they happened to think of them after every photo I sent them.
About three hours later, they give me the okay to move on to making my sketch digital. They are still making revisions but the revisions are pertaining to how I’m drawing things so I forgave it at the time and still wasn’t charging for revisions.
This is somewhere I feel like I did the right thing, but I’m not sure. I send my progress pictures with watermarks on them, they are white and at 24% opacity. They said to remove it because they needed to run it by their team. This is literally the first time any team is mentioned, before this it was “I want…”, “I like…”, “I don’t like…”, “I etc.”, and after this it is still “I”, their team is never mentioned again. I say no and explain it’s there to prevent theft, but they continue to talk about how annoying and inconvenient it is throughout the process. I lower it to 5% opacity so it’s still obviously there but they can see very clearly what their character looks like, and they would still tell me to remove it and that they don’t know for sure what they’re getting because of the watermark. Even now I suspect they would have taken it and cancelled the order had I complied.
I’m still in college so I couldn’t dedicate all my time to their order. I finish up with my classwork and continued as soon as I can, which is late, 10 or 11. There are 12 hours left (three days total) by the time I start. At around 3 am I finally get to a point where their order is done, they have no more revisions for me (I was kicking myself for letting them get so many). I ask if I can conclude the order. They then say they want me to add more views of the head without certain things and with certain things. Those are normally $5 each. Thankfully, he accepts me doing them in flat colors (which I would’ve charged $1 each for instead, but they, of course got it free) they also asked for more revisions on the figures, but that’s my fault because I asked if they wanted a certain stylistic thing, and they asked for multiple versions of it and side-by-side comparisons before deciding they didn’t want it and it wouldn’t have worked for their purposes anyway. Then they asked me to draw them a simple logo using the head references. About 2 hours later, they finally give me the okay to finish the order. They ask me for a png too, okay no problem. Then they ask for the first character alone on an image with a white background with the logo, I send it to them, then they make two revisions, I do it, they then ask for the image in the format for Instagram, I do it, they then say they want a png of the logo, I do it, It’s 6:30 and I finally say I can’t do anymore and I have to sleep before they have the chance to ask for anything else. They say they want to talk about the next projects when I woke up.
Maybe I just don’t really know what it’s like to be a character designer, and I need to get used to it, but I was completely demotivated to do anything so angry at myself for what I did, and I was dreading having to do it all again. I eventually think, “I never agreed they were entitled to free head angles, I can at least get something for that.” I tell them I will charge for them, but they will be $1 each instead of $5 because they ordinarily have some shading and stuff, and that had they paid for them in the previous order, it would have been $24 (I excluded the logo from the equation). They say “but you had to draw it anyway” and that they are not happy about the increase.
I decided to try asking for a break because I was so worn out from their project. They said that only happened because of the times I chose to work and get updates. I said the last day isn’t the entire reason I need a break now. They just say okay.

The fact that I desperately wanted to go back on my word (I used to pride myself on always keeping my word) was bad enough, but it got worse they gave me a five star review. That’s the worst part, because if I stand my ground now, it’s going to look like I planned to do that and all of what I was doing was just for that review. In the beginning I did want it, but I would happily have it say “no reviews” again so I wasn’t obligated to continue working with them.

They message me a couple hours for pricing for multiple poses. They said to let them know when I was ready to begin. They messaged me two more times that day wanting a response. I asked my internet friends and they said that I should go back on my word. I couldn’t force myself to do it until I realized if I continued this, my grades will suffer because I’ll always be worn out. My benefactors also said they didn’t need the money so bad that I needed to deal with the stress of doing it again, and that they needed to pay more (I only told them I was worn out from a $20 order with a lot of revisions, I couldn’t tell them the full extent of how much of an idiot I was). So I decided to stand my ground when they messaged me the second time. Truthfully, they could have offered me $100 and I still wouldn’t want to work with them anymore, but I decided I’d at least give them a chance (I knew they’d say no, though) like my benefactors and friends said. I told the buyer I couldn’t keep my deal, and that they had to pay the same price as anyone else would. I also said the character design gig doesn’t include illustration-level polish so if they still wanted that, it would be a higher price (I can see wanting the one used in promos to be polished, but why the other two?), and that I would be more strict with revisions, I didn’t know where I would draw the line yet so I told them I’d update them.
They said I was committing fraud and that I was greedy and they have plenty of other people to do my job, about what you’d expect.

Sorry this was so long, back to the original question; Am I in the wrong because I couldn’t keep to what I said? Yeah, I’m mad at some of the stuff they did but none of it would have happened had I just stood my ground in the beginning, so can I blame them at all? I have the words of my friends and benefactors, but I need the opinion of a neutral party. I want to be a good seller, please tell me what you honestly think. Either way, I’ve learned what I need to do better from now on, but of course, I would appreciate any feedback you all have for improving my service too.

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You put yourself into a terrible position. You need to learn how things work asap.

“Hey, this is a long term partnership, I’ll get you a lot of work, cut me a deal”
-Sure, you pay full price upfront. If you like it and want a lot of work going forward, we can negotiate a deal for long term work. If you don’t like it, much like going to a restaurant or any other business, you paid for something, didn’t like it, so we’re done and you ain’t coming back. That’s fair. Don’t like the idea? Get lost.

“Hey, please send me free custom samples of the work I want”
-I don’t deliver samples - check my portfolio to see my work. Why are you even contacting me if you don’t believe I can deliver what you want? Don’t like the idea? Get lost.

“Hey, please remove the watermark so I can check with my team”
-Your team can check the design with the watermark. I’ll remove it when I’m paid. Don’t like the idea? Get lost.

“Hey, please revise this little detail. And then this little detail. And then this little detail”.
-You get one free revision, send all the changes at once. Every further revision (that isn’t due to any mistakes on my part) is subject to extra cost. Don’t like the idea? Get lost.

“Hey, if you don’t want to do X at this price and under these conditions, I have plenty of people who will”
-Great! I never argue about what others charge or do, they know better than me what they are worth. Why are you wasting your time talking to me, then? Get lost.

You have to be ruthlessly confident and willing to walk away at any point, otherwise you will get exploited again and again. Business, much like love, is war.

Btw, clients that do any of the above are not worth it. They are all instant red flags. I’d rather get no business than s*** business. My clients’ time is not worth more than mine, and I make it a point that they understand that loud and clear.

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Thank you for your response ^^ I learned a lot from this at least.

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It makes me so mad to read that there are people who exploit sellers and still dare to say that you are greedy.

You are not greedy and you are not committing any fraud. How dare they even say that. They are greedy, they know the real price of your work but they choose to push you because they know that other sellers wouldn’t work with them for the same price.
NEVER let any buyer exploit yourself. That will come with an experience to recognise all red flags but this order was written like the book example of red flags from the very beginning.

First red flag.
I usually reply that my gigs are already with 50% discount exclusively on fiverr so I can’t give them better price. Take it or leave it.

Second red flag. They got the price out of you for one thing and then they suddenly started adding more things hoping that they “made a deal”
In terms of price but they can add whatever they want in that price.

Third red flag.

Fourth red flag.

Fifth red flag. People who don’t bother not even look at your gig? I’m sure they were just trying to manipulate you.

Sixth red flag.

To be honest I can go on counting the red flags in your story but it’s too long. Anyway you get my point, now you know what to look for and never let anyone exploit you even if you are new. Otherwise you will start hating your job and what you do.
I still believe that us, people who work in creative business really to have a balance in our work as it depend on inspiration and our mood so much. So to keep your sanity you need to love what you do and being drained like that will just make you hate drawing.

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Thank you for your response. I knew it was a bad idea but I ignored my intuition. From now on I will be more prudent ^^

So much this. When I had lower prices, all the projects became a blur. That is not conducive to great results. I need to focus on one project at a time, with breaks in between, otherwise I just run out of ideas.

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Excerpt from a very hard to read book. (Because it forces people to face the mirror)

Book: Boundaries, pg 205-7, Workplace Problem #2 - Overtime



BoundariesPg207

I’ll admit, it doesn’t apply perfectly. It does, however, make a LOT of sense.
(Sorry for the small image size. DM me if it’s too hard to read.)

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Thank you for your response ^^

Sorry, way too much info and details for me to read but from scanning it here is what I would suggest you change about how you deal with buyers in future:

  • no unlimited anything. This is asking for trouble and no reasonable person would actually require this. Regarding revisions, tell them that a revision counts as a “round of revisions”. Eg. if they want ten things changed and tell you those all at once then that is one revision. If they drip feed them to you then that is ten revisions. This is standard practice. Set out a price for additional revision rounds after the first 2-3. Even if it is just $5 or 2 more for $5 etc. Once you let it slide once, there is every chance they will ask for more. (unless it is a really small thing).
  • be the one in charge. They can ask you for additional/different things but when they do, if it is going to take additional time then it needs to cost additional money (this is also standard anywhere).
  • when someone is behaving in a way that isn’t respectful of your time/effort, you should let them know in a calm, professional way. This includes when they nicely ask for something that adds 2 hours to a $5 order.
  • I firmly believe that the people who behave badly often don’t understand how frustrating they are. Many of these people think that with their $5 purchase they have hired Michelangelo for 8 years and they are expecting to be able to call on you at any time to do what they want. Often this happens when people are used to dealing with people living where $5 is a lot of money (sad but true). Make it clear that is not the case.
  • Don’t be afraid of cancelling. I know many people will argue this point but if you feel you don’t have the option of cancelling then it will affect how you deal with everyone and leave you feeling trapped. People will go on about how cancelling affects rankings etc but there’s little to suggest that it is as impactful as claimed and your own self-esteem and wellbeing is far more important.
  • Never send unwatermarked images. There is really no need to and no reasonable person expects it. The ones who insist on this (or claim to have a team) actually are most likely reselling your work and don’t want to show their client where they got it. This is not your issue - this is their issue to solve. Suggest they complete the order to get the unwatermarked version and then buy a revision round at a later stage if necessary. Again, this isn’t unreasonable. Keep in mind that most resellers will work on a 200-500+% markup on what you charge; they can afford it, regardless of what they say.
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I know it’s really long, thank you for taking the time to read and respond even if you were skimming, you are helpful ^^

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Your work looks really good btw!
The five stars you got there is worth far more than the money you were paid - keep that in mind for the first 10 orders.
Interestingly, that buyer seems to have ploughed through 6 different photoshop editing sellers in a couple of months; I wonder if they didn’t want to work with them again either!

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Thank you ^^ I thought that too