Free design, but at what cost?

Hmm...I'm ever so skeptical of 'free design' and '$5' logos, what have you...For me this type of marketing completely undervalues the industry and the designers. Not only does it not makes financial sense, a designer cannot make a living like this, unless he lives in India, but then you're just exploiting him. I studied for 4 years, at a University where I paid to be, worked for FREE a.k.a intern / job placement, for two years before I finally got a job. Today, 5 years after graduating, with awards and experience under my belt, I work a 40+ hour week, PLUS I have a second job in the evenings, just to make a basic salary, LOWER than my first salary five years ago. This is due to the 'financial crisis', drop in salaries in Cyprus, rising unemployment numbers, etc., people tell me I should be grateful to have found a job, after 7 months of unemployment.

How can I feel grateful for feeling like I'm being taken advantage of?* Despite the current situation here in Cyprus, I still have rent to pay, bills to pay, need food to eat, and have some expenses I simply cannot avoid. Thank you to my parents who paid for my studies, this allowed me to start my life without debt, but quickly, bill after unpaid bill, late credit card payments and an overdraft, debt has a way of finding you.

Today I find myself competing with my printer to win clients, for a measly 40 Euros for a bloody business card design. The client doesn't understand the cost of my time and expertise, all he hears is his printer who says he can do the design for 'free'. This is the same printer, by the way, who will give me a cost estimate, and then directly to the client at almost half the price he gave me. What am I supposed to say to the client when he asks me why I'm so expensive? What am I supposed to say to the printer, who I never want to work with again, but don't have another choice? What am I supposed to say to my parents, who are both unemployed, trying to still put my brother through University, when I need to ask them for money, despite being close to thirty, unmarried, unemployed and desperate for that extra 100 Euros so that I can pay my electricity bill?

No design is ever free. It comes at a cost. Someone's time, someone's expertise, someone's expenses went into making that design. Design comes at a cost, just like any other service. If it's free, it's normally the monkey who knew how to use the computer and took the time to actually make the design. Time is money.

I've NEVER been to a doctor then bargained with him about how much I should pay for the 15 minutes of his time and the prescription note he's given me, for medicine that I'm going to have to pay for too. I pay the 50 Euros, no questions asked because I value his profession. I went to him in the first place because he knows what he's doing. He spent 10 years studying that profession. Design does not have the same respect and any other industry.

Should you ever have the urge to ask me, or any other fellow designer, to do something for free again, please see instructions below on how to tie a noose. If you cannot pay for my services, offer me an exchange of services, but DO NOT ask me to pay (time is money after all) to do something for you. Please show the respect to any designer you meet that you would want in return.
** Disclaimer: I'm not referring to anyone in particular, no client, company, employer, printer, friend, etc. This is just an opinion on the current state of the industry and financial circumstances in Cyprus. No apology will be given if anyone is offended. **


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