It is often discussed that Graphic Design should be a licensed profession.
As Mr.B mentioned, several professional careers with far less client consequences require some sort of required course of study. Hair grows back. Plumbers and electricians carry very heavy insurance policies just to be able to work. Lawyers have to pass a legal exam. All go through a certifiable apprenticeship program.
As a designer, you are responsible for your clients’ public facing imagery. If you mess up, the client is flushing money down the toilet, for which YOU are responsible.
It’s too bad Graphic Designers aren’t required to carry at least the same level of malpractice insurance as a plumber.
Young, fresh out of school designers don’t have the chops to be taking on clients they would only be practicing on by reinventing the wheel on a daily basis.
Some examples from my 20 year observation of the industry:
- the designer that ended up paying a six-figure fine (yes a number followed by 5 zeros) for a client for using a photo image that was not only NOT public domain, but covered under Rights of Publicity for an Estate (do not mess with the MLK Estate, or the ROP of any person for that matter, living or dead, famous or not.)
- the designer that created a logo for a business that resulted in a trademark infringement C&D suite just a couple weeks before the grand opening, resulting in the pulling of ads, the reprinting of marketing collateral, menus and place mats, and the re-branding of the actual store fit-out and exterior signage.
- the designer who thought Live Trace would be the perfect way to enlarge their client’s portrait photo to billboard size, creating a ghastly paint by number effect that lasted not even a day on the billboard. Someone had to pay for that print and the billboard rental, and I bet it wasn’t the client.
- an assortment of products by various people that had to be destroyed after the designer or end client was served with a C&D (do not mess with The Mouse, et al.)
- end clients, or designers who released stock images to clients, who were served with 4-figure invoices by photo stock companies for improperly using images on websites without a web-specific license (do not mess with GettyImages, et al. Even an honest mistake still costs money.)
- various and sundry IRS issues based on tax reporting and reselling.
Suing someone and being sued is part of doing business these days. Are you freelancers with no experience prepared for that? Have you taken the proper steps to protect your personal assets from a bad business decision that could bankrupt you?
Freelancing is a business and should be entered into as such. Your contracts are real legal documents. Your deadlines are real. Marketing yourself as a professional carries a certain weight of skill and experience. Client expectations based on all that (and more) are all legally binding.
All that stuff shouldn’t be scary if you’ve gone through the process of creating your business plan and taking steps to really run your business as a business. In the US, even a hobbyist these days has to report income made through their hobby.