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For fiteen years I've been designing a quarterly forty-page publication (print & online) and numerous other smaller projects for a small city. Now I'm planning to retire in the next six to twelve months. I haven't yet told my client this. How far in advance should I do so? And when/how do I approach the subject of selling them the native InDesign files?

I charge a flat per-page fee for the publication. I've done one major design revision and several smaller ones over the years, for which I've charged additional fees based on my time. When I recently made minor revisions at their request, my liaison said the city didn't want a major change because "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". This leads me to believe the city would like to continue using my design, but it could also mean they don't have it in their budget to pay for a redesign.

However, they recently gave to another design firm an annual poster project that I had always done for years. So they may already have that firm in mind to eventually take over this publication. I have reason to believe that other firm may have extracted some artwork from one of my previous posters (logos that I vectorized from low-res images). This is another can of worms I'm not sure how to deal with, because I don't have any proof of that, except for one of the logos that I designed myself.

Any advice on how to play my cards right and transition into retirement with some extra cash would be appreciated!

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    It would cost you nothing to give your client the rights to any artwork that is exclusive to them for free, so they can continue using it if they want. Dealing with the alleged copyright violation will cost you money (if only in the use of your time when you could be enjoying retirement). If you are closing the business, you are not protecting your own future revenue stream, so apart from the feeling that this is wrong/immoral/illegal, what are you going to gain from chasing it? – alephzero Apr 15 at 22:01
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I would be inclined to give them 1 edition notice. i.e. If I'm retiring in August 2020, I'd tell them when the July 2020 Edition is complete. Possibly when the invoice for the July work is sent. I'd start with a simple informative email:

Hi, client

I wanted to let you know that I will be retiring this month and will not be available for future editions of XXXXXXXXXXXX. This includes the August 2020 edition.

Thanks!

From there I'd await a response, at which time I'd bring up the topic of native files if they did not.

... if you'd care to have the latest edition of my native working files I'm happy to provide those for a fee of $xxx.xx

If you feel one edition is not sufficient, then two editions. I'd really hesitate to provide any more notice than that. If you plan on completing their projects until February 2021, and you tell them now... you may not get their projects as of June 2020, leaving you without that six months of income you anticipated.


As for the logo/poster stuff... if all you did was convert raster to vector and they are a good, long standing, client -- I'd let that go. It's really not worth it.

I typically see logo conversion from raster to vector as unoriginal artwork and merely the process necessary for quality output. If they paid for your time, I think that's often sufficient compensation. And If you did not actually design the logos, at best your vector versions are derivative works. If this "poster firm" used a logo you created, did you not price such a logo accordingly for the client?? Logos are typically sold with all rights seeing as they are logos.

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    If you tell them after the July issue is done, surely that’s zero editions’ notice. You’d be telling them after your last work with them is done. One edition’s notice would, to me, be to say, “I’m retiring after this issue we’re currently working on; I’ll finish this upcoming one, and then that’ll be the last one”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 15 at 16:21
  • That's why I mention 2 editions if 1 seems too short to you. I think, typically (roughly) 30 days is plenty of time to find another designer. – Scott Apr 15 at 18:45
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    Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing with the time frames – only the counting (which isn’t really the important bit, just didn’t make sense to me). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 15 at 18:46
  • I was (perhaps incorrectly) assuming a monthly iteration of the product - so basically 30 days. It could very well be shorter than that. :) The question states "quarterly" so even with 1 edition, there'd be 90 days notice.. which is more than enough. – Scott Apr 15 at 18:48
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You have to choose, are you selling your business or just closing it down. Presume you are closing it down, estimate how much time it will take your client to find a compatible replacement for you but not leave before you close down. With your knowledge of the business and your knowledge of your client, you should be able to determine the length of time. One important aspect is to guide your client to your replacement and allow the replacement to see what you have done for the client. My suggestion is a minimum of 2. Now presume you are selling your business. Part of your sales price is the ability to hold on to your current business. In that case you need to stay as long as the buyer thinks you should. As part of your sales price, you would stay X amount time. If there is a period selling price adjustment, you should volunteer to be a paid consultant (independent contractor) for the business. Your tenure should be determined by your acceptance of the price adjustment, you are fired (unusual) or to the end of the adjustment period.

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