I am a graphic designer who provided spec work for a client. I worked on a flyer and I gave them 2 options. They went with one, paid for it.

Now they have another project and would like to use the other preliminary draft from the last project. I gave them a quote (seeing as I would have to purchase photo under my license and adjust layout for text, etc.) The client decided they didn't want to pay for me to do the work, they just wanted to pay me for the use of the photo. Due to licensing restrictions, I am not able to re-sell the copyright. This photo, however is a concept that I came up with.

Should I turn over the link where they can find this image so that the client can purchase and let them use how they would like? I feel as they are wanting to use my design idea to make something similar without paying me. What is the correct, professional way to handle?

  • This was not specified in my contract as this is the first time I have come across such a request.
    – ahinton271
    Mar 5, 2012 at 19:17
  • 2
    Do not do spec work. NOT doing spec work is the 'correct, professional way to handle it'
    – DA01
    Mar 6, 2012 at 18:25

3 Answers 3


If it's a stock photo available on the web, they'll find it eventually. Especially if they know it's merely a stock photo. If you can't resell it, then your choices are clear - give a link or tell them no.

The bigger question is how important is the client? Especially compared to the value of the stock photo? Trying to hold on to clients with an iron grip will often cause you to lose more than you retain. And, if you're perceived as "willing to help" with everything, they are more likely to return to you when they realize that secretary didn't do a good job even though they had the stock photo.

The suggestion to charge for the photo search will almost certainly result in losing the client permanently. The photo search should have been covered in the first project and double-billing is sure-fire way to make clients angry.

It's a stock photo which can be purchased by any one of a million companies, not your original artwork... send them a link with a smile and offer to help with anything more they may need.

In the long run that small act of goodwill may buy you thousands in future projects from them.

  • 1
    True - thank you for your response. My main concern with giving up my resources was that they will now purchase their own photos and I am sure they will not return anyway because they specified they'd rather use their own people to design. (They basically don't care to pay my pricing for professional design.)
    – ahinton271
    Mar 5, 2012 at 19:42
  • 1
    We all hit clients like that. It's best to simply let them stumble off on their own. Any client worth keeping will see the value in your work. Many may return at a later date once they do realize that they were getting more return from your work than from their cousin who has Photoshop.
    – Scott
    Mar 5, 2012 at 19:45
  • 2
    This is true if you already billed them for the time it took to find the image. I didn't consider that. When I do small things like flyers I usually just charge a flat rate with a cap on revisions. If you billed by the hour already then Scott is right and you shouldn't charge twice.
    – Ryan
    Mar 5, 2012 at 19:56
  • 2
    Right. Thank you Ryan and Scott. I just concluded that I am only willing to offer and charge them for a completed design. Again, the client basically told me they have people that will design the flyer and other material, they just want to use the photo. So guess I can wish them luck on finding it.
    – ahinton271
    Mar 5, 2012 at 20:18

You can't sell the rights but you can certainly charge them a small finder's fee in exchange for the link. I would tell them it took you about X hours to try out different photos and search for the best fit and if that's all they want that's fine but you're going to charge them for X hours of labor as the finder's fee in exchange for the link. Then charge at your regular hourly rate. If they don't accept then let them locate a stock photo on their own.

  • 1
    Thank you Ryan. I am sure that is what I will do, seeing as how I don't want to release my resources and not get paid. I'm sure this client will not be a repeat as they don't value professional design and don't understand my time and experience reflects my pricing.
    – ahinton271
    Mar 5, 2012 at 19:46
  • 1
    I wouldn't even go into the "hourly costs" rationalization place with this situation.
    – sirtimbly
    Mar 6, 2012 at 4:41

OK, so you worked on spec. Sometimes, whatever our field, we do. No point in getting all "super professional" about it.

They've paid you for one job. I expect there will be others. In this case they thought you owned a photo and offered to buy it. Tell them it's a stock photo and tell them where to find it. Then carry on with your career.


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