In my advertising days we would often hear from clients that they wanted their job "good, fast and cheap". And we would always tell clients that only one of those were possible at any one time. You might get the job "good, fast or affordable" but you couldn't get the job "fast and cheap" nor should you expect it "good and cheap".
Clients were buying our marketing and advertising expertise and while they may have an unreasonable deadline or budget or both, we had to school them that there was no way for us to do a job "good, fast and cheap".
In a time where budgets are shrinking we once again hear from clients the three little words, how do you combat that and still keep the job?
First you tell clients that you always do the job good, and sometimes great no matter what the budget, it's a matter of pride and professionalism that you approach the job giving it your very best. The second thing you explain is that you are willing to work within any budget within reason, we all understand budgets vary by client size and project and we bill accordingly. And you'll work within any reasonable timetable.
The bottom line, we're striving to do a good job within a reasonable timetable and be paid accordingly. However, if the client wants the job overnight, cheap is no longer an operative word, the client is billed more for wanting it faster. If the budget is ridiculously low then the client must sacrifice time, the job will take longer to produce you'll work the project into your schedule, not theirs. Any professional would do the same. Try getting a printer to do a job overnight and charge the same, never. Or an accountant to do your return in less time. Certain things take time, fresh ideas is certainly one of them.
Too often we take the job and never even broach the subject of more money for the job that has to be done in less time. Or to get more time if the budget is less. While this can't always be the case, illustrators in particular never seem to draw the line on what is unreasonable. Counseling the client in how long a job should take is part of the communication process between the artist and the patron.
Remember a client has no concept on how long it takes to come up with an idea--a good idea--nor do they understand the process of completing the assignment. It is your job to explain patiently how long the job should take, if there is no budge on their end then you must charge more for the project just to compensate for the sleepless night, or nights, you'll be up completing the assignment. Granted, there are clients who could care less about your sleep, but until we stop taking every assignment with unreasonable deadlines, or budgets clients will continue their habit of abusing us.
As freelancers we seem to think we have no power to change opinions or circumstance. Large design firms or advertising agencies employee client go-betweens who handle the time/money situations much as artist's reps do for illustrators, but that's not to say that as independent illustrators we cannot stand up for what is right and fair. Sometimes we're too eager to do the job and frankly, get taken advantage of. For every illustrator who stands up, the less chance there will be abuse for the rest of us. But it takes more than just a few artists doing it, it takes a mass effort to change the dynamics. It can start today or we'll be hearing for "better, faster and cheaper".