Giving away fonts (typefaces)

Hello,

I am not a professional type designer by any means, and just an amateur. I want to get better, however, and I think the only way to do so is practice. However, while I am practicing, I see no danger in getting my name out there. What I mean is that I can find a local business that I like, and then spend some time on making a custom font for them (based on the type of business, atmosphere, etc (or &c)) and give it to them. I don't really need them to use the font (typeface), but having my work out there instead of just files in my computer would certainly feel good (and maybe even be good).

Is this a good idea? I ask because I was talking to someone, and he told me never to start cheap, because it is impossible to climb back up, so I wonder if practicing for free is still a good business decision.

Comments

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,355
    edited November 15
    I'd like to suggest an idea regarding collaborations with non-profits and charitable organizations, particularly in the realm of custom typeface work. This presents an opportunity to design fonts that not only fulfill their specific needs but also enrich your portfolio.
    One approach to consider is engaging in non-exclusive agreements. This way, you retain the rights to the custom font. Such an arrangement offers flexibility, allowing you to market the font independently in the future, should you choose to do so. Additionally, it leaves room for you to revisit and refine the design as your skills and style evolve over time. This strategy could lead to a mutually beneficial partnership, supporting a good cause while also expanding your creative and professional horizons.
    Also consider fansites: they're not exactly charities but they usually have a budget of zero. But what they can contribute is enthusiasm and attention to detail. A few of my early fonts were designs that people running fan sites asked me to make and I did them just for fun. Some of those ended up in the public domain but a few of them are now in my commercial catalog. Could I have made these without involving fan sites? Sure. But they often provided insight and source material. Metal Lord was started from a request from an Iron Maiden fan who provided me with a scan of a rare 1988 calendar. It showed some of the harder to locate characters which I never would have found on my own.
  • If you’re just starting out and want to do some work (and get experience) by working for cheap or free, I advise keeping ownership of the typeface if at all possible. Like Ray said, there are options. If you can’t arrange a non-exclusive license from the beginning, consider an exclusive license for some period of time. Give the client two or three or five years to have it all to themselves. Meanwhile, they don’t own the typeface and have to abide by some common-sense license restrictions, and you will eventually be able to license it to other people.

    If such a client doesn’t like that idea, remind them what a great deal they’re getting. Full, exclusive ownership of a typeface should cost a lot.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,098
    Practising on charities does them no favours.
    Also, creatives who do work pro bono tend to get a little too creative. I’ve made that mistake.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,355
    @Nick Shinn I think you're right; there are so many way it can go wrong. I'm visualizing an ideal situation where a budding typeface designer picks up on exactly the right grassroots vibe and creates a handcut stencil display typeface that bolsters the charity's image. But it would more likely be an "Yeah...uhh...thanks, I guess" situation where the charity feels obliged to use a not-so-good font that doesn't do them any favors.
  • If you’re just starting out and want to do some work (and get experience) by working for cheap or free, I advise keeping ownership of the typeface if at all possible. Like Ray said, there are options. If you can’t arrange a non-exclusive license from the beginning, consider an exclusive license for some period of time. Give the client two or three or five years to have it all to themselves. Meanwhile, they don’t own the typeface and have to abide by some common-sense license restrictions, and you will eventually be able to license it to other people.

    If such a client doesn’t like that idea, remind them what a great deal they’re getting. Full, exclusive ownership of a typeface should cost a lot.
    What is "a lot", though?
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,098
    It also involves guesswork, as it’s rather difficult to know what other people are charging, especially if one is an independent with no experience working for other foundries. C’est la vie.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,355
    edited November 17
    What is "a lot", though?
    Ten times the commission price for full exclusivity and five times for any form of temporary exclusivity, but no clients have ever gone for it. I have always been able to convice clients to go non-excvlusive.
  • "can’t be readily standardised"

    Indeed, it seems very subjective to me
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,863
    Valuation is always subjective, but that doesn’t mean it is not subjectable to reason.

    A while ago, I was talking with a specialist in valuing companies, and he made two points that have stuck with me: the valuation amount will differ depending on the purpose of the valuation, and the important thing is to be able to demonstrate a reasonable method. So there are purposes or conditions for which a valuation will tend towards a higher number, and other purposes or conditions for which a valuation will tend toward lower numbers, but in both cases it is possible to apply reason and to justify the valuation in terms of those purposes or conditions.
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