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November 13, 2011
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Why I Quit Studio4Hire

Journal Entry: Sun Nov 13, 2011, 1:26 PM


I'll start off by saying I wasn't going to initially write about this in a public place, but then I learned that I wasn't the only one that got screwed. I don't like making a big thing about professional matters, but I can't just sit back and watch my fellow freelancers go through the same thing.  I considered Michael, :icon5000watts:, a friend, but after this experience, it was clear that he didn't didn't feel the same, as friends don't run off with other friends' money.

As someone that is just starting out, I was also partially to blame for being so stupid. I shouldn't have hung in there as long as I did. But money talks and I was getting steady work so it was hard to walk away. I have since joined 2 other studios and also have my own line of clients so I was finally able to walk away without worrying about where I would be getting my next coloring gig. We do all make mistakes when we start out and it's important to learn from them.

Now I will gladly remove this journal entry if I get the money I am owed and an apology, but I won't be rejoining S4H. Until then, you guys can enjoy my story.

About a year ago, my friend David told me he had a friend that was starting a new company, that company was Studio4Hire. Things worked great for a bit, I got steady work, everyone got their payments promptly, and :icon5000watts:, the head of Studio4Hire, always kept communicating with us. Then he started to focus on his own things like a radio show and such. It started to become clear that Studio4Hire was no longer his focus.

Somewhere in there I agreed to be the colorist for Michael's personal projects, Emerald Quest and Hotshot. Michael told David and I that he knew an editor in Vertigo and we were told we had to have the first issue of Emerald Quest done by November because the editor wanted to see it. It was October. So I rushed out issue 1 of Emerald Quest in 2 weeks despite the fact that I had a full time job and other coloring gigs. I rushed this comic out for FREE because I was under the impression it was going to be sent to Vertigo. I got the comic finished before the deadline and it was sent off for lettering, which is where it ended up sitting for about 5 months. (and no, to my knowledge it was never sent to Vertigo)

As for Hotshot, I had agreed to color it for free ONLY if Michael would continue to give me work. Which he did for a while. But then I started to notice something was off. A big comic convention was coming up and all of a sudden Michael stopped sending me pages for my *paying* gigs. He really wanted Hotshot done in time for the convention. I began to suspect that Michael wasn't sending me the pages for my paying work so I would finish his comic. And sure enough, after I finished the issue, I suddenly got a big pile of pages for my paying gigs.

Clients as well as artists stopped hearing from Michael, payments started to not get delivered. Time and time again it would take a good 1-2 weeks of emailing him for him to finally get me my payments. It wasn't too long before I started to receive emails from clients ending their contracts with Studio4Hire. They had contacted me because they still wanted to work with me outside of S4H which was fine with me.

Michael got help for Studio4Hire and they definitely did their jobs and always communicated with me. However, they didn't have access to the S4H account which still lead to there being giant delays in artists getting paid.

Before too long, not even Michael's helpers could get ahold of him. We all tried contacting him through email and over the phone but he wouldn't get back to us.  I finally threatened to quit and he finally got back to me and let me know some personal stuff was going on. No biggie, I understood things happen.

But then I saw the Studio4Hire website stopped working. And I still had a lot of trouble getting ahold of Michael. I finally asked him if Studio4Hire was dead and he said it wasn't. I had a small glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe he wouldn't let it die.

Which brings us to a week ago. I was at the finish line to 2 different Studio4Hire jobs. I noticed the S4H website still wasn't working which concerned me. I emailed the clients because I was scared I wasn't going to get paid for my work because no one could get ahold of Michael and I was almost finished with their books.  Me nor Studio4Hire's helpers could get ahold of him.

I had finally had it. I sent an email that I was done. I intend to do this as a career, I don't have time for people that toy with me.  I emailed the clients to inform them that I had quit Studio4Hire but I was still going to finish their books. (unlike some people, I care very much about staying in contact with my clients)

It's been more than a week at this point and we haven't heard anything from Michael. I am still owed nearly $500 for coloring. Fortunately my clients are amazing people and have my back and one is still giving me the remainder of what I am owed. But I still don't want to see them getting screwed out of money they have already spent.

I have since learned that there are many more artists that Michael owes, a few of them have been waiting on a payment for months. So who knows if I will ever see that money.

Now again, I had never wanted to make any of this public. I don't believe in publicly calling people out and I would have gladly left S4H without saying a thing in public had I gotten my money.

My experiences with Studio4Hire weren't all bad. I got a lot of experience and I met a lot of cool people. I got a lot of amazing clients that I still work with and I'm definitely thankful that they stuck with me despite what they went through with S4H. And very importantly, I learned how to ensure I don't get screwed over again.

But yes, avoid working with :icon5000watts: and :iconstudio-for-hire: if you can help it and learn from my mistakes. And Michael is still around, I've seen him log into gmail so it appears that he's avoiding our emails and calls.

  • Playing: Mother 3
  • Eating: Subway
  • Drinking: pink lemonade
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:iconcrackingskulls:
CrackingSkulls Nov 19, 2011  Student Digital Artist
I think it's a lot worse being scammed out of money someone worked hard for than to be call out on a journal. If you're friends with the dude, kindly ask him what the hell's going on as to why his former client hasn't got their money for their services.
Reply
:iconvantageinhouse:
Not really my place to question his business practices. My point is in being professional in solving problems. Calling someone's character into question without confirmation of their intent (which you've willing done; i.e. "scammed"), isn't appropriate in any capacity.
Reply
:iconcrackingskulls:
CrackingSkulls Nov 20, 2011  Student Digital Artist
It's confirmation itself when someone that's supposed to keep in touch with their client hasn't, and money is the issue. Apparently, more artists are complaining about the same thing, and that alone can make something look sketchy about the employer. Hey, they could be wrong here, but it'd be really nice that he could just send an email to everyone and give an explanation as to what is going on. I could keep being 'professional' and wait and wait as long as I could, but by that time, any logical person can catch on that they're not going to see that money ever. So it's not appropriate, nor professional of your friend to keep their clients and employee out of contact either.
Reply
:iconvantageinhouse:
You seem to be missing my specific point, wanting to argue the merits of WHAT was said over my issue of WHERE it was said. I'm not defending one way or another the practices in question of Mike or S4H -- that's never been my contention. My point has been the inappropriateness of bringing it up in a public forum like this.
Reply
:iconcrackingskulls:
CrackingSkulls Nov 20, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Like I said earlier, there's much worse things than to be called out on a journal for not keeping their shit together in a business. Whether it's inappropriate or not, it's been done now, and I doubt it's gonna be taken down because someone on the internet said it's not professional of her to do it.
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(1 Reply)
:iconangieness:
angieness Nov 19, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
I will not apologize because no matter what, I was used time and time again and Michael dropped the ball on what was an amazing business. I am well aware that making this sort of thing public is unprofessional, but it is also important to keep people in the know, especially when numerous people were also effected in the same way that I was.

I was extremely loyal to S4H and stuck with it through thick and thin. Michael had a responsibility to his "employees" to pay them promptly and to keep them in the know if something was going wrong.

The reality is that he owes a significant amount of money to several artists and clients and refuses to return anyone's calls or emails. No matter how wrong I am for posting this on DA, you cannot abandon your employees and ignore them when they are owed money. It doesn't matter what Michael's excuses are, you can't run a business that way.

I stand by everything I say and know that I did the right thing.
Reply
:iconvantageinhouse:
If you feel you did the right thing, then your peace has been made. It just sounds awful silly to warn of another's unprofessionalism by being unprofessional yourself.
Reply
:iconjohnercek:
seeing your posts in regards to this matter has me wary of vantage in house productions. Warning fellow contemporaries about bad deals and bad players is just about the only protection us artists have (court systems costs money, and a judgement doesn't mean you will get the cash)

Seeing a artist/publisher going out of their way to INTIMIDATE (by calling her unprofessional) an artist that has been forced to these measures reveals what side of the line you are on
Reply
:iconvantageinhouse:
Uh...sorry you feel that way...? But rather than waste time defending my business practices, I'll suggest this: ask an editor if its appropriate to blast people like this. I'll bet it all that they'll tell you its unprofessional and that it marks the blaster MORE than the blastee. It shows fickleness and disloyalty. And for what? Will this even matter a year from now? A month? A week? With respect to Heather's abilities (and this is a compliment) -- hopefully not.

Let this be the last time I have to explain this, because I'm viewing this from a much higher vantage point (plug intended): blasting Mike guarantees her nothing but sympathy, at best.
Reply
:iconangieness:
angieness Nov 19, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
You may want to take your own advice as calling me unprofessional for calling someone out in a public place while you yourself are calling me out in a public place kind of defeats the purpose of the message you are trying to convey. Not to be a smartass or drag this out any further, but you just did the same thing.
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