Creating art for money via the freelancing route is risky. The story behind this artwork is proof of that. I occasionally freelance on Reddit, receiving requests for (usually quick, and not very detailed) artwork from random people. In this kind of environment, you never know if you will be paid for your work.
The lady that requested this picture wanted to make a gift for her boyfriend’s birthday. I gave her my rate, she gave me the time frame, and I went to work. I kept her up to date on the progress, and finished on time. She was thrilled with the picture, and told me she would pay me as soon as she got paid from her job.
A week later, she contacted me to let me know she had some problem with her car, and she had no money left to pay me. Mind you, the price for this picture wasn’t high. And that was that. Another lesson for me. In the end, it was my fault, and I could have taken steps to prevent this from happening. At this point, all I can do is learn from this, and share about my experience with others, so that they understand the risks and know how to avoid ending up in this kind of situation.
If you ever do art freelancing, there are several things you can do to NOT end up in this kind of situation. First of all, use milestones. Split the payment up into several, typically four. As you make progress on the picture, send photos of it to the person who you are drawing it for, and have that person pay you a milestone. If, for whatever reason, you do not have most or all of the money by the time you complete the picture, you can either send in a very low resolution copy (say, 300 x 300) or completely cover it in watermarks on Photoshop. That way, the person sees that the work is done, how it looks, but can’t really do much with it.