Client is upset they had to be a part of the design process

Ok the client wanted a simple tshirt design with words.
In a nutshell: They gave me a few inspiration pix and a font they liked, I created a few versions. I told them they could have 1 revision. They asked to add photos, and I said send me the photos. They sen photos, I added them and they responded that they no longer liked the font, so I said I could supply them with more font options for an additional fee (since they had used their revision).
then they hit me with this
" I feel like I have done a lot of the creating and finding the necessary stuff for the design. I was hoping to share my thought with an explanation of my interpretation and then see what you create from that. I felt I had to guide the creative process too much. "

… I felt like this was a normal process of trying to figure out what the client wants.
Of course this is on upwork, so I’m trying to figure out what to say so I don’t get a bad review. How do I explain to the client that the artist requires direction?
Thanks designers!

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Clients can be maddening. I’ve said it before, but it sometimes seems they do everything they can to sabotage the work they hire us to do.

Years ago, I had an opportunity to talk with a San Francisco designer named John Casado, whose work I had always admired. He was complaining about this same sort of thing and said something along the lines of his success bringing him the latitude to screen out clients who didn’t understand the design process. If I remember right, he interviewed potential clients and turned down the ones who didn’t seem to get it and who had never worked with designers before.

Most of us don’t have enough work coming in that we can be that selective. As a result, we end up with these goofball sorts of clients who micro-manage a t-shirt design and then complain that they had to be a part of it. You can’t win with people like that, so you just take their money and move on.

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Yep always clients out there that don’t understand the process. You’ll have to explain that “Graphic Designers work in collaboration with clients to develop the most cost effective, custom communication solutions possible.” If you’re really concerned about a bad review offer “as a good faith gesture to waive the additional fee this one time” and give them one final option with a different font choice.

There are cooks in fast food restaurants, there are cooks in mom and pop diners, there are cooks in sit-down cafés and there are cooks at high-end restaurants. These are all different jobs. There’s a huge difference in skills, education, passion, experience and purpose between someone who tosses fries into a deep fryer at Burger King and the head chef at a 5-star restaurant.

So comparing designers to cooks, I think every designer needs to decide whether they’re flipping burgers at Wendy’s, creating gastronomic masterpieces at Le Grand Véfour or doing something in between.

So for those willing add Tabasco sauce and mayo to a customer’s cheeseburger upon request, great — you’ve earned your wages. And for those designers who would toss out the entire kettle of soup before serving it with even a hint of too much thyme, that’s also fine — assuming you can make a go at it. The important thing is to make your decisions and aim for the kinds of customers you’re hoping to serve.

Using a mix of good social skills and logic, a good designer can often educate and improve an ignorant client, but only by so much. It’s easy to blow the entire budget fending off bad client input unless you’re willing to bite the bullet and just give them what they want. Sometimes it’s better to spot the warning signs ahead of time then politely walk away before they get too close.

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Some clients want to dictate every part and others just love what you do without any changes.

In this case, you already told the client they were only allowed 1 revision. What’s their problem?

I am still learning to spot the warning signs. Just started freelancing a few months ago. I’ve got a long way to go. Though when I look back, the signs were there. Hindsight … 20/20 … all that.

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I think the problem was they had no idea what they wanted. I doubt there was anything I could have done that would have made them happy.
You’ll see in my op that the client said they basically just wanted to give me an idea and have me make something. But obviously I did that - and they weren’t happy with it. So clearly that is not actually what they wanted to happen.
The example they gave for the revision was a completely different direction than they originally talked about. They said some contradictory things … like “I want X but it might be a pain in the ass.” I thought X would look bad, so I didn’t include it, then they asked “where is X?”
What really might have done it though is for their revision they wanted me to add some pictures. They were not paying me enough to spend my time looking through stock photos, so I told them to send me what they want.

And some clients don’t want to see any proofs and then hate what you did.

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Basically taking up where B left off, consider the source of the client and what they are willing to pay.

But another part of this is not knowing the questions to ask, or maybe not being in a venue where the designer gets to ask the client directly what they want. For instance, you may have directed the client by asking all sorts of questions regarding the specific purpose of the T-shirt. Was a text-only message appropriate? Did you point out the difference in the cost of the shirt for one or two spot colors vs a 4-color Process? If they wanted to add images, did you ask what direction they want to go in and perhaps supply some appropriate choices?

But that’s where you run into the money problem. I charge $XX/hour just to do photo research, let alone negotiate usage and purchase a license. What do you charge? Ask the client if they are willing to pay you to do your job? I don’t know.

I’ll contribute this thought: we all feel for you. This is what makes our jobs (and this entire field) frustrating. I hope this whole things turns out rewarding, whether it be from great “hindsight knowledge” for the future, or in an actual desirable outcome with this specific client.

I know that’s not specific instructions but I still think (and hope) it’s worth saying.

Thank you, I appreciate this.

Kind-of update: I just closed a logo project with a different client, and they absolutely loved micro-managing me. They even gave me a bonus!
So on one end of the spectrum, I have this first client who hated giving a lot of direction (but did it anyway unprompted) and on the other end, this second client who was really into it.

I’m wondering if I should just ask how involved the client likes to be when discussing the project in the beginning so I know what to expect.

I’m not sure most people could make accurate judgments about themselves regarding this. My guess is that most clients would say they’d like to be involved, but to what degree might only become apparent after the fact. I suspect most micro-managers, for example, would never describe themselves as having those traits.

I think the best you can do is to avoid framing it as “how involved will you want to be?” and instead, make a brief but compelling little speech about how the impending branding exercise will be a defining moment in the life of their business and the experience they offer their clientele. Give them a (perhaps) new angle on the importance of an effective brand identity and the value of the work you’re both about to undertake. Touch upon the market they wish to reach/convert, their competition, their product and the market’s perception of it, etc., and tie it all together as a confidence (in you) -building example of your towering competence. Immediately after that, you’ll have your answer as to the levels of their trust you’ll enjoy.

this is so true.
One time my friend told me I’m a perfectionist. I was actually kinda pissed, I don’t see that as a good trait. Maybe I am, or maybe that’s just how my friend sees me.

I almost tried upwork but don’t you have to be the cheapest designer around? I don’t like upwork because it is mostly like winning by being the lowest price. Have you tried sending potential clients emails directly? Because you’ll probably get clients like this all the time if you’re looking for them there.

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