Difficult Client

I recently was working with a client that didn’t have an eye for design which is why they hired me. They got very set on something that was dated and tacky and I didn’t want to put my name behind something like they were requesting. Granted, I didn’t say that and kindly replied assuring them I had their best interest at heart and why my approach was to set them apart and appeal to the public eye rather than a realistic drawing/ photo they were wanting as a “logo”. After days of revisions and critique I had replied with my email in question and have since been ghosted. I hadn’t been paid and although they didn’t get a logo out of me, I spent a long time revising for them to never be pleased. I feel scammed by someone who doesn’t understand it’s not our job to just adopt their design and create it exactly. I’m here to adopt their ideas and curate something based off of that. Do I send another email or take the loss? This has really irritated me that they think it’s okay to treat someone who’s doing their job like this instead of being professional and mature.

You can send another email requesting payment for work.
Although they probably have ghosted you as they just wanted an order-taker. You arent an order taker you’re a graphic designer. Respect is a two-way street…at least i hope.

What you can learn however is to set up a contract to avoid these future issues and ask for payment upfront before work starts.

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Hi Markayla. Welcome to the forum.

I’m guessing you’re rather new to working with design clients, right?

People without “an eye for design” often make terrible clients. Even though they know they’re not up to the task themselves, they typically know what they like and feel their judgment is a good as anyone else’s. I try to steer away from discussing aesthetics with these people and concentrate, instead, on the practical matters of why this or that solution will work best to meet their business objectives.

I’ve found this to be particularly problematic with logos. I’ve said this before, but clients want to fall in love with their logos rather view them as practical business assets.

In addition to that, despite the warning signs, you left yourself vulnerable to not being paid. It sounds like you didn’t have a contract or get a deposit. With a client like the one you described, it’s always best not to start the job without a signed, written contract and getting 50 percent in advance. There are exceptions to this rule, but not many when dealing with small business owners who haven’t worked much with designers before.

You might be disappointed and angry about it, but maybe it was a valuable lesson that will serve you well in the future.

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Ooof, that’s always a rough spot, getting a client who’s sure they know what they want but doesn’t actually understand what they’re asking for. It’s never easy figuring out where to draw the line on “the customer is [always/sometimes/never] right” - sometimes they understand and appreciate your knowledge, and other times they just want your hands to draw their vision. That’s a call you have to make on your own, based on your own values and time.

As far as taking the loss or reaching out, the big thing is if you had any kind of pre-existing arrangement beforehand. Did you get a deposit, or a written agreement of payment for services rendered? The design process itself is a service, so while they didn’t get the product they wanted with you, you did perform labor and should be compensated. If you had anything in writing, you could insist on that and even potentially win a collections case if it got that far, but if everything was verbal and/or vague, it might not be worth the effort. I don’t know how much time you sank in, or what your loss would be, so I can’t tell you how hard to or to not fight - that’d be between you and any legal counsel you do or don’t get involved. And as a personal opinion, legal fights are huge pains, so I would personally probably take the loss.

But as the others said, these clients are out there and you have to be ready for them, with either written agreements, non-refundable deposits, or both. I’ve had this happen both working in a company and with freelance work.

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Thank you! I am fairly new to being compensated for my work. I have a bad habit of undervaluing my work and time. The extreme lack of confidence in myself is what has hindered me from advocating for what I deserve. By chance do you have a contract that you would be willing to share that I could reference for making mine? If not, I understand! Thank you again!

Thank you!!! I wouldn’t do the legal route because it’s not worth more of my time but it’s definitely helpful to know that should I have a contractual agreement and someone violates it that I would have legal grounds to take action. I’ll probably reach out one more and see what she says or if she says anything and go from there (whether that be taking the L or bringing up the compensation).

Do you have a contract you’d be willing to email me or something that I could reference when creating my own? I’m really lost on where to start with that but I get it if you’re not comfortable with that!

Have you tried Googling? Type in “graphic design contract” and see what turns up.

Rather than mine, how about looking at the one I based mine on: the AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services

It’s long and goes into the kind of detail that might be more appropriate for a $100,000 job, but it does cover most everything.

Just an opinion, but for smaller jobs, a more informal agreement written in everyday language might work better. It might not be as bullet-proof with all the legal jargon, but something shorter and worded more informally is less intimidating for clients to sign without feeling a need to get their attorneys involved.

The main thing is that a contract conveys to the client that you really are serious and that you really do intend to get paid and that they’ll be facing consequences if they don’t pay. That alone tends to dissuade most deadbeats. And in the off chance that it ends up in court, you’ll have a piece of paper that tells the judge what everyone agreed to and makes it clear whether or not the terms were fulfilled.

About a month ago, a sewer pipe broke behind a wall in our house. A plumber came over, tore into the wall, replaced the pipe, then left with $1300 of my money. I ended up having to repair the drywall myself, which was fine.

My point is that for three hours of work, the plumber made $1300 and wasn’t the slightest bit shy about asking for it. Most graphic designers don’t make nearly that much, but we should. We certainly shouldn’t feel hesitant to ask for a fair rate.

Yes I have but wanted opinions from other designers…

Thank you!

Heed this advice from @Just-B. From the sound of it, your client is not a multi-national corporation. An informal agreement in plain language is all you’ll need.

You will learn a lot about dealing with difficult clients and how to spot them from a mile away.

How long has it been since your client last contacted you? How many emails have you sent so far? People have a range of other commitments. Life can get busy. This can mean they might take a while to get back to you. Sure, they might be ghosting you, but they might also be working through your designs, waiting on second opinions or busy with other projects. My advice is to stay professional.

Invoice for work done to date (I invoice at the end of each month). Then it is up to them to pay it.

A client who I thought had ghosted me was in hospital for a few weeks unexpectedly so I’m glad in that particular case I never sent any angry emails. Of course, go with your gut, move on if you think they have moved on already. But my advice is not to burn any bridges in case the client is still genuine.

One thing to stop time wasters is to get a deposit from all new clients before starting on any project. Should they ghost you part way through, the deposit helps to cover it.

That is precisely what I am usually doing when I am asked for a logo. Most of my clients do not want my artistic input, or opinions based on my superior design sensibility. I have had a few of those and they are often unwilling to pay for the time to develop a decent logo design.

Give the client what they want, and be prepared for a little to-and-fro-ing. It helps to agree a cost up front, and allow for variations in the time it will take you.

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Yes sometimes the path of least resistance is often the only path if you want to be paid.
There is nothing that says you have to put it in your portfolio or acknowledge that you “made” it.
At this point, you run the risk of this client bad-mouthing your reputation as “hard to work with.”
But then again, you don’t any more clients like this one, right?

If given the option, bill it for time, then drop it and consider it a life lesson.

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