Student vs. Client

Hi guys, I’m a student in my senior year. I ended up having someone reach out with a wonderful trade of services for a book design done for housework in return. However I’m in a bit of a conundrum and not sure what to do.

He won’t give me any relevant information, not even a page count so i can work out a potential contract + hours to be spent on it. He won’t tell me how long it is, what he wants, nothing except a book he likes and what his book needs to do, ‘be a message’. I have asked four times for a page count just so I can see if i can do this while in school, but he doesn’t seem to care that I have other obligations.

He wants this done in Microsoft Word, not in Adobe Indesign because he read an article to do it this way. He doesn’t seem to get that you tell me what you want, I take it, I work it, then i show him the stepping stones to the final project and he provides feedback along the way when it is relevant. If we meet, he wants me to quote, find the physical nature of the book, graphics, research, formatting, sketches, and etc.’ in this meeting. I can’t afford a laptop that would be able to provide what he wants, such as showing him Indesign running and stuff, but I do have a computer at home, which is where I do most of my work, alone and in the dark.

I guess what I am asking is, what would you do with this client? I don’t know how many positive ways I can ask to please give me some information that is actually relevant to the work. My professors taught me to be adamant about consultations, but this guy just keeps overstepping me. And because I’m young, contracts are a lot more important because I struggle with them, they aren’t in my muscle memory. I don’t know how to handle someone who wants to hire a designer but yet fights me to have it his way only, or the highway.

How would you go about this situation? How much work is this project going to take? How long does it take to make a book? Is there a minimum I should charge for it being a book?

When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you develop an almost immediate sense of what these kinds of signs mean. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you haven’t landed a client; you’ve landed a flake, a deadbeat or, at best, a tire kicker. He might have some half-baked notion of something he wants to do some day, but honestly, he’ll likely never get around to it. Instead, he’ll string you along forever, use you, try to manipulate the situation and never uphold his end of the bargain.

Honestly, if it were me, I’d politely end the relationship. I will only take on clients as equal partners who respect my time, my expertise and my judgment.

But if you want to pursue it, do so with your eyes wide open. Seriously consider telling the guy that you’d like to help him, but you’ll need him to get serious about it first. Once he’s ready to discuss the work with money in hand, you’ll talk business — there’s no way I’d agree to a trade of services with this sort of person. Until then, wish him the best of luck while you get on to more immediate concerns. My guess is you’ll never hear from him again.

They don’t teach you this in school, but recent graduates are sitting ducks for these kinds of half-baked losers. Don’t fall victim to them. You wouldn’t be here asking these questions if your instincts weren’t tossing up warning flags. Pay attention to them.


^ That is most excellent advice.

Personally, I’d let it go. Seems fishy. No matter what kinda work he was asking for or the industry, a client like that doesn’t inspire any confidence. If he’s serious, when you set your boundaries, he’ll come back with some clearer information by himself.

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Run Forrest Run!!!

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I would run.

Lucky you. Your first gig and you’ve already got the client from hell.

I’d pass. Too many red flags.

For the future, get a copy of the Graphics Arts Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It has sample contracts for all sorts of work, including book design.

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Mate to be honest with you I stopped reading when you got to ‘‘make it in word’’ part :smile: .
Just forget you meet this person, there will be more opportunities ahead of you!


Oh my goodness, all the replies. Thank you guys. I was at a lost, and another forum I read said if there is a client issue, it’s almost always the designers fault. I understand the red flags, so in the future I will avoid them.
Again, thank you for the answers, and reading my problem as long as it is.I will see if i can get that book as well to ensure my bases are covered.

The only way to cover your bases on this one are to walk away. Those of us who have done this for some years, will almost certainly say the same. Politely decline (leaving a trail of bad feeling behind you will always come back to bite you) and find clients for whom your skills will be, not only appreciated, but useful. Anyone who wants a professional book producing in Word has no idea what they don’t know. (I’d like you to repair my car please, but I only want you to do it using a hammer and a screwdriver, because that’s how I’d do it and they are the only tools I’ve got.)

I am all for working with, and trying to educate, naive clients. Sometimes it’s all they know – none of us know anything until we learn it. However, if you have tried explaining why Word is not a solution and they still insist, it’s time to walk away very quickly. These red flags are only ever exacerbated when it comes to putting an invoice in and actually getting money out of them.

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Do you really want this person in your house “cleaning” thru all your stuff?

Dear lord, I’ve just reread your original post. They are not wanting to pay you actual money, Instead they want to clean your house. That would be a big fat, ‘Not on your nelly, sunshine’ from me.

Do you usually have a cleaner in? If so, yes that may save you money you usually spend, so can now use elsewhere. If not and you usually do your own cleaning, it’s value is effectively meaningless.

This reminds me about that I almost landed a gig last year by applying for a regular job, they saw I had illustration in my CV and invited me for that reason; they wanted some graphic design.

I was really surprised first of all to be approached by them since they mentioned they don’t hire employees but still wanted to meet me at their shop. So I decided to do the half hour drive, they turned out to be really lovely people I’d have loved to do some work for. We talked about their business and I felt there was this great connection.
Though afterwards, when I mailed them some questions about their idea of what needed to be made (a couple of indications) and what kind of a budget they had (It was a very small niche health food business and they almost had no profit) there was no communication for about two weeks or so. I decided to send them one last mail asking for a confirmation for receiving my email. It took them another week to respond saying that they will check back in with me later because of some other business that was pretty urgent. So I waited and the reply never came. 6 months later I check in on their website and it is completely renewed.

Some people are just not worth the trouble and energy, even if they are nice people. Although it is frustrating because it is demotivating thinking this is your first real client. But I guess it just is what it is. Some clients want to put zero effort into communicating and also; they usually have no aesthetical values or money. So it’s not the best kind of jobs.

Just-B nailed this. You’ll see this time and time again in your career. This is the person you’ll work, and work, and put in more work for, only to never reach and end, and never see a dime. I know it’s extremely hard to turn away work at this stage in your career, but it’s going to be a lesson learned - and if you’re lucky, you won’t have to waste 14 hours of your time to learn it.

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