Tips on working with client and vendor when you aren’t paying for job

Hello, I was wondering if any designers out there have any tips on how to effectively work with a client and a vendor to see the job through to the end properly when you aren’t the one paying the vendor. I’ve recently been working on a string of larger scale projects. Typically for smaller jobs I’ll cover the costs and pay the vendor and then bill the client, possibly with a small markup depending on the job. For these larger jobs it hasn’t been practical for my end to be paying the bill but I’m finding that the vendors become difficult to work with and are trying to cut us/ the designer out of the equation and in the end it’s compromising the end result and causing problems. No matter how hard I press to stay in the loop, and communicate with both client and vendor it just seems that in the end there is some failure of communication that results from the vendor wanting to bypass the designer/my group and work directly with the client. I could really use some advice on how to better handle this setup. Thanks.

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When you set up a project you need to develop a set hierarchy of control.
Who is in charge of the project.
What direction do the files flow.
If from you to client to vendor, then you are cut out of the loop.
If the files go from you to the vendor however, they should honor that protocol and refer all questions back to you for answers.
You have to get that sorted before you start though, or as you’ve seen, it can lead to all sorts of issues.


I typically ask the client to communicate to the vendor that I’m their representative on the project. If the client doesn’t agree to that, well, they’re on their own.


I’ve never had this problem. From my experience, clients are more than happy for me to interface with their print vendors, and print vendors would rather get specs from me than the client. In my eyes, print facilitation is part of the service. The last thing I want is the client to be disappointed because, for example, the job was printed on 80# text when it should have been printed on 8-# coated. Let your client and their vendors know this is a service you offer to make sure everyone is on the same page.

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In leu of a direct connection with the print vendor, you can write up print specs and include that with the final art you deliver. Put it on your letterhead and save it as a PDF so it looks official.

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So say I get this setup all ideally, and then the client and vendor are communicating separately anyways, and make a decision without me. How do you handle that?

So if the client doesn’t agree, what do you mean they are on their own? You just let them manage the production with the vendor and stay out of it?

Yes, mostly.

Most of the clients I work with are larger companies and government agencies. They often have their own vendors under contract or internal purchasing policies regarding the printers they use.

Even when I’m working on a smaller freelance job, clients often want to save money by handling the printing themselves. I’ll tell them the drawbacks of doing so, but if they insist and depending on the job, I’ll give them some advice on selecting a printer, write up some specs for whatever printer they might choose, then turn it over to the client to deal with. At that point, for better or worse, it’s their issue to deal with.

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