20 Horrible Habits of Clients

by . November 30th, 2007

Below is a common list of issues designers have to deal with while working with clients on projects and how to avoid or solve those issues in a professional manner.

1. Wanting Great Designs for Cheap Prices

Because everyone seems to have Photoshop and know a designer nowadays, many clients tend to have a bad idea of what design is worth. While it can be ok to have low prices when you are starting out, when you are confident enough and your work is good enough you should come up with prices that make it worth your time.

Many clients also try to outsource their projects to India and other places where designers work for rock bottom prices, but you need to stick behind your work and hold out for those clients who know what you are worth. Let them know why you are the best choice!

2. Asking you to Design on Spec

This is when clients want to see a finished design before they pay. You should avoid doing this as much as possible, but in times of desperation it could be he only option.

Be confident though and let clients choose you based on your portfolio and not on spec. Be especially careful of designing on spec for people on classifieds and forums because it’s a common scam in places like those where they really are not clients, but designers themselves looking to steal your work and use it for their own projects.

3. Slow Payments

Some clients are notorious for paying slowly or not at all. The way I combat this is to ALWAYS require a down payment before I begin work. For smaller project I usually ask for all the money upfront and I never send the final files until I receive the last payments.

4. Not Planning out the Project Upfront

I find it extremely important to plan out a project as much as possible before starting work. Even if they have a tight deadline make it clear the project must be fully planned out before you begin. After all meetings and discussions are done write up an estimate listing all of the details of the project and your prices and terms.

5. Not Giving you all the Copy and Images Needed up Front

This is probably one of the most common bad habits of clients. I try to stress several times that I require all copy and images before I begin and this usually gets them to give it to me on time. Although don’t be surprised if you end up having to design using dummy text and make annoying adjustments later to fit the actual copy.

6. Not Having High- Resolution Images for Print Projects

This is usually due to the fact that clients do no understand the fine points of resolution or that they just do not have any high-resolution images available. Try recommend using high-resolution stock photography or illustrations instead, but if they really must use those images try to keep them as small as possible.

If this happens make sure you write in your contract that the images provided were of low resolution and may not reproduce well when printed.

7. Forcing you to use Poorly Designed Logos and Other Elements

Many times clients will ask you to include pre-existing logos or other design elements within the project you are working on. You will have to judge when and when not to argue this if you feel it hurts the overall design. Learning how to negotiate and inform clients on what you believe is best can be considered an art form and takes practice!

8. Can you Make that Type Bigger?

This has always been on ongoing battle between designers and clients and has become a sort of inside joke for designers. Even Paula Scher commented on the issue by naming on of her books Make It Bigger.

9. Asking for Way too Many Revisions

This one can be pretty easily avoided by establishing a set amount of revision rounds and initial concepts before starting a project. Make sure you get this in writing or at least save your emails where they agree to your specifications. This is most commonly done in the logo and identity design area of graphic design.

10. Asking for Additional Work on top of the Original Agreement

This one can be good or bad. It’s bad when they spring additional work on you and don’t want to pay more, but it’s good if your agreement outlines the pricing for additional work.

11. Never Available for Questions or to Look at Samples

Often clients can be extremely busy and working on multiple projects at once. As designers it’s important for us to be able to contact our clients to show them samples, revisions and ask important questions.

This one is really up to you guys. You can either try to deal with it and get the project done or you can let the client know about the issue and try to resolve it or drop them.

12. Pinning Printing Costs on You

Many designers handle printing for clients, but I try to stay away from this. I’ve seen way too many clients try and stick designers with outrageous printing bills because of an error in the final design. I basically say I can recommend printers to you and do an initial check of the files to make sure they are print ready, but it’s up to you and your printer to do a final prepress check and make sure the files are correct, because I will not be held responsible for any printing costs whatsoever.

13. Not willing to pay for Additional Costs

This usually turns out bad if you try to spring additional costs on clients at the end of the project. Once again this problem can easily be avoided if you specify upfront what the additional costs are or might be. This can include stock photography, stock illustrations, printing costs and rush fees.

14. Canceling Projects

Whether you or a client decided to end a project you should be covered in some way. Using a contract again is a simple way to protect yourself. Simply state that if a project is canceled, you will invoice for work completed up until that point. Some designers give no refunds at all and some are happy to refund clients if they are the ones who drop the client because of issues.

15. Returning Many Months Later for Login Information

I recently had a client from over two years ago contact me in desperation because he lost certain login information. Lucky for him I keep good records and I was easily able to look up his info. I’m not sure what would have happened if I didn’t have it, but having it in my records made it an easy problem to solve.

16. Asking for Files Years Later

Similar to log in information clients often misplace files you send them. I always keep files on my computer, even from projects years ago and I make sure to back up my files on multiple external hard drives.

17. Legal Action

No one likes this one, but it does happen so be prepared. Always save emails and paperwork in case you need to present them as evidence. Also make sure you find a lawyer that can help you if something comes up. Ask family and friends if they know any good lawyers who would be willing to represent you if a problem occurs.

18. Over-controlling

Some clients are very over controlling and don’t allow for much creative freedom. When dealing with an over controlling client it’s important to let them know you are the designer without sounding to harsh or rude. Just give them your honest opinion on issues and suggest things when you can without being to pushy.

19. Lack of Research & Planning

Sometimes clients want a website or some other project done, but they have absolutely no idea what’s going on. By this I mean they have done no research or planning before hand, but still want a complicated website that’s easy to update.

This makes things extremely difficult for designers because we have to explain every last detail several times for clients. While helping clients is our job there are some clients who really need to go back to the start and do more research on what they are getting themselves into.

20. I Know Everything

Similar to over controlling clients, some clients think they know everything there is to know about design and what your job entails. They tend to tell you exactly what to do with your designs and can be very pushy. Sometimes you have to just deal with this, but as mentioned before don’t be afraid to give your input. I mean they did hire you because you are a professional designer right?

Know more Bad Habits?

If you know any bad habits we forgot to mention or you have a good client story please let us know in the comments!


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