Why You Can’t Be My Client

Since I established my design studio over thirteen years ago, I have worked with clients large and small, designed for sole proprietors and for publicly-held corporations, solo entrepreneurs and organizations comprised of committees and boards. My work has even won some awards. Most of my work comes through referral from clients and colleagues, some from my students, some from my friends and some come out of left field. Out of necessity, I have established some criteria for qualifying those I will work with. These criteria help determine if a project or a client is one I should accept.

You can’t be my client if:

One of the first questions you ask is “How much do you charge?” This usually indicates that you’re looking for a product, not a unique graphic property. You want to buy a logo or a brochure rather than develop an image and brand.

You want me to start the project now but you will pay me later. I don’t begin a project without a down payment. This helps affirm your credibility with me, and enables me to spend time and effort on your project without concern for my livelihood. If you won’t pay up front, what basis do I have for trusting that you’ll pay upon completion?

You want me to give you a few ideas before you will commit your project to me. You want to see what I’m capable of.  I’m actually happy to develop ideas for you. This is known as “consulting” and there is a fee for it. I don’t work on spec. And as for my capability: my track record, roster of clients and body of work testify to that for me.

You don’t know what a designer does. In this case, you either don’t understand the value of design to your business or you are asking me to handle things that fall outside my scope of services. I am not a publicist. I am not a press agent. I am not a print broker. I do not host web sites. I cannot create an appropriate graphic property for you in a 24-hour turn-around.

You ask me to tweak or finish the work of another designer. This request invariably comes on the heels of a bad rapport that developed between you and your previous design firm and you have come to me to “fix” their work. I’ll be happy to take your job specs and begin fresh, but I will not alter someone else’s work.

The work you want me to do is for something I deem unethical or immoral. I won’t violate my values. Period.

As a designer, my purpose is to help your business, company or organization succeed over the long term by creating graphic properties that establish identity, brand and message. If I can’t help you accomplish your goals then you can’t be my client. But, if you have read this far and think you do qualify and want to discuss a project, I am happy to talk with you.

3 Responses

  1. I love this post. You are direct, set expectations up front, and show you have standards. So many talented designers become doormats when they get that “thank you sir, may I have another” mindset.

    Very responsible.

    At Outsource Marketing, we do all we can to only work with companies that share our values. That way, we’re passionate about the work we’re doing and enjoy the folks we serve.

    And that always makes for better work for everyone.

    Patrick Byers
    The Responsible Marketing Blog

  2. Very good, I have to learn say “no” from you. I’m a designer too, and I face many of these things everyday. Nice ideas, thanks.