Smackdown: Graphic Designers vs Clients - Part I

worried-customerBeen There, Done That?
A client hires a graphic designer to assemble specific images for a presentation at a large meeting. The contract states that designer will do up to 50 images. The deadline for the job is the following week. The contract is signed and sealed.

The client drops off all the materials the next day. To the graphic designer's disbelief (and horror) there are over 200 images instead of the 50 that was agreed upon.

The graphic designer calls the customer up and says only 50 are allowed. The client says, "But I really need all of them. You've got to do this for me!"

What did the graphic designer do? I'll tell you at the end of this article. (Certain details have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.)

Contracts and Real Life
If you are a graphic designer, web designer, illustrator, photographer or anyone who works and deals with customers, this video may bring a bit of déjà vu to you.


Contracts are inevitably written and signed in order to specify what services are to be rendered by the vendor, what the price for the services amounts to, what the customer's rights are, and a host of other details to protect both parties.

The client-vendor relationship is usually a give and take proposition. For cynics this means the vendor gives and the client takes and takes and takes and takes...

But an adversarial relationship doesn't have to be the way you relate with your customers if you are willing to arrive at an amicable compromise during the initial process of hammering out the contract details.

shaking-handsTry to be a Diplomat
Graphic design is really the "easy" part of the business. The hard part comes when some clients drive you crazy, are over demanding or try to low-ball your rates without understanding that you or your firm have to make a living, (remember the video?).

But these little bumps in the road are only reminders that you need to be as professional as you can in order to exercise your people skills. Or to put it another way, when lemons come along, squeeze some juice out of them.

Sometimes you'll be successful, sometimes not, but it's a given that good people skills can definitely help your business.

Graphic Design School and the Art of Customer Relations
Graphic design colleges are essential for your career training, understanding design techniques, and improving your skill sets regarding the use of computers and graphics software.

But graphic design schools also get you ready for the real world by simulating project pressures and deadlines. The teachers may even play the role of difficult clients. You may grumble but you'll be thankful for the experiences later.

lemonadeSo What Happened?
In our story about the "surprise," which the client gave the graphic designer...

"I was caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. I felt sucker punched by the sudden addition of the extra 150 images! But this was a new client, and although I knew the request was unreasonable, I decided to do the extra work and chalk it up to experience.

"I did the overtime but didn't charge a dime extra to the client because I assumed that she would probably balk at the additional costs.

"Her presentation went smoothly and was a hit at her meeting. She showed up a week later at the office and gave me a big "thanks" of appreciation for the extra work I did.  She also gave me an extra check to compensate me! I was surprised, to say the least.

"She shook my hand and left the office. She also referred me to other clients because of the 'excellent service' I provided.

"The client didn't know how close I was to not doing the job for her. But in the end, it was a valuable lesson for me about 'going the extra mile'."

Next Time...
cheshire-smile-2In this article we've learned that doing things that are beyond what is expected of you can have a happy ending when dealing with clients.

But what other things can you do to maintain order when the "customer from hell" arrives through your office doors? We'll hear some sound advice from those who have been there and done that in our next article.

Until next time, keep on designing (and smiling)!

Schools and Colleges offering design degrees:

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Design & Technical Graphics (BS)
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Master of Fine Arts: Graphic Design
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Graphic Design (BS)
  • Has been training students for creative careers since 1921.
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Graphic Arts (AAS)

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