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7 Ways To Alienate Your Designer & Go From Client to Contract

In a perfect world, working with your designer would be a perfect partnership of creativity, communication, and collaboration — at least that is what designers strive for. But that’s not always the case…

A designer begins every project excited about what they will create and about bringing the client’s vision to life — they wouldn’t have accepted the project is they weren’t. They are excited about solving problems, helping their clients succeed, and building a new relationship or strengthening an existing one. They value their client and look forward to becoming their long term creative partner.

Designers have so much pride in their work and so much invested in their clients’ success, that they will often bend over backward, throw in extra work, and go above and beyond your contract just to make sure the final result is as good as it can possibly be. Mainly because the success of your project puts their reputation on the line.

But occasionally, a switch gets flipped, and the dynamics of the relationship change. Something happens, or several things happen, that cause a designer to shift the way they view a client and a project.

It’s the critical point where a client stops being a client and starts being a contract that needs to be fulfilled — where a designer throws their hands in the air and gives up trying to make it totally awesome, and instead just wants it to be good and done.

Luckily for the best designers, this doesn’t happen often. Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you this has never happened to me. Unfortunately it has and if it is early enough in the project, we refund the deposit and part ways with a referral to another designer. Or if we’re already in too deep, we complete the scope of work outlined in the contract, maintain our quality standards, and when we’re done, we simply don’t work with them again.

Note: The best designers will always protect their reputation, finish the project with integrity, and deliver the same quality of work no matter what. They simply won’t go above and beyond.

With that said … Here 8 guaranteed-to-work tips you can use to alienate your designer and go from client to contract:

Question Everything They Do Or Say

Constantly challenge your designer and second guess everything they do and say. Ask for their advice then disregard it. Delay the project for months while you get second opinions and suggestions on the design from everyone you know including your grandma, your next door neighbor’s daughter, your mastermind group, your garbageman, your coach, your friends, and yes, the grocery store clerk &#8212 because they all know what will work better than your designer.

Dishonor Your Contract

After the contract has been signed and the project has been started, change the scope of work several times. Take advantage of your designer and demand extra revisions and request lots of additional work that wasn’t included in the contract. When your designer tells you they can accommodate you but that the new work would require a new estimate, be very mean to them — threaten them and say rude, nasty things to them.

Disappear Without Notice

Sometime in the middle of the project simply disappear. Stop responding to email and don’t return their phone calls — but be sure to stay active on social media so they can see that you’re still running your business and making money. If it’s a WordPress project, make sure you disappear long enough that WordPress releases an update and plugins release updates so your designer has to do extra work to maintain your in progress site while it hogs space in their development hosting account.

Answer Questions With “I Don’t Know”

Your designer will ask you questions about your business, your brand, your clients, or your goals — and they’ll ask you questions about site requirements, preferences, and what’s working or not working about your current site. Don’t give them any information. Answer every question with, “I don’t know.” And just for fun, throw in a, “Isn’t that what I hired you for? Why are you asking me?”

Belittle Their Work

Never tell your designer they did a good job. Never compliment them or say anything nice. Only ever point out the things you don’t like — and act the fate of your entire business rests on even the tiniest design element. In fact, when they’re done with the design, belittle what they do and tell them you could have done it yourself, but you just couldn’t be bothered.

Don’t Let Them be Creative

After the contract is signed and the project is started, surprise your designer will drawings you did of exactly what you want your website to look like and send them screenshots of sites you want to copy. Tell them you’re not interested in their input or design ideas, and that you just want them to “make” exactly what you sent them — and be sure they know it shouldn’t be hard or take much time because you’re just copying other sites.

Disrespect Boundaries

Email and call your designer over and over until you get them to answer, even if it’s more than 10 times in on hour. Make outrageous demands that they work over the weekend or in the middle of the night without extra compensation and expect that they will respond to your emails 24/7/365 — and when they don’t throw a huge temper tantrum and threaten them.

Never Respond or Say Thank You

When your designer sends you design drafts, website proofs, or other materials, don’t respond for days or weeks — don’t even acknowledge that they did the work for you. When you ask them to do something for you, never say thank you and just demand more.

Some of the items listed above are deal breakers, like “Don’t let them be creative” — that may drive your designer to their grave with one infraction!

Other tips aren’t as big of a deal, so you may have to do a few of them in a short time span to really make them effective and drive your designer to take up a violent sport.

Are you a designer who has been treated this way? Are you a business owner whom has learned a thing or two? Did I simply make you laugh? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Comments & Feedback:Check out what others have to say about this post!

  1. OMG, laughing so hard. I can’t wait for Deb to see this. I’d like to put a copy of this up on Blue Sun as a What Not To Do. We have experienced every single one of those, and in our first year of business, had one client who taught us the equivalent of a year in Business School by doing ALL of them repeatedly, while we tried to hang on to our sanity and our motto of exemplary service. We learned our lesson finally and fired her with a smile. Amazingly, she was shocked and couldn’t understand what the problem was!

    Thanks Jennifer for the laugh and the sound advice for clients. Helping to educate them helps us all!

    • Wendi – So happy you got a laugh out of this … I figured this was the best approach to cover the topic without being too negative or ripping on actual clients :) It’s amazing that in the eyes of some people, professional respect and common courtesy shown to other service professionals somehow don’t apply to designers.

      You wouldn’t expect a tile contractor to come to your house, layout an entire custom shower design, and then not have to pay them because you changed your mind? So why would it be that way for a designer?

      They wouldn’t come to your house and do a custom tile layout in an entry way for free, hoping that if you like it you’ll pay them … so why do people expect this from designers?

      Drive me nuts!

  2. Ha ha ha! I loved the snark, but also appreciated the reminder to work cooperatively, rather than being difficult. I hope I have never behaved in such a way with other vendors.

  3. Hi Jennifer,

    I’ve read this post with enormous compassion for what must be an infuriating set of experiences in the world of website design. I trust that I have never done any of these things, because I’m so damn grateful to people who know how to design websites and take my fledgling concepts and create something that is viable, beautiful and results-oriented.

    I have such admiration for people who are artistic, creative & technical. And if you’re willing, I’d love to talk with you about my needs for a new WP site.

  4. Oh, Jennifer. I can only imagine what you’ve been through. You’ve certainly paid your dues – and I WILL take this to heart. Next time I hire a designer your article will be the first place I go to get some real wisdom moving forward! Thanks a million :)

  5. Thank you Jennifer
    That made me laugh. We have clients that do one or more of those things. So as not to loose our minds we call them clients “with special needs” … and then try to be humble as we work with the situation … deep breaths, count to 10 …

    Loved the post, Thanks :-)

  6. I was so insulted reading this. Then I was like “this cant be true.” is this a REAL article on how to mistreat a designer? lol With that said sometimes I think labeling yourself as a “graphic designer” Potential clients interpret that as time to “Bargain”. Nowadays people can change the hue/sat on a picture and label themselves “graphic designer”. Us Artist should stand firm on our talents. great read!

  7. You mean there are actually clients who act like this when you are providing them a valuable service? No way! Get out of town!

    On a serious note: Pre-screening and the initial meetings really help both client and service provider to determine whether they are a good fit for each other. Great article, lots of wisdom delivered with it here.

  8. Hi:) thanks for sharing your thoughts Jennifer. Although it may be quite funny to read about such clients, it definitely is not funny in reality. Yes, I have encountered the same problems. Sometimes, I am angry with me myself, because I ignore my first impression on a new client and then when things go wrong, I may only blame myself. I have a good intuition about relationship with a new met person, but not always I listen to it. I wonder how many of you are able to predict problems with clients:)?

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