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10 Stupid Things Clients Say to Designers and How to Counter It

Clients say the darndest things and designers have to maintain their composure in order to pay the bills. Some will say phrases to send their designer to an early grave. Here are 10 stupid things clients say and how to counter without losing your job.

“I thought it was included”

Clients think that by ordering one service, they’re entitled to any services necessary to make the original purchase happen for free. For example, a client who needs a brochure layout might assume logo design comes with it. Keep in mind that while clients might not always be right, they can be clueless as to how much training, skill, effort and time goes into any specific design. And, always make sure you have a contract that includes very specific deliverables to help avoid confusion from the outset.

Say: “I’m sorry if there was a miscommunication, but logo design is a separate service, because it takes a lot of time and effort to develop the perfect permanent brand image for your company. I’m happy to add the service as an amendment to our agreement.”

“Just do something real simple so it doesn’t cost much”

I think many clients legitimately do not understand the time and effort it takes to create a stellar design, especially when the end result looks “simple.”

Say: “I understand you want to keep your budget low, but please understand that I want to dedicate the effort it takes to design an outstanding business card for you that actually helps you land sales.”

“I need it by noon tomorrow”

Some clients seem to think you wait by the phone for their call every day.

Say: “I know time is of the essence, but I’m not able to get to this until next week. I want to be able to devote the appropriate time to make your project perfect, which is the same dedication I have for the projects I’m working on this week. I do offer a rush service for a fee.”

“Just use this picture”

Don’t you love it when a client gives you a crappy 72 dpi photo and expects you to make it look good on a poster?

Say: “While it’s a great photo of you, the resolution is low, and it will look grainy when I enlarge it. I know a photographer who can take a great photo that can help us make your poster look outstanding.”

“You can just take the photo”

Clients think graphic designers can do everything. And they can … but they don’t want to.

Say: “My expertise is in graphic design, so I leave the photography to the experts. Would you like me to recommend a photographer?”

“Put fluorescent yellow next to the pink”

To your color blind clients,

Say: “I’ve had a lot of training in color theory, and it’s proven that these alternative colors help customers feel comfortable doing business with you. What do you think about trying those?”

“Do we really need a contract?”

If you don’t have a standard contract, then you’ve never been burned big. It’s going to happen.

Say: “I absolutely know you’re a great client, and our agreement just spells out the deliverables so you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. I’m happy to go over anything you’re unsure of. Our agreement will serve as a reference point if we have any questions later.”

“I need you to do this on spec”

People always want graphic design for free.

Say: “No.” Seriously.

“My budget is $50″

If they don’t expect it for free, they want it for next to nothing.

Say: “I’m sorry, but I’m just not able to devote the time and effort it takes to craft a stellar design within your budget. I could do it for $XX.”

“I need you to fit all this on there so it can be read from 10 feet away”

You know the drill: The client hands you a dictionary and wants you to fit the text onto a flyer so it can be easily read.

Say: “I know this is all important information, but did you know customers respond better to short snippets of copy? They won’t stop and read your entire flyer, especially with such a small font, and we won’t be able to attract attention with small graphics and photos. Why not place the text on your website, and add a link to your flyer?”

One Final Thought

When you help clients understand why you do things the way you do, they’re far more apt to come around than if you directly challenge their way of thinking. If all else fails, and the client insists something must be done a certain way, you can give in. It is their money, after all. Just omit the offending piece from your portfolio and never forgot a formal contract.


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