Dealing with DIY-type Clients

I’ve had my fair share of interesting client stories over the years. There’s one I latched on to that I ended up laughing a bit at. I had a client who got excited about the design process and decided to try their hand at design alongside me.

You can imagine my surprise sitting down for one of our regular status meetings and they walked in with a bunch of paper under their arms. On the paper was a variety of logo concepts. They didn’t feel like they were getting their point across and decided that rather than hurting my feelings, this was the route to go. Most of the logos were a copy of ones they found via Google Images.

Since that’s a violation of copyright law, our meeting ended up being me explaining the basics of that.

I didn’t have a provision in my contract for walking away from this mess, so I had to figure out a way to move forward from this. The client needed to better understand their role and trust that I could still do the work.

I had no choice but to keep moving forward, and after some intense meetings, we ended up with a design that everyone liked.

Lesson learned. My next contract had an out if someone tried doing my work for me.

I’m stating the obvious when I say that the easiest solution is to fire the client. But how do you handle things if you’re stuck working with them to the bitter end? How do you move forward?

Going back to my story, I had to decide if we would move forward from the client’s sketches, moving forward from their ideas, or hit the reset button entirely.

Using their sketches to keep moving was a risk. We didn’t want to rip anyone off. I also didn’t know what was going through their minds creating them.

It made more sense to hit the reset button and pretend like it was a new project again, even though we were still on the same contract. The client needed to know that my feelings wouldn’t be hurt and that marking up my drawings would be okay if they felt like it got their point across.

It was frustrating because clients like this often think they’re the creative ones when they aren’t. And that should be the reason why you were hired.

Projects that brand a company always need to be dealt with, with care. It’s something that your client will be using for a very long time (hopefully). We need to make sure we’re striking a balance of them being happy, the graphics not being a rip-off, and the artwork being effective.

If your client isn’t happy with your work, don’t take it personal. Sometimes styles just don’t mix well together. It may be worth suggesting they find someone better suited, if need be. At the end of the day, everyone wants their project to be successful. The mark of a good business person is knowing when the relationship isn’t working and its time to move on — and that it’s okay to do it.

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