Caution! Six Warning Signs Of A Bad Client

By Alyssa Gregory
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Caution tapeSometimes, you have to say no to incoming work. No, I haven’t lost my mind. Yes, I know the state of the economy. And yes, I know how hard it can be, especially during a recession, to find design work when it seems like everyone is cutting back, tightening up and sucking in.

Designers need to design and bills have to be paid, but all work is not good work. In fact, some potential jobs (and potential clients) can cost you. Here are six warning signs that you may have a bad client lurking.

1. There is no agreement to terms.

The potential client seems ready…and then they keep trying to renegotiate your rate. You can’t get confirmation on deliverables or project end date. Nothing is in writing — no signed agreement or even an approval via e-mail. Then the client says something like, “Let’s just get started, and we can work out the details as we go.” That should be all you need to run — not walk — in the other direction.

2. The client refuses to scope the work.

Part of your job as the designer is to work with the client to specify exactly what the project will entail. If, even with your direction, the client is not able or willing to sign off on a detailed project plan, survey says you will be faced with scope creep and quite possibly, The Never-Ending Project.

3. The client is disorganized and scattered.

Let’s be honest. Many clients don’t know exactly what they want before you actually start doing it. As designers, we know this, and we each have our own methods to drive clients to focus. But if you’re doing everything in your power to keep the client on-task and focused, and they continue to refer to version 3.0, which is two years down the line, it is likely that their lack of focus will cost you time and money. Not to mention a heck of a lot of frustration.

4. The client has a dark history.

If the client had an abrupt end to a relationship with another designer, and frequently claims said designer was the cause of all that’s evil in the world, they may be of the impossible-to-please variety. Don’t forget it’s totally your right to check them out and do some of your own research before agreeing to the work.

5. The client is a jerk.

You should not have to deal with a client who is rude, obnoxious or disrespectful. Period.

6. The client is a “designer.”

We’ve all been there. The client once designed a “webpage” in FrontPage and they know how to do what you do, probably better than you do. They tend to question why you designed something the way you did and constantly make suggestions on how to do it better. I think it’s pretty clear that this is a bad job to take on.

So heed these warning signs, believe in your value as a designer, and avoid making a deal with the devil for a quick buck. Times will change, and you’ll be happy you didn’t sell yourself short along the way.

Image credit: Doug Wilson

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