Ridiculous client requests (and how to reason with them)

Ridiculous Request #1: Can you show me how you would do this project before I hire you?

Unless you are a fan of doing work without getting paid, the answer to this should be a respectful “no”.  This question is simply a request to do spec work disguised as a reasonable request.

frustratedSolution: The Ice Cream Store Analogy

I like to use the ice cream store analogy. “Design is like an ice cream store,” I tell them, “You wouldn’t be able to go inside and ask for a full bowl of ice cream without paying just to ‘see if you like it’. You can, however, try a small sample spoon before your fork over the money.”

Then I make the connection. “Likewise, I can’t give you something that you aren’t going to pay for. I can show you samples of my work so that you get a small taste of what I can provide for you.”  I have never had a customer that doesn’t understand this reasoning and accept it happily.

Ridiculous Request #2: Can you make it look exactly like this?

The response to this answer depends on how you want to be treated and what kind of work you want to do for people.  The most exciting part of graphic design, in my opinion, is the creative process behind the design.

Solution: The Accountant Analogy

When I am confronted with this question, I frequently remind my clients that they would not hire an accountant and tell him the best way to file their taxes.  Likewise, if they truly respect you as a graphic designer, they will trust you enough to do what you do best: design.

Ridiculous Request #3: (The infamous) Can you make my logo bigger?

If you are wondering why I said this request is “infamous”, you should definitely watch this video.

Solution: Show them both options (+the video if needed)

This may sound like a dangerous approach but when a client is insistent on making the logo bigger, I usually do two pieces for them: one my way and one their way.  I then show them the contrast and explain to them why I feel, as a professional, that the choice with the more ‘normal size’ logo and extra white space is preferable.

Ridiculous Request #4: Can we just start and I’ll figure out the details as we go?

While some details can and should be “figured out” during the design process, you are going to end up spending a lot more time making last minute changes to the piece without getting paid what you deserve.

Solution: Good planning + the construction worker analogy

Every graphic design project should be well thought out and be backed by rather detailed planning.  I like to make the comparison of a construction company.  If you decide to build a house without knowing how many rooms you want or how many stories, that is definitely not something you can change later without a lot of extra hassle.

Sure you can change the color of the tile, or the style of the fixtures later on in the process, but the major points of planning should be thought out well in advance. Such is a graphic design project.

Ridiculous Request #5: Can I have this yesterday?
Okay, I know no one actually asks for things “yesterday” but clients frequently ask for things to be completed in much less time than humanly possible.

Solution: Honesty and Overestimation
I always make it a point to be honest with my clients. If there are three other clients ahead of them in order of jobs received, I let them know. If it is going to take me a week longer to make a quality project than what they had hoped for, I tell them.  It is always better to give them the realistic deadline instead of tell them you can hit a deadline you can’t and then let them down later on.

I also like this advice from Leslie Tane in an article she shared on David Airey’s design blog. “I usually over-estimate.” Tane explains, “If I take all the time I’ve said, fine. If I get it done earlier, I’m a hero. It’s always bad business practice to be late.”

I agree.

BONUS: The Ultimate Solution

Dealing with clients can be a frustrating at times. There will always be difficult situations to deal with. The key to avoiding frustration and anger is to simply remember that they don’t understand a lot about your side of the relationship.  They don’t know how long it takes to design a logo. They don’t know how difficult it is to code a website.  Be patient and explain things carefully to your clients and they will come around.

Share other ridiculous requests- and how you solve them- with us below.

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Comments

  1. says

    I really love the ice cream shop analogy. I think its important to be able to explain things to clients in a straight forward jargon free way, which is exactly what the ice cream analogy (and the other analogies) allow you to do.

  2. says

    Number 4 can sometimes be bad enough to make it worth walking away. I learned the hard way with one client who gave me 2 years of fairly lucrative business but every minute was a nightmare. In the end my sanity was more important to me than the money.

  3. says

    Actually, Lithuanian clients ask for things “to be done yesterday” on a routine basis. I figure out it this trend has to do with absolute inability to plan things ahead on the clients side and desperate desire to please on the supply side.

    In any case, a nice piece of advise. Enjoyed reading it.

  4. Andy says

    Good article and good advices. Even though I’m not a graphics designer, I have experience of the software industry and it’s the same on many points.

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