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Nine things clients say, and what they really mean.


Seasoned designers everywhere have a list of things they hear from clients that make them cringe. Here are a few of my favorites, and how I've learned to deal with them.

"I've got this image I found that I want you to use."

What it really means:"I did a google image search and found this really great image I want you to use."

Solution: Take a few minutes to educate your client (non-designers don't know any better) and tell them if they really want to use that image then they will need to contact the owner and obtain the usage rights and a high enough resolution image to use for printing.

"See what this company does? I want to look like that, but different."

What it really means: "I want you to make my stuff look like theirs, but I don't want to get sued."

Solution: There may not be a solution here. You can tell your client that they almost assuredly will get the cease and desist letter from the other company's lawyer, and that you cannot ethically create something that is meant to look like the competition—there are copyright laws, after all. If they are willing to listen and trust you to design something unique for them, then do it. If not, run for the hills.

"I don't have a big budget for this job, but there is going to be a lot more work coming."

What it really means: "I don't want to pay you what you're really worth so I'll promise you more work that I also won't have a big budget for."

Solution: Trust me, if you start out working for cheap they will always expect you to work for cheap. I've fallen for this line twice in my career and neither time did it end well. Just don't do it if you don't feel it in your gutt.

"I don't really know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it."

What it really means: "I have a hard time making a decision."

Solution: How do you even quote a job like this? Make your estimate very detailed and let them know up front that they will be charged hourly if they exceed the estimate. Keep track of your time and give them a warning when you are approaching the limit of your estimate.

"I need this done by tomorrow. Can you do it? Please?"

What it really means: "I totally dropped the ball on this and I've known about it for weeks."

Solution: We've all been there, but my dad has a saying, "Failure to plan on your part, does not create an emergency on my part." Charge double—unless they are a really good client and this is not the norm. It's all about respect, and if they don't respect that you are running a business and not just sitting around waiting for things to do, you need to educate them.

"My cousin is very artistic and created this design for us. Could you just finish it up and get it ready to print?"

What it really means: "I'm sure this will save me money since I'm giving you the design and you just have to finish it up."

Solution: Chances are, it was done in Word or Publisher. Agree to nothing until you have seen the file. You are, again, probably going to have to educate your client on the whole design and printing process and it will probably take longer to "clean it up" than it would to design from scratch.

"I'm going to show it to some people and I'll get back to you."

What it really means: "I'm going to show it to my customers, my extended family and my neighbors to see what they think."

Solution: Get ready for tons of comments, most of which will drive you nuts. About the only thing you can do is have patience and come to terms with the fact that this piece may not end up being one that goes in your portfolio. Design by committee almost never works out well.

"I had a logo designed at [insert any of the online logo design houses]. I'll send you the artwork to use."

What it really means: "I thought I could save money by using one of those online places. I mean, it's just a logo."

Solution:They probably don't have it in vector format so you'll probably have to recreate it. It's a toss-up as to whether it works in one color. You'll probably have to educate your client—again. You get what you pay for. If you handle it right, they'll come back to you for everything, because you know what you're doing.

"Can you just knock this out for me. It shouldn't take you that long."

What it really means: "I'm sure this won't cost much, it's an easy thing to do." (Note: It also could mean your client doesn't value your time.)

Solution: How do they know it won't take you long, or that it is an "easy" thing to do? Be straight with them on what is really entailed

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