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Graphic designing is not just about using design skills and aesthetics. In order to succeed as professional graphic designers, you must also possess business sense and interpersonal skills to deal with clients. Those designers who are devoid of these skills are usually bullied around by clients. Being in the professional world, you cannot afford to be a pushover.

Most of us generally assume clients to be harmless and unknowledgeable people who can cause no trouble for graphic designers. But there are some bad client types that have the ability to take undue advantage of graphic designers who are vulnerable to client trickery. Hence, you must be aware of how to avoid being ripped off by shrewd clients.

Here are some common ways that clients try to dupe designers into going the extra mile. Also explained are the ways to avoid them.


1. Asks for Excessive Revisions:

Some clients use a shrewd approach to take designers for a ride. After having completed the final work, they will ask you to “Make Slight Adjustments”. Design revisions are acceptable to a certain extent, but when these requests keep piling up, you can be sure that you’re being ripped off your time and energy. The time that you could have spent in making money elsewhere is exhausted by the client who takes you for granted.


2. Demands Outright Plagiarism:

Copying someone else’s work is one thing, but to be forced by a client to implement an exactly similar design is downright wrong. Some would find it hard to believe, but I have myself encountered some clients who provide a sample design (mostly a famous one) and demand that I imitate it with slight modifications. Believe it or not, this happens and if you don’t stand up against this, you might end up creating a copied design that will eventually stain your graphic design portfolio.


3. Stipulates Unreasonable Deadline:

Another shrewd technique employed by clients is to give unreasonable deadlines to designers. Their trick here is that they will pay for a day’s worth and get work done for a month’s worth. Some designers who are subdued comply with this unreasonable demand and end up messing up their work. You simply cannot let the designer set an unrealistic and unfeasible cut-off date for the project.


4. Reluctant to Pay:

Some swindling clients tend to delay the payments with lame excuses. This happens mostly with newbie graphic designers who are desperate on earning from a design project. These clients take undue advantage of the designers who are pushovers and eventually end up absconding away with the design work without paying a cent.


5. Unwarranted Threats:

Blackmailing is one of the most despicable and contemptible acts by a client. When a dispute or serious issue arrives and it is the client’s fault, he will resort to hurling unwarranted threats at graphic designers. They would also threaten to take legal actions and demand that whatever they say be done. Those designers who are not aware of how to do business dealings bow down in front of these scheming clients.


Tip: How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by Clients

Some designers have a soft corner for clients and just cannot refuse the endless revisions. Others are simply inexperienced with the trade of business dealings and legal documentations. In order to save designers from being taken for a ride by these deceiving clients, a simple solution is to lay the ground rules before taking on a graphic design project. Sign a contract that stipulates the design brief, time, budget and number of revisions on the project. This will spare you time and energy trying to refuse the client for undue revisions. Moreover, it will also protect you from any legal complications with the clients.

Author Charlie B. Johnson

has written Posts 388 .

  1. Jamie On November 3rd, 2011 at 8:21 am

    So, every time I read a list of lousy clients, I find you guys are just describing my current boss. I’m a graphic designer, but I’m enlisted as an hourly waged employee. I’ve revised so many things for this guy that my head spins in circles, and he even has me modify other peoples’ logos for sake of the design, which makes me crazy and nervous. I’ve voiced my concerns, but he has me do them anyway. Do you guys have any suggestions for me on how to deal with such a boss without losing my (albeit meager) job?

  1. Jeffry On November 4th, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Had one client ho did all the above. First the deadline was tight but do-able. After a couple of long day’s i hit the deadline and sent the first design. After a week I received the revisions, I thought their was a tight deadline but apparently it was only for me. In the revisions (allot of revisions) also was a request for plagiarism, which i refused to do, so i had to design some elements again to keep the client happy and to avoid copying others work. Finally the design was approved and I send the print-documents, I was as happy as a chicken how had laid it’s first egg that it was finally over, at least that was what I thought at the moment. Within a week a mail that the print documents weren’t editable and they couldn’t use it. So I contacted them to ask what the problem was, they asked if i could make a editable PNG file. I couldn’t believe what they were asking. After allot of explaining and headache, I kicked them out, i had done what was agreed and was sick of them. Then they didn’t want to pay the bill, and I refused to give up the files (in my agreement my clients become owner of the files after paying the bill). Then they started to blackmail me, I had to sent the files because I only made small revisions and it was their property, they even sent a fake lawyer letter. After contact with my lawyer who said I was right i decided it wasn’t worth it to sue them, it would cost me more time and money then I could gain out of it. So I decided to make the files available for download. They never downloaded it and recently the bill was paid by a curator, they went bankrupt because of lawsuits by a big web design company who had the same problems as me.

  1. tishag On November 6th, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    This is something that I think not only happens to graphic designers but just employees in real life in general! I think the first step in avoiding this is to set ground rules when you’re hired by an employer (at least for a graphic designer) or work rules that you always follow. For any person looking to get work (or work projects), I do know that career centers at your school always have so many connections too! From what I’ve heard, the graphic design program at FIDM is great and they have tons of career connections–not to mention real life experiences from the instructors who still work in the graphic design field and can help avoid situations like this. Thanks for the article!

  1. Mark On November 7th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Ironically there are adverts for MycroBurst on this page. They and other sites like it are another way of ripping off designers. Although I suppose its a choice for the designers to choose to take part and as much as it’s a choice for the customers who quite obviously understands nothing whatsoever about the benefit of good design. Nonetheless its a scurge on this fantastic industry and may very well be a great way for students to do projects with a chance (albeit a very slim one), of getting paid, but it undermines the hard work of designers the world over. Some of the designs may even be very good, but approaching the design process in this way completely overlooks the benefits of really understanding a clients vision and it harms the industry. I say burn them all.

    Jamie, while it may be annoying that your boss rapes you for revisions, its a blessing in disguise as he pays you for it. Ive run a small agency and freelanced and I have been burnt in the beginning because I dint bother doing the contracts properly and just trusted the clients. Most clients are fantastic and if you treat them well and are you are worth the money you charge they will extend you the same respect. However in business there is always the odd one that will take the mickey. Very wise words at the end of the article above, because if you don’t take steps yourself to ensure that it doesn’t happen by setting the goal posts from the beginning then you only have yourself to blame in the end.

  1. PJ Neuburg On November 9th, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Very true. This is also true with too many advertising agencies- they’re afraid of losing the business/account.

  1. Herbug On November 10th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Excellent article!
    Clients can be a PITA

  1. K. Alton On November 11th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Thanks for the article. You have to be Fair but Firm in this game.

  1. Morgan & Me Creative On November 16th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    This post is hilarious because it rakes up memories, not good ones. We put many behind us, we tend to stay very cautious now and cross our fingers every once in a while that we don’t come face to face with another ‘godzilla’ client.

  1. John @ Start Mission On November 23rd, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I know these all too well when i first came out as a freelance backend programmer. Really, the headaches mentioned above are almost necessary growing pains all freelancers must go through. I think experience will teach you to be more firm with clients. Stipulating deposit before beginnign work also helps.

  1. Houston Web Designers On November 25th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    #4 is a big one. There are many clients out there that want to “sample” your design before they pay. Be sure you use clear contracts that not only outline payment terms (especially at a min. that a deposit be required), but also that describes when and how ownership of the artwork transfers. I would suggest that the client not receive any right to any component of the art until final payment to the designer. Spend some $ on a lawyer to get your contracts in order. It will pay you back.

  1. dumindu On November 25th, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    you are right with your words. i also have some ugly experience with some customers in 2 logo design projects.So we have to be careful with them.
    Nice article.
    keep it on.

  1. rembrandz On November 27th, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Hey there Thanks for the post and valuable insights.

    I remember sadly my share of sob stories with some of my associates too which led me to write an article featuring a special “Wanted” poster to let out some steam. htttp://


  1. danielle On December 7th, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Great article! After 20 years as a graphic designer, I’ve come to have a sixth sense for these type of clients. And, tend to run the other way when I come across them. But, this article is a great reminder to stand your ground and stay vigilant, no matter what the circumstances.

  1. harryposter On January 8th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    For the clients that are reluctant to pay: MCOL (in the UK), it works.

    About pricing disputes, agree on a per-project price or on a hourly basis and stick to either.

    If a per-project price is agreed, be prepared to unlimited revisions and do not complain about it, if you are a professional you should include that in the first place.

    Just my 2 cents to the wannabe designers that seem to populate this blog…

  1. David On January 30th, 2012 at 6:35 am

    How true! The only thing worse than a nightmare designer is a nightmare client! They can turn the best designer into a creator of evil

  1. 99designs Reviews On February 2nd, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Such useful points to keep in mind before accepting clients’ project. However, designers should make some contract with them beforehand. One of the biggest problems in most design projects is that the client always makes trouble to finalize the design and they put all the blame on the graphic designer.

  1. Besa Shemovski Thomas On December 25th, 2012 at 11:37 am

    One of the best tactics to avoid multiple changes I’ve learned over the years is to indicate how many revisions are acceptable in your proposal. I usually allow three or very minor changes are fine. If the revisions are stil straggling, I’ll set a price per hour for revisions alone. I also follow up with the client and use a serious tone when necessary and believe me it has worked. Above all, I keep a strong relationship with my clients. If you respect yourself and your involvement in a project, the client will return the favour.

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