How to Professionally Deal with Difficult Design Clients

Let’s face it, some clients suck. Sure, we’ve all heard that customers are always right and you must do everything to appease them. However, by acknowledging that client relationships won’t always be perfect and that clients can, in fact, be wrong, you can begin developing tactics for dealing with these difficult situations as they arise. Since, as a designer, you’re sure to encounter clients that’ll test your patience, here are 4 tips for dealing with these difficult situations without losing your composure.

Handle Editing Disputes with Grace

A client requests that edits be taken in a certain direction while you think the opposite approach is best. It’s the classic client/designer battle. While you can gently reiterate why you approached the project in a certain manner, if the client is unwilling to budge, you’ll likely be better off appeasing them.

After all, they’re paying you for the work and, if they want something completed in a certain manner, it’s up to you to provide it. To avoid being blamed for a poor performing project in this situation, tell the client why you took the original design approach before sending off the final edited results. The client will then only have themselves to blame if the design doesn’t generate the results they desire. Also, save copies of the original and edited versions in case you need them for future disputes.

Spell out Contract Terms

Contract terms are the foundation of successful design projects. By ensuring you and the client agree on all terms including how many edits will be provided, the project cost and more, fewer questions and disputes will arise. If disputes do occur, revisit the contract terms and gently remind the client of the original agreement that was signed. If you uphold your end of the bargain, the client will have no grounds for backing out on theirs.

Send Invoices Promptly

You won’t be paid for your work unless invoices are sent promptly for completed projects. Before sending invoices, recheck contracts to ensure you’re charging for the proper rate. Also, clearly state on the invoice when payment is due and the amount of interest to be charged for late payments. By invoicing in this manner, you may encounter fewer payment issues.

However, if you ever must deal with excessively overdue payments, you must make the difficult decision regarding additional actions that should be taken. If the client signed a contract agreeing to pay you a certain rate and they accepted the final project, you’ll have grounds to take additional legal action to collect the money you’re owed. In these situations, it’s typically beneficial to involve a lawyer to ensure the proper actions are taken.

Smile and Finish the Job

While dealing with a difficult client isn’t the image you likely envisioned when first becoming a designer, it’s a situation that most designers encounter. During those trying times, the best option is simply to keep smiling and finish the job. You’re a professional and this difficult client is simply a hiccup in the normally positive projects you complete.

As a new designer, you can’t afford to be selective about the work you accept. However, as your client list builds, you’ll notice the signs of a difficult client as you begin working with them. When such a situation arises, you can politely turn down work that may not be worth your time. While you certainly don’t want to burn bridges with clients who may have strong connections, you must also respect your talents by not accepting work that won’t be worth your time.

It’s important to remember that, as with any profession, you’ll have good days and bad days. By maintaining a positive attitude in the face of difficult situations, you’ll uphold a professional image and will avoid burning connections that could provide future profits. Additionally, during those difficult days, remind yourself of the many perks of being a designer since they typically far outweigh the negatives. Do you have tales of difficult clients you’d like to share or have additional suggestions for handling these tricky situations?

About is here to help designers. Whether you are experienced and are trying to get over a hump, or are brand new to graphic design and have no idea where to start, we want to help.

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