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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Nine Situations when you should say No to your clients.

How does that old joke go? “Business would be so much easier if I didn’t have to deal with clients.” It’s funny but unrealistic. Without clients, you wouldn’t have a business. So thank you to all the design clients out there that keep designers like you and me in business.

Yes, clients are great. However, some of them can be difficult to work with at times, and others, let’s say they can be a real pain in the ASSumption that we’ll bend over backwards to work with them. Sometimes one of the best skills you can have is knowing when to say NO to your clients.

Having to say no to your clients can be very stressful. But sometimes the situation you find yourself in requires you to put your foot down and do just that.

In episode 42 of Resourceful Designer, I discussed how it’s OK to say NO to graphic design work. In that episode, I talked about how and why you should turn down design work or design clients.

Here are nine situations where you should say no to your existing clients.

1) Scope Creep

The dreaded scope creep. You’ve already agreed with your client on what a project entails, hopefully via a signed contract, but your client keeps trying to push things beyond what you initially discussed.

A little bit of scope creep is expected, but you’ll know when enough is enough and that's when you need to say no to your clients.

Let them know the project is growing beyond what you initially agreed upon, and you either cannot accommodate their new demands, or you need to renegotiate the terms of the project.

Clients will try to get whatever they can from you, but they will respect you when you say no.

2) The project is beyond your abilities

When a client asks you to do something that is beyond your skillset, you can say no. There’s no shame in showing your boundaries. In fact, the client may appreciate your honesty.

In some situations, if what a client is asking is beyond your abilities you can still take on the project and have someone else work on it. In that case, you can say yes to them. However, sometimes what is asked of you is beyond your comfort zone, and you don't want anything to do with it. In those cases just say no. Your client won't think any less of you.

3) Difficulties with previous projects

Some clients are difficult to work with. If at some point you decide that they are too much trouble you can choose to say no the next time they approach you with a project. Remember, “NO” is a complete sentence. It doesn’t require an explanation. Simply saying “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to take on that project” is good enough.

4) Negotiations

Everyone likes a good bargain, and design clients are no exception. Some of them like to haggle for the best deal. Nip this in the bud right away and say no to your clients. Your fees are what they are because you deserve to be paid that much. Tell those clients you don’t negotiate.

5) Micromanaging, or “Too many cooks.”

Some clients want to decide everything by committee, and that’s their prerogative. However, you can demand to have only one point person that you deal with. When anyone else on their committee contacts you directly tell them no, you can't deal with them. If they need you to do something they have to go through the point person.

Save yourself time and headaches by never dealing with committees without an assigned point person.

6) Impossible timelines

There are times when it’s just not possible to do what your client wants in the timeframe they want you to do it in. Maybe you're overloaded with work (good for you). Perhaps you’re getting ready to go on vacation. Whatever the case, if you can’t do something in the timeframe required, it’s your job to say no right away.

7) It’s not worth your time

For all those jobs that you don’t want to do there’s nothing wrong with you just saying NO to them.

Clients may ask you to design something mundane like an invoice or packing slip. Those things are boring and tedious, and you probably don’t want to do them. If that's the case, just say no. Plus at the rates you should be charging for your services why would your client want to pay you for something just about anyone can do.

8) Bad design choices

A client may ask you to do something with their project that you think it’s a bad design idea. If this happens, tell them you think it's a bad idea, and you won't do it.

Maybe it’s filling up every bit of white space with copy, or making the logo bigger for no reason. Whatever they want you to do, let them know that it will affect their design in a negative way. If they insist you can say no, you won't do it.

You'd be amazed that when you take a stand on design how all of a sudden clients will take you more seriously and listen to what you have to say.

9) Something compromises your Design Principals

Similar to bad design choices when a client asks you to do something, but in this case, it's something that could ruin your reputation as a designer.

Maybe they want you to use a script font in all caps. Perhaps they are asking you to use too many different fonts on a project. Or it might be an innocent request to add a hit counter to the bottom of their new website. If what they are asking will reflect poorly on you as a designer, or on the design profession in general, then you must say no to your clients.

What other situation would you say no to your clients?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Amanda

When a client's corporate font is one that they’ve purchased, can they send you the font file? Or, does the designer need to purchase the font in order to use it to design their projects?

To find out what I told Amanda you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week A Dedicated Mailbox

If you are running a business out of your home, I highly suggest you get a get a dedicated mailbox from someplace like The UPS Store to use as your business mailing address.

There are several reasons to use a mailbox for your business other than your home address.

  • Protect your home and family by not sharing your home address.
  • Packages can be delivered to a safe location when you are not home.
  • A convenient location for clients to drop off items for you without showing up at your home.
  • Makes your business look more legitimate and professional.
  • Some residential areas frown upon home-based businesses.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com.