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

Have you ever been burned due to proofing errors?

Proofing errors are the bane of all graphic designers. Anyone who has been in this business long enough knows that clients will almost always try to blame you when they find errors on their project.

You can’t really blame them, it’s human instinct to try and pass the blame. We’ve been doing it since we were young. Even a toddler who sneaks a cookie might try to blame it on one of his siblings or maybe even on the family dog.

It’s because of this instinct that we need to protect ourselves. Because when it comes to proofing errors on graphic design jobs, especially when printing is involved, there’s a lot more at stake than a simple reprimand for eating a cookie.

It’s not as big a deal when it’s a website or some other digital piece. Those errors can easily be fixed. But fixing an error on a printed job could cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. And you don’t want that on you.

On this episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast, I discuss ways to protect yourself from proofing errors. Be sure to listen to the episode for the full story.

How do you protect yourself from proofing errors?

You can't. Proofing errors are going to happen. It’s the blame you need to protect yourself from and it all starts with your contract.

Your contract may be full of unintelligible legalese but all that bloated wording is there for a reason, to protect you. On your contract, you must include a clause absolving you of any blame once the client approves and signs off on a job. Once they sign off, it’s in their hands and you are clear of any blame.

For this reason, you should NEVER ACCEPT an approval from your client that says something like “we approve this job with this one small change”. No matter how trivial the change is, you need to have it viewed and approved by the client.

You may think to yourself “that paragraph that's missing a period at the end isn’t a big deal. I’ll just add the period and send the file to print.”

Don’t do it.

Every time you touch a project there’s a possibility of something going wrong, something shifting, something changing. So don’t take any chances. Get the client to approve every change they ask for. Even if it means delaying a deadline to get that approval.

Here's an example of how a simple revision could go wrong.

A client tells you the job is approved once you change “S. Thompson” to “Steve Thompson” on page 3. You go to page 3, find “S. Thompson” and charge it, as requested to “Steve Thompson” and send the job to print.

But unknown to you, “S. Thompson” appears 2 times on the third page. The client wasn't specific and you didn't realize there were multiple occurrences and only changed the first one.

What started out as a simple change turns into a costly error that could have been avoided if only the client had seen the revision before it went to print.

Regarding your contract.

Your contract should state that the client is fully responsible for making sure every aspect of the job is satisfactory to their liking. This includes layout, text, copy, images, colours, folding, etc.

Your contract should also state that the client is ultimately responsible for any errors, EVEN IF THE COPY THEY SUPPLIED YOU WAS CORRECT.

This is a very important one. Clients will often proofread their copy before providing it to you and think they don't have to proofread it afterwards. You need to make sure the client still proofreads it to make sure nothing has changed between the time they supplied it and the time they approve it.

Remind your client that you are not responsible for any errors should the client not proof the job carefully.

Beyond the contract

Even with a clause in your contract absolving you of any errors due to improper proofing, you should take it upon yourself to remind the client with every proof you supply them. A simple statement told to them or a small paragraph in an email stating once again that you are not responsible for any errors or omissions once they sign off on the job.

The more you remind them, the less chance they come after you should an error be found afterwards.

Things that could help prevent errors.

Don't forget to use your computer's Spell Check/Grammar Check features. It's such an easy thing to forget to do but it could save you many headaches down the road.

Proofread your work. You are not responsible for spelling errors but they still look bad on a piece you designed. Read everything yourself to see if you can spot any problems. Tip, read from right to left, one word at a time. This will force you to read each word individually and you’ll catch more spelling errors that way.

The mind is a wonderful but weird tool. You can easily overlook misspelt words that are right in front of you as you are reading. Have you ever seen this paragraph before? Every word is misspelt. The first and last letters are correct but the middle letters are mixed up. And yet you can still read the paragraph easily enough. This goes to show you just how hard it is to spot spelling error while reading.

I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

What's the takeaway?

Graphic designers are human. Just like everyone else, we make errors. And that’s OK. Things happen. fast typing fingers might miss a beat and type something wrong. Accidental mouse clicks can shift things on a page. Copy/paste might miss something that wasn't highlighted.

Face it. Errors will happen. there’s nothing you can do about it. So you might as well protect yourself as best you can so that the blame for those errors don't fall on you.

Do you have any stories about proofing errors you would like to share?

Let me know your goals by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

There's no question this week but I would love to get one from you. Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.


Resource of the week Coolors.co

Coolors.co is a super fast and super easy way to create, save and share colour pallets for whatever job you’re working on. Choose from a gallery of readily made pallets or create your own from scratch or based on some pre-selected colours.

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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