Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

How to Spot & Avoid Problem Clients

How to Spot & Avoid Problem Clients

We love working with great clients! Unfortunately, some of the bad ones will crush your soul if you let them. In this episode we talk all about the warning signs of potentially problematic clients, because if you know what red flags to look out for, you can avoid getting into sticky situations in the first place. And as we all know, prevention is the best medicine.

We also review a listener’s portfolio site as our listener question, and we offer some new tips in “Do Yourself a Favor.”

Do you have any other client red flags? Share them in the comments section below!

Show Links

AngelicaPinzon.com Screenshots

Below are screen captures from angelicapinzon.com, which we reviewed in this week’s listener question segment.

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discuss this post

(10) responses

David Hunt

March 30, 2012

Hey guys great podcast. I liked the personal insight when having to drop a client. I had a couple experiences with that and it is never easy. I found this link and thought it might be of some use. http://www.graphicdesignblender.com/design-client-hates-first-proof

It was also great hearing designers critique design work. I don’t get to hear enough of that since I graduated.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

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    Wes McDowell

    March 30, 2012

    Thanks David, very cool article. Just goes to show how important communication between designer and client really is! We’re glad to have you listening!

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NataliaG

March 30, 2012

Great podcast! Intersting links.. I like angelicapinzon.com ;)

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    Wes McDowell

    March 30, 2012

    Thanks Natalia, yea she is a very talented designer, and it sounds like her new site will be even better!

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Vann Baker

March 31, 2012

Another great podcast.

There are some clients who fly in under the radar, but your advice to try and avoid them or spot them early on is great. I can count on one hand the number of clients over the years that I took on against my gut feeling . . .

For me there are three types of clients.

1) Companies or agencies who work with creatives can be demanding, but understand the process involved.

2) Small business owners or sales and marketing types who get charged with getting company marketing materials created but don’t really know the process and how they are involved. Usually they can be coached.

3) Individuals, micro business owners, organizations and startups who have never worked with a creative and have no idea about the process and what their role is. This group is the most problematic in that they feel they are at a disadvantage and just don’t have much experience to draw from.

I use a website or a general marketing questionnaire to help screen out potentially bad fits . . . If during the initial phone interview about their project I get mixed feelings, I will sent the prospective client a detailed questionnaire to complete.

Almost without fail, many prospects fail this simple test. My experience has been if someone doesn’t see the value in providing information to help with the process or is just unwilling to spend fifteen or twenty minutes on this, they are not the client for me.

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Tara

April 19, 2012

Hi Wes,

Great show as always and sorry to hear about your nightmare client.

I can go one better than that I had a new client who first didn’t bother to answer the logo questionnaire I sent her. If someone can’t be bothered to do that it doesn’t show much investment from themselves. Then when I produced logo design ideas she said they weren’t what she was looking for. I should have known to steer clear when she was talking about her dog and told me she believed she could talk to animals (no joke)

Best

Tara

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    Wes McDowell

    April 19, 2012

    Haha, thats too funny tara. If a client shows signs of being unbalanced or crazy like that thats my cue to show myself out. And yes, a questionaire is a great way to screen out the collaborative clients from the ones who can’t be bothered to hold up their end of things. At the end of the day, they have to be involved, its not a one way street, and I don’t generally work with clients who don’t understand this.

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      Chicho

      May 25, 2012

      I am just starting my buinesss and I found that having the ideal client in mind is good. I have had clients that I can’t wait to finish the job and never talk to them again.

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D2

January 10, 2013

I had a client eerily similar to the one Wes described in this podcast – virtually identical in every detail – and I BEG all of you designers and developers out there to heed your instincts and screen these people out at the beginning before they waste your time, cost you money, and destroy your sanity.

Although communication issues can arise between a client and a professional, What Wes described here is a personality type, not a communication problem. This personality type is intractable, perverse, and impervious to reason. Those with this personality type gratify themselves by toying with others and setting them up repeatedly for failure, as this person did with Wes, and they are effectively destructive primarily because a normal person often does not grasp the disordered motive behind the exasperating behavior and thus blames him- or herself for the problem.

If you continue to work with someone like this, especially if you think you have to, they will sour your life and drag your business down, and if you’re a freelancer, the effects can be all the more detrimental to you because you won’t have the social support of colleagues immediately nearby who can see the situation directly and who will understand what’s happening. (It took me months after separating from this client to not want to crawl out of my skin every time my phone rang, and the prospect of opening my email provoked waves of dread.) Never imagine you have to take on a client who seems hinky because you think you need to – you can and will find other clients.

So if you engage with someone who disparages your work or treats you as if you are a menial subordinate, kitchen appliance, or button-pushing monkey, PLEASE walk away. Don’t reward this behavior with continued attention. You are being hired because you have expertise that those hiring you do not have, and your expertise deserves respect.

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    Wes McDowell

    January 10, 2013

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself! I never thought of it in that way before, but you’re right. There is a certain small fraction of people who set you up to (and want to see you) fail. This isn’t always the case with problem clients, but I have definitely encountered this personality type a handful of times (My McDonald’s client included.) And I don’t mean anyone affiliated with McDonald’s, listeners will know who I’m talking about!

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