What to Do When Clients Don’t Like Your Work
I wrote a post recently about my logo design process and thought there was no better way to illustrate it than with an actual client piece (check it out here). The client I chose to use as an example didn’t end upusing one of my logo options, however, I did end up with some work I was very proud of and still use in my portfolio today.
Reading through the comments after the article was published, many readers wanted to know what happened next; was I compensated for my time? Did I end up creating a different logo for the client? Did I do any other work for this individual? Never had it really occurred to me to continue writing about what to do when the client rejects the work. Thankfully, I’ve only had to deal with this twice in my career. Here’s when and how I end a client relationship.
When to End the Relationship
My contract allows for three rounds of revisions. However, I’m a people-pleaser at heart. It’s really important to me as a small business owner to make sure my clients are happy. When I’ve submitted my third revision and the client tells me they’re still not crazy about it, I don’t just hit the ground running with my design. I talk through it and try to make sure my 4th attempt is the right one.
There have been two situations where I submitted many more than three rounds of revisions and talked for hours with the clients about the pieces. Each project felt hopeless and I could tell the client was starting to feel the same way. At that point I had to ask myself, “Am I wasting my time? More importantly, am I wasting my clients’?” In both cases, I knew that it wasn’t anything I, nor the client, was doing wrong. We were just incompatible, stylistically speaking.
My approach to design-problem-solving wasn’t what they were looking for. Before ending it, I really evaluated the relationship and the project; had I done everything in my power to solve their design problem? Had I tried my best? It’s important to keep in mind that by terminating this client and their project, you’ll also likely be terminating any future projects with that client and their referrals.
How to End the Relationship
After deciding to end the working relationship, the next thing I do is tell my client immediately. It’s important that they know that I value their time and business so I choose to tell them over the phone, should we not be able to meet in person. I am sure to return all client property promptly. This includes any photos, sample brochures, or literature they’ve provided me with to help with the project.
As stated in my client contract, all deposits are non-refundable, so any balances already paid by the client can not be returned. This is my compensation for time already put into the project. It is my policy to not charge clients the remaining balance for a project should it be terminated. Last but not least, if there are any instructions in my or their contract about project termination, I am sure to follow through with those as well.
The process above is not “the way” to go about ending a client relationship; it’s simply the method that I have found works for me. Of course, please don’t take this as legal counsel for terminating anything either. There’s a reason why I’ve only had to deal with this twice in my career and it’s because I use it as a last resort. Client satisfaction is key to the success of most freelancers’ businesses. There certainly will be no satisfaction on anyone’s end should termination have to take place.