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mara06's picture
2153 pencils

Screeching halt?

That's what I've come to with my latest client. I'm popping up again here at CreativeBits after several weeks' hiatus in search of a little advice.

I did one job with this client already that they loved. I thought this would be a good prospect for long-term design work, maybe even on a retainer setup. It hasn't worked out that way, and I wonder what I can do at this point to make things better or back away with everyone's dignity intact.

The client wants a logo reflecting the global scope of their work. The words "image" and "global" are in their corporate name. Their clients are the finance ministers of nations interested in developing a more productive relationship with the U.S., as well as private-sector investors from other developing countries. There is some confusion about whether their "look" should be financial PR. We need to stay away from color combinations that could be construed as any particular nation's flag. suggested a combination of Warm Gray 11 and Warm Gray 5 on soft white stock, and they like the subtlety and universality of this so far.

They don't want a globe in their logo, then they did. I gave them the best damn globe logo and collaterals design in the history of globe logos. They rejected it after refusing to respond to my communications with them for over three weeks. The have most recently said they wanted a man looking into a mirror at another man. Believe it or not, I gave them that. They rejected that, too. They now have some non-designer person on their team working on a logo which they'll presumably want me to adapt.

I have the feeling that the man I've been dealing with, whose title is President and CEO, is not really the decision-maker, because he likes everything I do, then comes back later to tell me it's all wrong. Although they claim to be managing multi-million dollar deals and are always jetting off to somewhere in high style, they are nickel-and-diming me to death on something as relatively low-cost as their business cards and letterhead.

I've spent hours and hours getting their job re-quoted and re-conceptualized to suit a budget they have never made clear to me, despite my requests for some parameters. I have therefore never been able to come up with a proposal they will sign, making it a work order.

I have spent even MORE hours explaining to my client why certain suggestions he has made for saving money won't save him much, then offering alternate suggestions about what steps we COULD take to contain costs. I'm not sure that anything I've said is getting through to him.

He is now insisting we work with a printer that does good work if it doesn't involve screens or bleeds, and which has a limited choice of stock. I feel hamstrung now design-wise as well as financially. And the bottom line is: I still have no signed contract for this work!

The client has given me a sum of money which originally was to have been used to pay for the printing of the globe collaterals before that got shot down. I offered to return the money but they said they felt I was an honorable person and I should keep it as a credit toward future work.

I'm really ready at this point to cut bait, give them back their money and tell them to come back when they have their act together, though more diplomatically, of course!

What would you do in my case?

Mara

Mara

archmedia's picture
584 pencils

don't cut the line, but don't move forward..

get a damn contract signed! weather it be an agreement to a percentage of the overall costs, an hourly wage, a fix amount for a fix set of work.. whatever contract floats your boat! (no pun intended with the cutting of the line and bait stuff! ha!)

Seriously, i barely touch the pencil until i have a nice shinny signature on the dotted line. I have only THREE clients that i'll do stuff without a contract.
1) ME
2) My fiancée
3) ONE actual client..
everyone else is on hiatus till they sign the line for any stage, from schematic design, design development or final stages of a design.

So, I HIGHLY suggest you get yourself a contract, if they don't want to sign one, then i think you know where things really lie.

best of luck, keep us posted..(really, i'm curious how this turns out for you..)

____________________________________________
Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer
www.ArchMedia.us

plugz's picture
1246 pencils

I can't deal with clients like this and in such a situation will make it clear that although they are the client and it's my job to give them what they want, I am the designer and I know what I'm doing.

Be firm but fair and if it means walking away them so be it.

ireid's picture
1307 pencils

Lots of big design firms (not mine! lol) DON'T negotiate a contract AND get it signed until WELL into the relationship with a new client. This is seen as 'good' business' because you don;t presure someone you REALLY need as a client. But I say if youkeep them and they don;t pay, then whats the point? lol Funny way business seems to work in some places. Seems PR has become part of doing business, the fear that you would LOSE a client in the beginning by making him sign the contract is all too real.

In your case I would stop everything and ask to sit down and review whats been done and where they want to go with you, and have contract in hand to sign, if they don;t want to sign it. . . well thank them for their business and cut your losses. Just don;t burn the bridge after you. . . send them a Christmas Card and keep a watch on them and see if you can't get them to do some more work with you after they have signed a contract. :)

Just an aside, but i have found doing business for Family is a death trap! Anyone agrees?

"Try not, Do! or do not, there is no try."
-Yoda

archmedia's picture
584 pencils

family business is the things i probably avoid the most. I was taught early on in architecture school never to do work for family. i clearly remember thinking "it can't be that bad, i'm sure i could pull it off"

lesson learnt the hard way, and i'm NEVER doing it again. it's a death trap i'm avoiding for ever.

with that said, it's pretty obvious i agree lol

____________________________________________
Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer
www.ArchMedia.us

natobasso's picture
4038 pencils

I think your hopes are blurring your grasp on the reality of the situation. Your client is working you over big time and doesn't respect you -- it may not even be intentional, but the fact remains they need to get their stuff together before they can work with anyone to get their logo done. They are treating you as if you worked inside the company and were on a salary; definitely not the case.

Meet with them before doing any more work and have an estimate in hand for a full logo treatment including an invoice for your work performed thus far, anything you haven't been paid for yet. I always leave my invoices opened till they are closed which means I can bill for overages and not just break even on my jobs.

I warn all my clients if the project scope starts to get close to surpassing my original estimate to get approval to go over that amount. That way I don't end up being frustrated and the client understands that time = money.

It's unfortunate you're in this situation, but your client needs to be educated and they need to understand the value of your work and time spent. Do not give them back their money because you've worked hard for it to this point, and they will respect you even less if you do.

All of us here, I think, have been in this situation before and it is very unpleasant. Keep us posted--we're here to help!

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Natobasso

mara06's picture
2153 pencils

My gut feeling about this is just as most of you are saying. I'm being jerked around by people who don't know how to work with creatives, and I'm letting them -- based on the wonderful rapport we had on our first job together.

It's pretty embarrassing to be in exactly the same boat I warn others about getting into, in terms of getting the contract signed, using change-of-work order forms and so on. I have these tools. I haven't been using them. My bad.

I do want to call this guy in to discuss how we will move forward. You've reassured me about the wisdom of doing that. I've got some new logos to show him -- much better than the stuff he's been micro-managing out of me up until now. Should I show 'em, or hold 'em?

Oh, and by the way, a propos not working for family, I'm doing a poster for my cousin and her husband, pro bono, for a national awareness campaign. They've already sent me a horizontal-reading photo to dominate what's supposed to be a vertical-reading poster, and half of it is out of focus. If it weren't so funny, I'd be crying now!

Mara

natobasso's picture
4038 pencils

It's always harder for the person in the situation to see clearly because your the one who's professionally invested. You don't want to lose money on the deal and it can be scary! Try to take your emotions out of it, make sure you let them know you mean business. Literally.

Keep those logos under your hat until you assess the situation. If you can get them to commit to a signed estimate/contract then you can build those logos into the pricing. If not, make sure you get paid for the work you've already done and cut your losses.

Get a contract together even for free/family projects; it not only protects and communicates each parties interests in the project, you can go back if there's an issue later and the contract will dispell any miscommunications.

As they say in carpentry: 'Measure twice: Cut once'. It rings true in graphic design as well. This means get all your ducks in a row BEFORE the project begins and save yourself a lot of pain.

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Natobasso

mara06's picture
2153 pencils

Ah, Natobasso, I hear you here. I thought I *did* have my ducks all neatly lined up going into this, and the the fox showed up.

I'm plum outta metaphors now and am headed home for dinner. Thank you. I've printed out all the comments to think about.

Mara

natobasso's picture
4038 pencils

You're welcome! You've had some good advice on these forums too, and I'm sure I'm going to be picking your brain soon. ;)

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Natobasso

mara06's picture
2153 pencils

Picking what's left of my brain, you mean! ;-) Thanks for the kindness.

Mara

JimD's picture
2593 pencils

I never, EVER accept money up front (other than possibly a deposit for the design work), especially for outside services such as photography, printing, etc... once you do that, you're opening the door for possible future headaches.

In fact, I refuse to handle the printing at all. I don't want the responsibility. I will get an estimate, make paper recommendations, etc. but then I burn a CD with the files and wait to see what they do. It's hard, because you know the client is going to probably go with a cheaper option in the long run, but really, my design is what I was payed for, not the printing.

In the end, we must remember that this is a business. If you allow yourself to get emotionally involved with the client, your design or the final product, you're not going to last very long, and you certainly will find yourself in situations such as the one you find yourself in now.

My only advice for you at this point is to try to give them exactly what they want, no matter how ugly or cheap looking it is. Then thank them for the business and move on. Future work may come, or it may not, but you're not making any money on them now anyway, so future business will only be paying for the time you've already wasted.

If after another revision or two they still can't communicate what they want, politely thank them for the opportunity, refund any money that isn't owed to you and provide a CD containing the files you've done so far (no sense in screwing them over by not providing files) and walk away. There are other fish in the sea.

-----------
Visit The Graphic Mac for graphics and Mac OS tips, reviews, tutorials and discussion.

blubbernaut's picture
8 pencils

...but, they sound dodgy to me! They remind me of a number of clients I've been involved with directly or indirectly in the past. These kind of people are full of "big ideas" and big talk about how they are going to conquer the world, and are all "you are so great" talk at the start when they are winning you and potential clients over. Later in the process, when things start to mysteriously break down, and decisions and progress seem to get halted for weeks at a time, then suddenly they are back on the scene all pistons pumping, only to drop off the face of the earth again. Frankly all the signs are saying they are not committed to the process, don't understand it, don't know what they are doing or where they are going, and will screw you at the end if they can!

mara06's picture
2153 pencils

You've nailed it, blubbernaut. And welcome to CB.

Ya'll want an update?

I went ahead and got my paperwork together in anticipation of hearing from them again. This includes a nice rundown on how much of their "credit" they've spent, which turns out to be most of it.

My key man reappeared after nearly a month incommunicado, announcing he would make the decision about the logo all by his widdle self. Apparently they went to some other non-designer and the result was so unspeakably awful that they will never go anywhere but to me for their design needs. (We'll see about that.) He said he wanted a logo, layouts based on it, and all his printed stuff in hand by a date representing a total of 5 working days' turnaround. He said he understood this would involve a rush charge. I confirmed this. He never asked me for a print quote; just do it, he said.

So I showed him one of the logos I'd designed without his insufferable micro-managing "team" interference and he loved it. He asked for one particular extra thing to be included in the layout of his business cards using that logo, and I accommodated him; though I thought the idea was tacky I did it as tastefully as possible. All collaterals have been printed and delivered now. Everyone's pleased. I understand there's something "very interesting" on their agenda for "us" next time. (Again, we'll see about that.)

All I have to do now is send them the statement showing how much of their credit they ate up, and wait for the screaming to begin. I plan to stick my fingers in my ears and go "la la la la la."

I cannot thank you all enough for giving me the feedback I needed to get myself through this "job from hell." One result is that my contract is much tighter, as are my billing and records-keeping procedures. This is NOT going to happen again!

Take a bow, guys!

Mara

sidesey's picture
280 pencils

Also, hope you made some money on it. Next time, as you have already said you will be better equipped to deal with these sort of clients and now this one might well work out for you in the long run. You never know!

natobasso's picture
4038 pencils

Great job Mara. If you don't stand to profit on your next job with these guys I'd definitely give them the boot.

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Natobasso

onegirlcreative's picture
1096 pencils

I am so glad that things worked out for you. It's nice to hear that these "corporate Joe's" are realizing that they can't get a good logo design anywhere, they need to get it designed by the best—graphic designers who actually know what they're doing. Not somebody who thinks they are proficient in Photoshop who claim to be designers. Whatever!

Good luck in the future with these guys. Hopefully, they learned their lesson. ;-D

suzanne maestri-walters :: graphic designer

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"I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy as long as I can paint." ~ Frida Kahlo

www.onegirlcreative.com

mara06's picture
2153 pencils

I sent the financial officer their statement, showing that they'd eaten up virtually all their credit with me (if only they knew how many ways I mean that!) and so far, no squawks. If this relationship has indeed been set straight, it really could be a fascinating one. Wish me luck. Hope all your gigs are going well.

Mara

archmedia's picture
584 pencils

Congratulations, sounds good so far... knock on wood if you must.

i'm now curious of what the logo looks like :D

___________________________________________
Architetural Technician - Multimedia Designer
www.ArchMedia.us

____________________________________________
Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer
www.ArchMedia.us

mara06's picture
2153 pencils

I was afraid somebody would say that. Better not, though. I'd be unmasking the poor defenseless client. :D

Mara

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