So as a graphic designer, I deal with all sorts of people, so I’ve seen a lot of different attitudes and behavior, that’s life!  But I recently read the greatest article from a graphic design blog that I follow, and it was one of those articles where I found myself smiling, nodding, and intermittently cringing.

We all know about bullies in the schoolyard (a horrible, horrible thing that makes me so grateful I don’t have to worry about it, truly heartbreaking).  On a side note, I was never mean to any kids in school, I was always one of the nice ones and this makes me very happy today.  So, no one ever thinks of lady bullies (Mean Girls yes, but lady bullies, not really).  But guess what?!  You might be a bully and not even know it!  What, me?! you may ask.  Well, as it turns out, you might even be subtly bullying your graphic designer.

Half the battle for great design is the designer/client relationship.  Trust me on this.  If the designer and client hit it off like a house on fire, the end result is going to be fantastic.  However, if the client engages in any of the following behaviors, you’re going to hit bumps in the road which may result in the termination of a project or a less than satisfactory result.  So I wanted to share 6 Ways Clients Don’t Realize They are Subtle Bullies (taken from this amazing article here, thank you, thank you!).

  1.  You get all Buddy Buddy
    Sure, I want to be friendly with my clients.  A cordial, if not more, professional relationship is super important, and I really like a lot of my clients (some of them and you know who you are, I would even go so far as to say I love and would bend over backwards for!).  But even then, I don’t friend them on Facebook, call them, or do anything to extend beyond a professional relationship.  On the same note, I can’t tell you how many times, when people I meet ask me what I do and I reply “web designer” their immediate response is “I (or my daughter, husband, aunt, cat, college roommate, etc.) need a website!  Maybe you can help.”  Some people might argue that this is bad business, I’m turning down possible clients, but in my years of doing this, I have found that it’s best not to do professional work with people you know.  It almost always turns out badly, the friendship (and payment part) gets in the way.  The farthest I will go is to offer interior design advice, which I’m good at but it’s not my profession.  And it’s a slippery slope, interior designers you know exactly what I mean, you might pop over to a girlfriend’s house to offer your opinion on paint colors and before you know it, you’ve spent 4 hours of time giving free design advice (time is money).  Takeaway:  respect your designer’s time and professional skills, and realize that they have to make a living too.  Don’t assume they are willing to do something for free.  I’m friendly with my accountant but I don’t run into him in town, grab him and say “Can you just take a quick look at this tax return?”  No way.  I make an appointment and pay his fee just like everyone else.

  2. The “Opinionless” Client
    “You’re the designer, you know what’s best.”  Generally, this is actually a great attitude for a client to have.  You don’t hire a graphic designer because you know what you’re doing.  You trust her skills and knowledge, and when you put your faith in her, she will point you in the right direction.  You don’t undervalue her or think you could do what she does if you just had the time.  But every designer, graphic, interior or otherwise, needs at least a modicum of direction.  Even if it’s just general (eg. “I like modern, clean style.” “All black and white.” “A retro feel.”  “I hate Greek key”) you need to have some idea of what it is you’re looking for.  A blank slate leaves too much room for mistakes.
  3. The Unresponsive Mess
    Girl, I know all about this one!  I completely understand that people get busy, and I can’t always adhere perfectly to a timeline either, but I have had literally hundreds of times where clients have come to me all gung ho on a project and then disappeared (this is why most designers charge a hefty deposit).  And generally the more gung ho they are at the beginning, the more likely they are to disappear, in all honesty.  Understand that part of what a designer is selling is her time.  If she has to take the time to try to track you down for responses or God forbid payment, you are disrespecting her.  It’s very helpful to start out a project with a defined timeline (I generally tell clients 1 to 2 months for a blog or logo design, 2-3 months for a website design).  Check your schedule before you start.  Do you have a vacation coming up?  Busy time at work?  Maybe best to wait a bit before ordering your project.  During the defined course of the project, be ready to respond to design proofs, questions, etc.  How is this bullying?  It’s a form of manipulation because you want to work on your terms, not the designer’s.  Don’t just leave a designer hanging, it’s rude and may result in termination of your project.  You don’t take your car to the mechanic and just forget about it, do you?
  4. Can You Do Me a Favor?
    This is another area where number 1, don’t be friends with your designer, comes into play.  You’re friendly, you have a great relationship, your professional correspondence may even venture into some personal chats every now and again.  But respect your design professional.  “Can you just do me one favor” is not ever an appropriate question to ask a designer.  They do the work, you pay the money.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t do favors for people, I actually do quite a bit.  But honestly, it’s the clients who insist on paying for even a minute of my time who are most likely to get the extras gratis, with a smile.

  5. The Dreaded “Scope Creep”
    This is my number one pet peeve of all.  What is Scope Creep you may ask?  Any designer or project manager, or almost any businessperson knows what Scope Creep is.  It’s when a project slowly, stealthily exceeds the agreed-upon boundaries.  It starts innocently.  “I love all this, but can you just add an Instagram feed at the top?”  Or, “Could you just also add a little slider to the homepage?”  But it can escalate to the point where the designer is barely making money off of a project because believe me, all those little add-ons take up time.  A good designer can avoid Scope Creep by stating very clearly what they are offering (I do this for each of my design packages, the client can view a specific list of all elements (custom header, matching social media, matching fonts, etc.) that they can expect to receive for each package).  I also offer a comprehensive list of add-ons and the exact fee for each and a clearly hourly rate for excessive revisions.  I don’t know how to be any more clear, but this still doesn’t solve the problem.  A good client will carefully look over the package before starting a project.  If there is something that you think you want that you don’t see in a standard design package, ask before starting the project, not in the middle of it. And of course, things come up along the way, as the project evolves.  This is fine and of course a good designer wants you to be happy but anything extra, any little thing, even if it seems small to you, you need to be prepared to pay for.  How is this bullying?  You’re manipulating a person to do something without pay. That’s not fair, and once again, it’s disrespectful to the designer. Another thing you can do is check out my post The $10k Blog.  I understand it’s hard to figure out what’s what sometimes on a website, and how much things cost.  But if I had a dollar for every time someone wants me to design Gal Meets Glam for them for $500, I would be sitting pretty in the French Riviera and not grinding out blog posts here, lol!  It’s totally, totally okay to not be knowledgeable about things (I honestly cannot tell the difference between Isabel Marant for H & M and real Isabel Marant, like, seriously!).  So I get it.  But just understand that you may not understand all that goes into designing a blog or website and be prepared to hear a gentle “no can do” from your designer, accept it, and move on.  If you don’t, it may well result in termination of your project or a hefty fee at project close.

Bottom line.  Realize that a designer is a trained professional.  Sure, you might be able to whip into Homegoods and pick up the perfect ikat pillows that add that final finishing touch to your living room, but this doesn’t make you an interior designer.  An interior designer has been professionally trained, is often certified and this has cost her time and money.  So you should respect her skills and be prepared to pay her accordingly.  The biggest misconception I think clients have about design professionals is that what we do is fun, or easy.  Clarification!  It can be super fun, but it’s definitely not easy and it has required hours and hours of training and practice.  Be respectful of this!  If you assume “I could this myself I just don’t have the time,” then you’re a lady bully off the bat.

And no one wants that.

Once again, thank you thank you to Kevin Whipps for inspiring this post and for quotes and inspiration contained within.