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Designers and Clients: Finding Common Ground


As a business owner there is always going to be a tension between taking on work to pay for your overhead and taking on work because it’s exciting and challenging. From time to time we are approached by potential clients that could be very profitable but there is bad chemistry that makes you think twice. In most cases we just walk away but in others it’s not as simple as that. Here are a few things that we hear from prospects that make us consider very carefully if this is a good match for us (and them):

  • "We’ve already fired four of our previous designers but we think you might be the one to turn our bad streak around." – If they are going through design companies that quickly then you’re likely to be the next victim. Serial killer clients are always looking for a quick fix and have a self fulfilling prophecy about designers not "understanding them". The best thing is to walk away as it always works out badly for both parties.
  • "I promise I’ll spend at least $50,000 with you if you can discount your rate by half."-  Why would you work twice as much for half the rate? Don’t get mesmerized by the big numbers. Gross revenues are not important if you are running at zero profitability.
  • "I’ve already received a quote from India for $12 an hour so you know what you are up against."
    Outsourcing has given people unrealistic ideas about what can be delivered for a few hundred dollars. If you’re on the receiving end of this threat don’t be tempted to negotiate. Just explain your rates and let it be.

We’ve collected several situations and put them into a designer’s guide to help them make better decisions as the grow. The list is not exhaustive but it gives both designers and clients a way to avoid the traps that scuttle even them most well intentioned relationships.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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