12 Type of Clients to Avoid as Designers

Types of Clients to Avoid as Designers

As with any industry, some clients can make you want to crawl out of your own skin. Heck, there’s even an entire website dedicated to them which can be found at Clients from Hell. Through experience, you will soon learn what type of clients to avoid. I have gathered a list of 12 types of clients to avoid as designers. And I fully DISAGREE with that term, “The customer is always right.” No, they are not!

While I love all of my past and current clients dearly, I have run into a few that have made me want to quit the entire industry altogether. When you are starting out as a designer, it is only natural to want to get as many clients as you can to build up your portfolio and get known. And you aim to please those 2 clients that you have despite their insane requests and the fact that they are totally using and abusing you.

Here is my list of 12 Types of Clients to Avoid


Mr. Promises
He will promise you that you will get more work if you do the first set for free or for a discount of like 90%. You will do this because you believe him, with his fake moustache and slick hair, and then you will regret it because you will never hear from him again.

Sir Bargain Basement
He will give you a whole song and dance about how he can find another designer who will do the job at an even better rate than what you quoted him. And you will succumb to his requests because you really really need that money to buy that pair of shoes. The only thing is, is that once you start this precedent of bottom barrel rates, he will come to you all the time and expect the same rate and possibly even haggle you down further and by then you will never be able to get rid of him. Your initial answer should be “Ok byeeee!”

Mr. AWOL
This gentleman will email you will a whole bunch of stuff, I mean the works, you will even get started on his website and halfway through, he disappears. Like, we are talking alien abduction. I have had this happen. The good thing is that I took a deposit. I guess you can’t really be the fortune teller and predict these type of clients until you um, actually experience it.

Miss Chatterbox
You simply just don’t have the time in the day to listen to Miss Chatterbox’s daily grind of why she thinks her cat threw up a fur ball. You can usually spot her from the first conversation. If you love cats, by all means.

Mr. Spec Work
This dude is known all too well in the design circles and the #1 client to avoid. Not only will he waste your time, he will usually expect the moon, and you will try to please him in promise of more work because, you know, he promised to send over all of his friends. But trust me, you won’t hear from him again, nor his friends.

Mr. I Dunno
He will be your favourite client because not only does he NOT know what he wants, he will make you feel all giddy because he leads you to believe that you will have creative free reign. And that quickly comes to a halt because anything you do, he hates, and you will never get the design right. This actually ends up with you doing way more work than bargained for. Of course, there ARE other clients of this kind and some are amazing, because they literally do not care what you do and will love everything you show you them. So this one is a bit tricky.

Types of Clients to Avoid as Designers

Mrs. Piece Meal
I love Mrs. Piece Meal, because after you think that you have received everything from her with the billion emails, she emails you again, telling you she forgot some very important information to add to the artwork, after you have spent hours trying to perfect the margins and design grid. And even after proofing everything you have done, she will email yet again, with an update that the logo has changed completely and that you need to replace them all over and everywhere.

Types of Clients to Avoid as Designers

Mr. Agressive
Doesn’t matter how much you try to hide, but he will find you through the many avenues of communication like texting you at 11:49 PM despite the fact that he knows you have a 3 month old newborn who is going to be up within the next 10 minutes. You can usually tell his type by the initial conversation just from hearing his tone, and I’m not talking about a telephone conversation either. His personality type is very easy to decipher even through one sentence of an email. He will most likely write his entire email in the subject line of the email, like “When can I expect to have the final revision by.” There won’t even be a question mark at the end of that sentence because quite frankly, he is making a statement. His highly aggressive demeanor will definitely keep you on your toes because what’s expected of you is that he is your number 1 priority client and nobody else in the world matters, not even your new baby. You decide if you want to take this client on, but I definitely DO NOT.

Miss High Maintenance
This lovely person is Mr. Spec Work’s best friend. And most of the time, you will have sleepless nights and wake up to anxiety, panic, nightmares  and sweaty sheets because you aren’t sure if this project will ever end.

Mr. Perfectionist
This is the person that will sit beside you at your desk and direct and micromanage you on every move. Um. No.

Mrs. Indecisive
You will most likely spend all your time trying to coax her in a direction and pray that whatever you say, she will bite. Even if the design will turn out really ugly. Because you don’t care, you just want this project to be gone.

Ms. Charity Case
Don’t get me wrong, I love working with charities and have worked with many charities. But that doesn’t mean that I, myself, am a charity. Nor am I expected to do any favours simply because they are a charity. There’s always a guilt element when they come knocking on your door (like sending away Jehovah Witnesses) and you feel obligated to help them out or hear them out, so for these types of clients, I usually do give discounts and sometimes even free work, but this one for me is on a case by case basis. So, if you find yourself quoting for a charity or publicly funded companies and institutions, perhaps give a standard discount rate. If it’s a charity or a ministry that is near and dear to your heart, do it for free and don’t even think twice about it.


Clients that I Do Love 

I love clients who:

  • Does their own research
  • Knows what they want
  • Straight and to the point
  • Asks questions
  • Have a design sense or any design sense for that matter
  • Organized: with their emails, their lists and most of all, their file organization
  • They won’t name their files “img439284_blkhairfur01-4ty.jpg” and send them to me in 15 different emails either with no cross reference
  • Respect the terms of our agreement

How to Find the Right Client

With my list of 12 clients to avoid, it makes you wonder how on earth you will ever manage to find the right client, because it seems that everybody is going to fall into one of those categories. It’s actually very simple. SET CLEAR GUIDELINES. It’s very easy to take on any of these clients listed above, but you must be CLEAR on expectations on both parties.

The first thing to do is make sure that your client understands the terms of the agreement, what they can expect from you, the design process, the number of changes allowed, the payment timelines, file management and transfer, and most importantly, that you have a life and that you are not available 24/7. Have your policies clearly stated and better yet, have it on your website. In my next post, I will show you my sample Client Agreement and Policy, and go over the process of automating this so that you spend less time on paperwork and more time on doing what you love, designing. And most importantly, I will share with you why I stopped doing up design contracts.

So, what was your worst client ever?





2017-04-12T10:10:08+00:00 By |Entrepreneurship, Graphic Design, Marketing|

About the Author:

I am an entrepreneur, a designer, a wife, a mom, a bad cook, and a great cleaning lady. I say no to clutter and yes to pushing the envelope. I am a complete and utter design geek and I thoroughly embrace my OCD qualities.