Client wants to finalize a logo design on their end - how do I handle?
September 9, 2013 4:25 PM   Subscribe

I run a freelance design business and I've been working with a small, 3-person finance company on their logo. I delivered the last contracted round of revisions yesterday and the client has more changes, but rather than paying for a few more hours, they are requesting to make changes on their end, even though they are not designers or even in a creative field. How to manage this stickiness?

Background: This client is inexperienced working with a designer (as an example, they asked that I use a particular piece of Word clip art in the logo, which of course I steered them away from). But I can handle! - I've worked harder at taking great notes, asking thorough questions, using image reference, and confirming and clarifying change requests before executing.

Tension: We've hit the end of the contracted rounds for the logo exploration. I mentioned that anything beyond what was included in the contract will have to be charged at my hourly rate. The client seemed fine with this and essentially stated, OK, great, we'll do the contracted rounds and we're sure we'll have an approved logo by then. But I just delivered the last contracted round yesterday and they came back with some change requests and asked that instead of paying me to make these changes, that I deliver the art to them and they make the changes on their end. And then they will deliver that art back to me to be integrated into the remaining collateral (business cards, letterhead, website, the works) for the identity.

Problem: My contract states that delivery of final, layered art is included in the cost, so I do feel obligated contractually to deliver this (and I have already been paid in full for this phase of the project). And I have certainly delivered final art before to other clients that was then modified by an in-house team or by another design firm, which is totally fine.

However, I'm concerned about this particular client's design savviness based on our conversations during this process. They are not designers - nor are they in a creative or artistic field - and are not planning on involving another professional designer. It's like an accountant saying, "I can take the logo design from here!"

I have a sour taste in my mouth that a) I will have to use a logo that's been altered by a non-professional in their full collateral suite that I have devoted many many design and client-management hours to and b) that the client is not willing to pay a fairly small amount of money to finish the logo professionally.

How to handle? Suck it up, deliver the logo, and cross my fingers that it turns out ok? Get on the phone and push back a bit and suggest they pay me for a few more hours? Offer to do a few more hours work gratis if it means they won't fiddle with it? What do you guys think?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Give them the files, let them screw up the job. Go on to other things.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 4:35 PM on September 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

Well, I'm no lawyer but they've paid you for your contracted work, yes? So send them exactly what you two have agreed upon, and stipulate how you need the artwork returned back to you for the final part.

Maybe they'll come to their senses and pay you for another round, maybe not. It's their logo, their call.

But me, I wouldn't do any work for free.
posted by shino-boy at 4:36 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can't always protect your clients from themselves.

Give them the files. Hope they come back after they get tired of dorking around with it to get the logo production ready. Charge for the "repair" phase on an hourly basis.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 4:38 PM on September 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

give them the files and let them stick that clipart image back in and make the logo bigger and whatever else they want. it's their branding to fuck up.
posted by russm at 4:38 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can relate to this - I do similar work.

I know it's hard, but the best option is to "let go" of the design - PLEASE do not work 'gratis'. If they insist on yuckifying it, so be it (I know! It's hard!).

On preview, exactly what Llamadog-dad says.
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 4:41 PM on September 9, 2013

This is a tough one. I'd suggest another conversation in which you lay out for them the potential issues with integrating the logo they've modified into the collateral -- issues that may result in that integration taking longer -- and see if they're willing to pay for a few more hours so that the work is done right. You may have to meet in the middle price-wise, but personally, that would be something I'd be willing to do in order to give the project the best shot at wrapping up well.

The only thing they can do is say no - and then you're in the same boat anyway.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:55 PM on September 9, 2013

And then they will deliver that art back to me to be integrated into the remaining collateral (business cards, letterhead, website, the works) for the identity.

is there any chance that giving them the artwork and letting them futz with it will make this deliverable more expensive / impossible / otherwise problematic. If so, you should tell them this. Maybe they will be okay with agreeing to let you out of it, maybe this will cause them to re-think.
posted by girlpublisher at 4:56 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd send them the files with a letter/email that says you're sending them incomplete files on their request, and that you're holding onto a copy that you can work from should they decide to have the final rounds of production done professionally after all. And if instead, they present you with logo files that require corrective work on your part before you can finalize them, you will charge the formerly agreed-upon rate of $xx/hour.

Do they even have design software?
posted by headnsouth at 5:08 PM on September 9, 2013 [14 favorites]

How to handle? Suck it up, deliver the logo, and cross my fingers that it turns out ok?

You don't have any other options. The client has paid in full so you owe them the work.

Offer to do a few more hours work gratis if it means they won't fiddle with it?

Do not work for free! "Work gratis" doesn't even make sense as a phrase, let alone as a business model.

I'm concerned about this particular client's design savviness.

I want to offer an example to illustrate that "contrary to designer's taste" does not always equal "bad". In my current job, we have this very complex website that allows people to remotely monitor a bunch of equipment. The website is "ugly" but there is a very good reason why: it was made to look like a piece of desktop software from the 80's, because the two products are complementary.

My example may not apply in your particular situation but there are tons of cases where the client has their reasons. They are the ones out there on the front lines dealing with the market, the competition, and a million other things. You need to respect their opinion even if it differs from yours.

I have a sour taste in my mouth that the client is not willing to pay a fairly small amount of money to finish the logo professionally.

Between this and the assumption that you should have the final say on your client's identity, I see misplaced frustration with a bit of entitlement mixed in. Do you have any idea how tough it is out there for small businesses? They have every right to set a budget and not go over!

If this kind of thing gets you frustrated, you might want to consider freelancing for big corporate clients. Small business owners are always stingy so you will encounter this type of a situation constantly. When I was freelancing, I loved my small clients personally but I got super frustrated with the money aspect so I just stopped working with smaller clients.
posted by rada at 5:22 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

From a design standpoint -- rada has it. It's the client's business, the client's money, the client's choice. Let them have the product they've paid for and let them make changes as they see fit.

But from a production standpoint, you must protect yourself. Point out that your previous quote for producing branding material using the new logo was based on having logo files of known quality and kind, because YOU expected to control their creation. Tell them, in writing, that your quote for ongoing collateral production is no longer guaranteed. You now reserve the right to re-bid that work AFTER you see the finished files.

If they surprise you by doing a passable job and returning the files in good working order, no harm done. OTOH, if they mess things up as you fear, you have a way to recoup the cost of getting the logo files back into professional shape before you continue with the identity collateral work.

An experienced client would recognize a situation of "pay me now or pay me later." Your client will eventually gain that experience. Be kind in the meantime, but don't give away your skill.
posted by peakcomm at 5:41 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

i would try to diplomatically have another conversation with them and i'd even be willing to give them a slight break on the charges. if they still don't want to pay you to finish the logo i'd be clear about what formats you need things in when returned to you and turn over the logo. i'd probably speak a bit technically, but honestly, about what you will need back from them in the hopes that they realize this isn't something some guy with photoshop or illustrator can easily do. the files have to be prepared correctly. you may even want to speak with the person who will be doing the work to communicate what you will need back from them, again in the hope that they will realize they are in over their heads. or, just give your requirements to them in writing with the file.

And if instead, they present you with logo files that require corrective work on your part before you can finalize them, you will charge the formerly agreed-upon rate of $xx/hour.

yes, this. definitely be clear about what happens with charges or corrections when you get the logo back from them.

one time i was at a prepress house and they had a huge poster on the wall all about 'how to work with a prepress house'. i've always thought it would be great to send along with the contract a file similar to that but for design clients when they first hire you.
posted by wildflower at 5:48 PM on September 9, 2013

The thing that worries me is them coming back with something that they believe is final and print-ready, but which actually requires hours of your time to fix file formats, or up-res and clean out the jaggies, or whatever, and if you try to bill for that time, they will believe you are making it up and ripping them off, while you not billing for that time rips you off.

I suggest allow it, advise against it, and explain the risk - that since they're doing it to avoid incurring your time, and are not technically expert, they need to be aware they could still accidentally easily end up creating (billable) work for you unintentionally.

Tell them that you think they'll have a better overall experience if they let you handle it, but that if they really want to finish it themselves, you recommend that they acknowledge that this option is not sure-fire, and you suggest they budget for some extra billable time anyway - time that hopefully won't be needed - just in case, because you don't want them killing themselves to save some money then getting caught off balance if their efforts didn't pay off as well as they assumed.

And obviously, whatever they end up doing, be working with them, not against them. Be open and trustworthy.
posted by anonymisc at 5:49 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding what headnsouth said.
Your contract states final work. Stick by that.
There's good possibility that they are going to totally screw up the layers and resolution trying to do it themselves, which could even render the logo completely unusable.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 5:55 PM on September 9, 2013

"The client gets the work that they deserve." This was a phrase I used to live by, after I'd exhausted myself trying to protect them from their own stupidity. Take their money, give them their files, wish them the best. Don't burn bridges but don't work for free either. Eh, sometimes it happens, you learn to let go.
posted by Jubey at 5:57 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would basically do what anonymisc suggests, let them know there's bound to be cleanup work after they do any kind of edit. Personally, I would give them the couple of free hours work. As a freelancer, you're always doing stuff for free, unfortunately. Look at it as relationship building and allowing yourself to feel good about the final product. It sucks, but throwing in a few free hours at the end of the project may make the difference between the project sucking and everyone feeling good overall.
posted by xammerboy at 7:54 PM on September 9, 2013

I think this situation is pretty straightforward. Give them the art they paid for, let them improve it or mess it up or whatever they're inclined to do, then drop in the final materials, and consider the project closed.

You may choose to send with the logo an e-mail that recommends they find a little more in their budget for professional revisions, but leave the tone neutral. It's their choice. I understand that you have professional pride in the work you did, but you really shouldn't care more about the client's visual identity than they do. That's a good way to burn out.

I work in copywriting, not graphic design, and when I see the final version of a piece, I occasionally notice that clients have inserted stray commas, misused words or haphazard capitalization in the copy I wrote. It used to aggravate me, but getting aggravated is not worth the energy. Really, so what? Move on to the next client. If the issue is you wanted to use that logo for your portfolio, just use your own best version of it or shrug it off as unusable. There will be other logos.

I strongly disagree with "As a freelancer, you're always doing stuff for free, unfortunately." You don't ever have to do anything for free. You may think you're building client relationships, but you're really just putting yourself out of business.
posted by Leontine at 8:53 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older How do I network when I don't know what I want   |   Roomie dogs are fighting consistently Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.