7 Things Web Designers Hate Hearing from Clients

7 Things Web Designers Hate Hearing from Clients

One of the most difficult aspects of being a web designer is dealing with clients that "just don’t get it". In this article, we’ll discuss seven things that often make the job of web designers difficult when dealing with unreasonable demands from clients. The goal in this article is not only to identify these common situations, but also to share with you some ways to avoid them and explain to your clients why their demands can’t or won’t be met.

"I’m on a really tight budget and I need this done as inexpensively as possible."

One of the most difficult situations to be in is a client that does not appreciate the value of the service you will be providing. Web designers need to make a living too, and if the compensation of the project is too low, a lot of times it’s better to just pass on it because of opportunity losses of taking on low-budget projects.

How to Deal

If you are looking to take on more clients, it doesn’t hurt to respond; but if you have a comfortable amount of work – consider passing this one up. Even though it takes a bit of consultation time to determine the final price of a project, it can be helpful to respond initially with:

"My minimum hourly rate is $XX/hr. I’d be happy to give you a more detailed quote for the entire project with more consultation if you’re interested."

If they like your work enough, they may respond, and if not, it’s not wise to adjust your rate to gain a client. It’s better to wait for an opportunity and spend more time with your existing clients, than to take a low-cost job.

Some clients that just don’t get it may go further to devaluate our work with comments such as "my son said he could do it for $50! I was looking for someone a bit more professional…but that seems way too expensive, even for someone with more expertise."

In this type of situation, it’s important to maintain your composure and professionalism. You must also explain to the client that difference between a professional and an amateur web designer.

"I could probably figure this out myself, but…"

This type of client is usually a professional that needs to outsource their own work, or an amateur web designer who feels that their level of expertise is on par with professional web designers. This type of work often starts of with the mindset of, "since I can do your job, I shouldn’t need to pay a lot".

In addition, many clients like this seem to know what they’re doing all too well, and can be overbearing or can try to take the creative process away from you.

How to Deal

If I have enough jobs, again, I will generally stir clear from these types of projects because not only will the client expect a low-budget project, but will also want to drive the process or may be too overbearing, making it difficult for you to perform your job. A simple, "I apologize, but I’m really backed up at the moment with clients and don’t think I’ll be able to take on your project," will do.

Now, what if you’re already stuck with an ‘I can do this myself’ client? A simple reminder that you were hired for your expertise will suffice. Try to outline the benefits of having a web designer use his or her professional skills to craft the design for them. If it’s for a startup/new company, you can say that by giving the reins of the web design process to you, they can focus on other things that they need to get up and running.

"It’s a bit boring…it just needs a bit more ‘pizzazz’."

This statement could lead to a dreadful spinning logo, hot-pink marquee text, or a lime green background. Whatever they mean by it, not many clients who say this end up meaning subtle additions to make the design livelier; often it’s exaggerated features or obtrusive visual elements that throw off the harmony of your web design.

Another bad thing about this statement is that we can’t be sure what the client exactly means and how to address it to satisfy their desires.

How to Deal

Be careful of giving in to your client’s desire right away; you have to make sure that the revision you are doing is good for the design overall. This design is yours, and if you can’t be proud to show it off in your portfolio because of a design decision the client is trying to make for you, then that’s not a good thing for anyone involved.

If, based on your better judgment, it is not a good idea to go ahead with their suggestions, give valid justification as to why it isn’t a wise decision. More often then not, they see you as the expert in the relationship, and they’ll pay heed to your experience as long as your reasons are understandable.

But you should always pay attention to what they’re trying to say. Maybe their idea may not be the right choice, but the problem they’re trying to address may be valid. Work with them and help them articulate what it is, really, that they find "boring" and suggest good ways of addressing those problems.

"Oh, and by the way, I’ll need this coded into a blog."

Increased project scope: every web designer’s worst nightmare. If what you agreed to wasn’t setting up a weblog or creating a WordPress theme, it is scope creep. While it may be annoying to be asked to do something that you did not agree to, we must realize that a client with no technical expertise has no idea what it takes to turn a web design into a blog theme, and most probably aren’t aware that programming isn’t a standard web designer’s job. This problem, of course, goes beyond turning a web design into a blog into a number of other added jobs: design, coding, picking the right blogging platform, etc.

How to Deal

It is best to define initially in the proposal exactly what you will do for this project: this avoids potential problems in the future. Outline all the things you’ll do for them, and stick to this outline; resist the urge to agree to items outside of scope without additional fees because it encourages demands outside of what the project entails.

Solid requirements gathering also steers you clear from these situations; by knowing what it is exactly the client expects, the more prepared you are to provide it to them. If they mention a need for a weblog set-up, then you either need to tell them that it is not a service that you provide, or that it will cost extra.

It can also help to lay out the quote, project plan, and timeline so that it is very detailed to what you are going. This way, the client can better see things from your perspective, and clearly see that a "quick blog upgrade" is not a part of this project.

When the client broaches the subject of converting a design into a blog theme, remind them that it wasn’t part of the contract and that there will be additional costs and time requirements.

"I don’t really want to [use that communication method/pay that way/have to do this your way]. Let’s do this instead."

You’re just beginning a project, discussing initial details, and the moment you begin explaining to the client how you do business, they want it all done their way.

Let the small things slide, it will make for a better relationship and shows that you’re willing to accommodate their needs.

However, when you invoice through a certain system for financial security or collaborate through an online venue for organization and easier communication – a core business process – don’t cut clients slack just because ‘they don’t feel like it.’

There are a few problems with this. For one, you’ve likely spent time organizing your business in such a way that keeps in control of it; there’s a reasoning behind your system and you shouldn’t forget that.

How to Deal

If you’re in a situation where the client is trying to change a business process of yours, you can say something like:

"I understand where you’re coming from, but you should realize that I handle a number of different clients on a daily basis, and the reasoning for doing things this way it to help me run my business efficiently, and to get the project done for you more quickly with better results."

Most clients will understand that their project is not the only project on your agenda. It also shows that you’re not bending to their demands for a reason.

Also, some clients may not want to use a certain tool, payment method, or service because they are unfamiliar with it. For example, most people will have heard of PayPal if they’ve done any sort of online transactions in the past, but it doesn’t mean that your client’s heard of it before. It’s your duty – as a business that relies on this technology – to help your clients be more comfortable with the tools you use. In the case of PayPal, you could say something along the lines of:

"If you’ve never used PayPal before, let me help clear a few things up. I use PayPal because it is a secure payment gateway for the internet – you can never be too careful these days. There is no commitment on your part. You don’t need to sign up with PayPal or add funds to a PayPal account. You can easily pay with a credit/debit card, as you would with any sort of online store. It is a way for my business to accept payments and offer security for the both of us."

 Stick up for your business processes, and don’t be such a pushover.

"I need a website identical to [Example website]. It should function the same way as well."

Clients who want to copy another website design happens more frequently than it should. Be careful: you don’t want to run into any copyright infringements.

There is a difference between creating a design that can compete with their competition and ripping off a website completely. When doing a website for a start-up business, it’s good to look at the competitor’s websites and find things that you can improve on, but you should never copy them directly.

How to Deal

The best way to deal with a client looking to copy another website is to explain to them the legalities of doing so. Instead, offer your ideas on how you can create a web design that can compete very well against their competition.

Additionally, make it clear that their website will benefit from being different.

"I needed this done a few weeks ago. When can you get it done for me?"

Many clients think that they are your only priority. If you have other things that you’re working on, it’s not reasonable to make deadline promises you can’t keep. You shouldn’t drop deadlines on your existing work to accommodate another project, because in the long run, everyone loses.

It wouldn’t be surprising when working with a client like this that they would not deliver their portion of the deal either. No type of web professional should have to work for a project months longer than expected, just because the client cannot give content or other needed information in a timely matter.

How to Deal

Make that client aware that you have other commitments that must be met and give them a realistic expectation of when you can get a project done based on their details, and set a reasonable timeframe for the project in the initial proposal. Just remember the fact that they needed it yesterday is their problem, not yours!

If your timeline is not suitable to them, in the long run, it’s better if they go somewhere else; for you, you won’t be rushing other projects to make up time, and for the client, maybe they can find someone who can get the job done in the timeframe they require.

Do you have other things that you hate hearing from clients? What are they? Join the discussion in the comments.

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About the Author

Kayla Knight is a 20 yr. old college student, part-time web developer, freelancer, and blogger. In her spare time she maintains, a resource blog for webmasters. She also writes for top blogs like Smashing Magazine and Web Designer Depot. You can get a hold of her through her blog, or follow her on twitter@Webitect

This was published on Oct 18, 2009


Andy Feliciotti Oct 19 2009

Some great tips, thanks!

Mike Smith Oct 19 2009

Great article Kayla. All of these are things I’ve ran into across the past two years of full time freelancing and the ‘how to deal’ advice you gave is pretty much spot on to how I dealt with them – maybe not the first time, but I learned pretty quick :)

Minneapolis Web Design Guy Oct 19 2009

Hahaha,yeah, you hit the nail on the head on some of those.

My favorite is when they send out RFPs. Man, are those a waste of time 90% of the time. You spend hours making a 10 page proposal after they inquire, and then they just use all that information as a guideline to do it in house.

Dunno if I’ll ever do another RFP again.

Cosmin Oct 19 2009


[..]design, coding, picking the right blogging platform, etc.[..]

You mean “design, coding, installing WordPress, etc.”

Just kidding, everyone should work on their platform of choice, of course :P

8. uhmm…not something i expect from a professional like you
somehow, i feel insulted when a client say that to me

Ayman Aboulnasr Oct 19 2009

In fact alot of those situations you listed actually happened to me over the years and the way i handled each situation was pretty much similar to your suggestions.

Excellent article!

Bones Oct 19 2009

Great article. As a designer, I have come across every single one of these problems- some on multiple occasions! Glad to know it’s not just me.

As you have rightly said, the best action on every one of these points is to stick to your guns. Also remember the old saying: “don’t turn down any business, just put your price up!”

Ah, I so understand how it feels about these kind of clients. They really, just “dont get it”!

Adam Fairhead Oct 19 2009

I recognise a few of these! Great post, with great comebacks. I’ve created a little text file and taken your PayPal comeback down as a snippet; being a big PayPal user, I can see that one coming in handy sometime.

Very well done :)

Gidseo Oct 19 2009

My favourite – could you ‘tweak’ this; tweak meaning move the navigation and change the design completely!

J Nichols Oct 19 2009

This post sure looks very similar to an article Smashing Magazine posted a few days ago.What a coincedence!

Excellent post and some top tips – thanks!

Ben Mackler Oct 19 2009

I couldn’t agree more about this list. I think the worst one is “It’s a bit boring…it just needs a bit more ‘pizzazz’.”

I cringe every time I hear it. So many clients are stuck in the days of spinning text and 3d logos. Sometimes it is very hard to explain to them that as “good” as that technique was 7 years ago, that’s how BAD it is now.

Thankfully I usually win these discussions, but it still makes my skin crawl.

Jason Garrison Oct 19 2009

How about, “My regular web designer was busy so I was wondering…” I’ve heard that quite a few times and it makes me wonder if their “regular” designer is trying to ditch them, in which case I could get stuck with someone who’s difficult to work with.

And I’ve also come across something similar to your “I could do this myself” clients, constantly asking what they think are informed questions or giving random instructions because they read a post or two on some SEO blog.

In both cases, I just pass them along. I love web development, but building a site isn’t worth it if the person you build it for is constantly second-guessing you. Being able to fire up Dreamweaver doesn’t make you a professional web designer.

Joel Hughes Oct 19 2009

great article and some really valid points. I really feel like if we can band together more and share such information we can make our lives easier to do great work for great clients (rather than poor work for poor clients!).

I blogged in a similar vein on my site


Nice article! Made me laugh because somethings are just so familiar.

Steve Spatucci Oct 19 2009

Some really good thoughts, Kayla – they’re all really familiar, but the scope creep and “needed it yesterday” are the most familiar ones to me.

Kervie Oct 19 2009

It makes me cringe when they say “jazz it up”

Matt Robin Oct 19 2009

Why does this article say ‘by Jacob Gube’ in the RSS Feed and yet on the site the Author is Kayla?

Also: Very, very similar to the following article on ‘Smashing Magazine’ that appeared recently on the 15th October:

Danny Carmical Oct 19 2009

Great article… I deal/see these types of clients all the time.. especially when browsing for work over at classified sites like Craigslist. (I know, I know… Craigslist is a joke for finding work. Though every so often you’ll find a diamond in the rough there.)

I got so sick of seeing ads/clients like this in my first year of free lancing that I made the “Cheapest Bastards Guide to Building Websites” ( ) Basically, a little slap/wake up call to inform them of what all is involved in building a good website; or a little guide so they can do it themselves…

Again, this is a great article and I linked back to this from there. Maybe it will continue to educate people who are looking for design services that we don’t work for peanuts.

Brian Oct 19 2009

Excellent tips.

Scope creep is a killer. When it comes to writing up project proposals… DETAILS DETAILS DETAILS. And always get sign-off from the client before proceeding.

David Zemens Oct 19 2009

Very good article with some useful advice on how to handle each of the problem situations.

One situation that I see as an immediate red flag (learned through experience) is the client who insists on contacting you ony by telephone and rejects email as the preferred communication tool.

My advice for this situation: Danger Will Robinson!

kevin Oct 19 2009

Just had the “I need a website identical to” a few weeks ago, so annoying! Good article.

While I was reading this article all I could think was the author must be very young. Yep, turns out she is 20.

You have no idea how to run a business or what to expect from clients. You seem to want people to have easy jobs for you and stuff you can do in your leisure.

Move out of your parents home and see what it is like in the real world Kayla.

Scott Oct 19 2009

“devaluate”? That only is applicable to a currency. I think you meant “devalue”.

Web Design Maidstone Kent Oct 19 2009

So, so familiar on so much!

Nancy Weitz Oct 19 2009

Great points and advice. I often work with brand new start-ups and cottage industries who need a steer from the very first baby steps. This offers a slightly different set of problems.

See my blog post aimed at new businesses: Five Common Myths About Websites for New Businesses

kristin Oct 19 2009

Great article. This list is truly accurate to what the consumers expectations are of web designers, and you offer some great advice. Thanks!

Amy Gelfand Oct 19 2009

Great article – it’s good to be reminded every once in a while that the joy gets spread around!

You forgot one , though: “I drew you a picture of what I want my Web site to look like. Make it look exactly like that.”

crovean Oct 19 2009

Awesome read! Its funny we always get emails and calls with this situation. But once in a while there are some out there that hire us to do our job!

FrankieD Oct 19 2009

Its obvious the writer is 20 years old and doesnt have much expeerience of working out theer in the real world! The client is king – remember that …. anyone with the attitudes of the writer is not going to get much business – or keep it

Chris Oct 19 2009

I just got a great comment the other day from a website that I did….she said “This Verdana font is boring, can you use something ‘more fun’ like COMIC SANS?”. I’m pretty sure my jaw touched the ground when she said that. First things first, every designer knows never to use Comic Sans, it’s awful, secondly, the whole reason behind us redesigning her site was to make it more professional-looking and she wants to take it back to the immature level of design that her old site was…drives me crazy.

Brilliant article. I’ve been designing sites for years and I can identify with every single client. Some of these responses are actually refreshing!

Dante Oct 19 2009

This job would be great if it weren’t for the #)@%(&^ing clients.

BHMediaMarty Oct 19 2009

My god. Have you been a fly on the wall in my office for the vast majority of customers I get here? Think I’ve heard all of those examples a number of times over. It made me laugh and feel a little more comfortable that I’m not the only one who gets this kind of idiot.

Nice article, and agree with the response comment about proposals.

I used to spend at least 2 or 3 days a week working on proposals for websites or other work with virtually no return. Another annoyance is writing a proposal, agreeing the work and price, and they then change their mind part way through the project and expect more work to be added for the same money.

zplits | What's the latest? Oct 19 2009

Hi there Kayla Knight, nice article. I have a question.

What about the payment? What do most web designer do when the topic is payment? are you going to be paid after you have done the site or before, or half-way to the fully finished one?

Please help

ct lawson Oct 19 2009

The reason I use
Cuz web designers “don’t get it”

Amber Weinberg Oct 19 2009

Good tips, I often come across these types of clients more than once a day. Sometimes it’s better to pass than to try to “fix it all” as most of these clients turn out to be.

josh davis Oct 19 2009

What does a 20 year old know about clients? how many have you had? 2?

sos media Oct 19 2009

Also, “How hard would it be to just…”

Dave Mason Oct 19 2009

This really hit home. Thanks for the tips I can already see implementing some of your srategies.

Matthew Simmons Oct 19 2009

Ah. The one that bugs me the most are the people who want you to explain what all of the mark-up means (so that they can edit[break] their site).

Dealing with these issues daily, I sympathize with this post GREATLY. BUT…Designers do need to remember that customer service, exhaustive efforts to communicate with the client, and a “can-do attitude” are all vastly more important to a designer’s business than creating an award-winning design for your portfolio. Design is %90 service, and %10 percent art – educate the client, but make sure you’re not lecturing them! Good article.

Jan Cavan Oct 19 2009

Great article, made me laugh :) The most familiar to me are the 1st, 2nd and the last. I’m also tired of hearing something like “I don’t really have a budget for this project but I’m sure this will give you a lot of exposure” or “I’m on a really tight budget and I need this done as inexpensively as possible because anyway, I’m promising you more projects in the future”

disgruntledDeveloper Oct 19 2009

Yesterday I had run into “I needed this done a few weeks ago. When can you get it done for me?” category. He was a client that wanted a stand alone video player installed on the website after the fact. We were using I mentioned to him that I will look in a solution, test it and get back to you. A week passes and he emails me saying that he had a friend go in and install a standalone player that broke different features on the site. He comes back asking me what is wrong and to fix it. I basically told him that your guy broke it have your guy fix it. Do I feel bad yes. Should I fix it, No. But I probably should. But if this was any other trade auto, home etc they would but with a high co$t.

I dunno in this industry the bad ones always stick out more that the good ones.

DiegoRA Oct 19 2009

absolutely right and very funny too…

Anirniq Oct 19 2009

Hi. Great post, it would have helped me a few months ago, when i did my first professional design ;)
I would add one, the worst i ever heard since :
“Your teammate, the php programmer will be my husband.” And when you drop deadline by 2 weeks because you have been waiting the PHP scripts for one month, you won’t be able to complain, and all the errors happen because of you…

A.D.K. Oct 19 2009

I don’t like when the client wants me to add some new stuff to the project after all the work is done without willing to pay me extra cash. But if he does it’s all ok, anyway the articles is absolutely good as it shows the most familiar problems for the freelance designer.

Zach Katkin Oct 19 2009

“I could probably figure this out myself, but…” I hate that! We get that from people of all walks of life. Former lawyers who think they could do your work, doctors, business owners, etc. And unfortunately, they ARE right. They could spend a couple of years reading, practicing, etc. and do it. There’s a lot of great free materials online as well (that’s how I learned initially). Although I would love to point out the amount of time it would take to learn, and the value of just that time, I think more often than not when you hear ANY one of these 7 statements its best to move on.

priyadarshi Oct 19 2009

it was really of gr8 help!!

Joost Oct 19 2009

9. can you put some music in the background? Here’s this great midi file….
10. why would we pay you all this money when we can also do it with this website-kit I saw somewhere?

Itopun Oct 19 2009

TOTALLY TRUE… the advices are cool, THANKS FOR THAT!

Ben K. Oct 19 2009

I just don’t get some people. I’ve the fortune or misfortune of being on both sides of the designer/client relationship and I don’t get people who don’t listen and respect the professional they’re dealing with. The question I always want to know the answer to is why did you choose [John Smith] to work with? If I choose someone to do a project for me it is because they’re someone I have confidence in to realize the vision I have. As such I must trust their work and their opinion. If you’re just throwing darts to find a web/graphic designer, then I’d hate to see how you run the rest of your business.

Dallas Oct 19 2009

Thank you for writing this. I am just starting out a Webmaster. I am also, already running into all 7 of these problems with my second biggest client. Good thing I haven’t gave them an answer on anything yet. Thanks again, and I will become a regular to your site.

Jad Limcaco Oct 19 2009

Great article. I definitely do hate hearing these.

heather Oct 19 2009

Definitely a helpful article, but I’ve read a hundred others like it. I think it’d be really interesting and helpful if you were to go out and talk to clients and make up a list of things they hate hearing from designers/developers. Sometimes our clients are terrible at communicating what they really want… but that doesn’t mean we’re any better. But I haven’t found an article to reflect this.

Jay Farr Oct 19 2009

Great read, and how very apt and have heard all of those before and then some. The ones I tend to go are the ” I want I want I wants”. “I want this bell”, “I want that whistle”, “I want what they have”. My responses vary depending on the type of client they are.

Greg Johnson Oct 19 2009

Kayla, you’re right on except for the last one. I actually prefer a tight deadline.

theComplex Oct 19 2009

Great post. I come across these issues very regularly. These tips help the anxiety that comes with having to have an awkward conversation.

Shyguy Oct 19 2009

Great posting.

My current “favorite” one is what I was asked by the client, over the phone, before I’d met with him, before I knew what he wanted on a website relaunch. “How much do you think it’s going to be?”

Phillipe Calmet Oct 19 2009

Great article. I am sure we’ve heard all (or almost all) of these things, and if you haven’t yet, you will :P

Stephen Bates Oct 19 2009

Great list Kayla, I got a good chuckle out of it, especially since i’m on of those ‘amateur web designers'(not that i’d act like the description though)

Curtis Armstrong Oct 19 2009

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m sure that we’ve all heard some or all of these before.

Merrick Christensen Oct 19 2009

You have to be the most beautiful Web Developer I’ve ever seen. Haha. Now that thats out of the way I found myself relating to all these particularly “I know how to do this but…”

Joaquín Cabrera Oct 19 2009

HAHAHAHA all of this is TRUE, sometimes I hate them hahaha

Scope creep! That’s exactly what bothers me a lot.

DivinoAG Oct 19 2009

I have another one: how about when you hear all of those on a periodic basis, but it’s your boss telling you that the client told him that, and he agreed to do it anyway?

How to Deal:

Remember that at this exact point in time you’re not finding jobs anywhere else, cry a single tear and do what’s possible.

Life is hard my friends, life is hard.

Lucian Oct 19 2009

I had too clients who asked me how much is gonna be, while I was
talking with them on the phone. I ussually give them a price range or I ask them if they have a budget so we won’t waste our time.
Maybe the author is 20 but she is right about this type of clients. Not necessary hating when they say that.

Morgan Oct 20 2009

Cannot even begin to explain how many times, each of these has been a problem for me, but you live and learn and it seems to me you have lived quite a bit in this field.

Another I run into is “I want a simple website that can sign users up and let them make their own page, like myspace for [insert work parameter here] that’s easy right?”

Sean "Bluefox" Blake Oct 20 2009

When I’m dealing with a client, I always ask first, “Is this the first time you have dealt with a web designer?”

This IMMEDIATELY tells me what kind of person they are going to be. If they say yes, I try as HARD as I can to hammer out these questions before they have the instinctive feeling to ask any of those questions.

The more detailed, and assertive I am with the client on the process, price, and deadline, the better we can either work together, or have the client find someone else to accommodate their needs.

Arturas Oct 20 2009

One of the worst things it when client says i want something like that for the amount of $$$, because projects are never the same and clients usually hate estimates and clear requirements

Peter Oct 20 2009

Oh my God. Every single one of you that thinks that this had great advice is destined to fail spectacularly. Not once did she mention trying to educate the client.

Oh my God. Literally the worst business advice I have ever heard….Any of you who thought this was good, is a radical narcissist artist, not a business person.

And really: Advice on anything from a 20 year old part time student? You all deserve to be poor.

CordyQ Oct 20 2009

The one I deal with all the time on top of some of these, is the client who wants me to teach them as I build the site so they can maintain it themselves. one even wanting me to do all the designing and coding at her house with her there watching so she can learn. Now I am sorry but that is the LAST thing I want to do, there is a reason I didn’t chose to go into the teaching profession but I wonder is this an expectation of every client? Cause it seems like the one I always have to deal with.

Very goooood.tnx

Yosef Oct 20 2009

I can relate to this, especially the time sensitive issues.

Antonio Oct 20 2009

Great work! I finally can catalogue all of my clients in these 7 categories…. Thank you!

Web 2.0 Oct 20 2009

Awesome article Kayla, great work…

Graham Oct 20 2009

Great post.
This is definately something that we deal with on a constant basis. I think that these pointers are a great help for web designers.

Thanks sharing these.

slaFFik Oct 20 2009

Oh, great post! This “scope creep” is killing me all the time..

Los A Oct 20 2009

Kayla Knight, I really appreciate your article. It highlights the problems web designers go through and your suggestions too are good ones. Your article seems to also be funny as clients do tend to put these statements forward. Thanks for the article.

Amanda Oct 20 2009

Great article, I wince in sympathy. I agree with Heather though as well. For most clients, especially my startups this is the first time they have worked with a web designer or even considered “design” for that matter. Very intangible and mysterious process to some. Cut them some slack and educate! Gently. One approach I take is frame it to their point of reference. Say it’s a motor maintenance garage: OK so I asked for a car tuneup, but what I really want now is all new tyres plus a grease and oil change… “Can you do it for the same price?”

Manop Oct 20 2009

This is really a great post.

Interesting enough, one of my clients was in all of those above.

Gammafied Oct 20 2009

These 7 things resonate with me as a web designer. However, if you are hard up for clients, you can’t always afford to pass up people. Contrary to Peter, I don’t believe this is the worst business advice ever. The worst advice would be all you need is and FrontPage :0 – Anyway, I deal with poorer clients who have not had much contact with technology. They need to be educated. They don’t see how all the advertising and such is paying for MySpace and Facebook. They just know its free and cool. These are exactly the type people who (unless they are conceited and hard-headed) will benefit from education. If they have to walk away because of price, let them know about other things you could offer. You could do some custom CSS for a wordpress blog myspace page or Ning site. I once had this client who didn’t want to go to the webmail link to check email because it was too confusing. The link I sent was “too hard to type in or remember”. All I had to do was reassure her and set up email forwarding. The basic thing is getting to what they want specifically and determining whether that is something you can provide.

Tim Pedersen Oct 20 2009

Interesting negative comments about this article. Sounds like someone touched a nerve. Sure, she’s 20, sure you could go to, sure you can expect a level of respect from any business partner.

What she’s pointing out is your lack of respect for our craft. As creatives, we are CONSTANTLY fighting for our right to be paid a respectable rate for talents that are intangible. It’s a difficult realm and not one that’s easily traversed by right brained people.

We need guides like this. We need to be told what to expect and how to deal with it. It’s the same way we learned CSS, HTML, AS3, etc. We read about it, visualize it and put it in action.

I started my own agency 6 months ago. I’m learning constantly about clients. One thing I’ve struggled with is how exactly to tell them that they’re not the only one’s I’m dealing with. No one wants to hear this.

I also suggest scheduling every single call a week ahead of time and aggressive invoicing. Do not answer your clients calls on weekends. Do not text message your client. Do not buy into their griefs about money. Everyone is struggling to make ends meet nowadays. Do not let them use you as a stepping stone unless they are making it rain.

STICK TO YOUR GUNS is a constant mantra around my office.

Thanks for the article.


Essex web design Oct 20 2009

Could you just turn your skype on for a second, I just want a five minute chat… An hour later…

yorkshireweb Oct 21 2009

Sounds like an article written by someone with little or no experience in the real world. Clients rarely do as they’re told and shockingly they also have their own ideas. Rather worryingly for us web guys they also have more experience in their business than we do. So come, give the clients a break. Work with them not against them. after all without them we’d be penniless.

Kayla your so right Ive heard those lines from customers many times! We deal in SEO at our web design company, so I also get “The site went live today, but I’m not on page one yet?” Like we can click our fingers…TA DA page #1…

Toine Oct 21 2009

One I heared a few weeks ago:
“Yes, this is exactly what I meant! Thanks! But can you convert it to flash?”

Maranjo Oct 21 2009

Excellent article, plenty of truth in this and I like your responses.
As for those that criticise a 20-year-old, get over yourselves. Kayla’s observations and advice are perfectly relevant in my experience – and I’ve been doing this work for more than 10 years.

Pamela Oct 21 2009

As a former piano teacher, I can identify with designers who have clients who think they know more than the professional. However, you do need to remember that the client is the one who pays your salary. If they’re not satisfied, they’ll take their business elsewhere. There needs to be a balance between your doing the best job you can as a professional and meeting the needs of your client (that includes all the client’s needs, including financial–see number 1). Obviously, there are certain items where you must either put your foot down or show the client the door (been there, done that, lost the client), but you can’t just play the “I’m a professional and you’re not” card every time. They know that, or they wouldn’t have come to you in the first place.

facundo Oct 21 2009

Excellent compilation guys. Each and all of those problems has occured to me!

jerry Oct 21 2009

Good points Kayla.

I hate the ones that make it clear they don’t know what goes into what they are asking but then turn around and tell you how long it will take (e.g. this shouldn’t take more than 3 days) – usually their estimation of time/effort is sooooo understated.

Avram Oct 22 2009

Wow, I’m sorry to say this, but this article should be citing its sources, especially this article at Smashing Magazine:

Also, although I’m sure Kayla is an all-around outstanding gal, it doesn’t make sense to task a 20 year-old “part-time” web designer with an article supposedly culled from years of experience working with clients. Write what you know! What is it like to be a young designer, starting out in the field? This kind of an article should have been written by a salty, old seadog, not a green-as-grass land-lubber. Sorry, but…n00b1111111

Aaron Smith Oct 22 2009

Ive had, “I want a secret website”, so i asked “what do you want it to do”, they said “i cant tell you its a secret, so how much will it cost to build”!!!

PatrickKanne Oct 22 2009

Good points indeed..!!

For some of these I have a simple solution.. When it comes to those (budget, deadlines, expectations) I tell my clients “there’s good, cheap and fast – you can choose two”. And I’ll never take on the ones that say “cheap and fast”.

As for those that try and devalue my work to the level of amateurs (“my son does it for $50,-“) the first response is always “then tell me why am *I* here?”. Secondly, regardless of their answer, is explaining the notion of taking things seriously. ie; If you want ME to take you and your company seriously and treat it with the care and respect you think it deserves, then you’d better treat me and my skills on the same level, otherwise there’ll be no reason for me to even consider taking the job.

Abdul Gafoor Oct 22 2009

It is really helpful tips

Brian Yerkes Oct 22 2009

Enjoyed this post. It’s always fun to read about client experiences everyone has.

I posted a similar article called “5 things clients say and what they really mean” – sort of a tongue-in-cheek take on it

check it out

Great Post, True!

David Trang Oct 22 2009

The “rush” of completing projects early is what I despise the most. Some clients take weeks to decide if they’re willing to sign a contract, but then want to bump up the completion dates. Really really frusterating

PatrickKanne Oct 22 2009

oh, and @Peter: turn it around and try ANY of these in the commercial marketplace, or a shop, and you will be kindly shown the door. Why on earth should we then put up with it?
I agree with most of Kayla’s points and I’m 40, I was seriously surprised she’s only 20. If anything she’s on the right track!.

I also noticed over the years that not taking this kind of crap will actually land me good jobs with businesses that really count, you see, they like it when I take my job (and thus THEIR product) seriously. And those who didn’t like it? Most of those STILL have a shitty website with spaghetti source (I keep checking those out of spite ;))

Erica Oct 22 2009

This was a great great post. Hit so many things right on the head, and many of them are only lessons learned from trail and error.

Thanks so much for the How to Deal! I always end up feeling like the bad guy when clients are uphappy, but in reality I know I am in the right.

Jessica Oct 22 2009

Great Info! Thanks for the post!

Spotlight Direct Oct 22 2009

Perfect! You did your homework. Us web designers in Cincinnati, OH appreciate your postings and blog.

Adam Wood Oct 22 2009

Jacob Gube Oct 22 2009

I just want to throw in my two cents to those who factor in age as a judgment on the validity of Kayla’s experience.

I’ll start with my own experience. I started freelance graphic design at the age of 19. After my first year, I have worked with 9 clients already; it gave me the opportunity to work with a variety of people and much of what Kayla has talked about here, I’ve gone through myself. The low-balling client that says: “Well, my wife knows a bit of Photoshop…” and struggling to not scream out “WELL THEN HAVE HER DESIGN THE F**KING LOGO IN RASTER AND STOP WASTING MY TIME” are all commonplace, especially for those of us just starting out.

Moving on to Kayla: I think Kayla at her age has a lot of work experience: she’s steadily building up her portfolio, she has a great weblog, she’s written for Smashing Magazine, she’s co-authored a book chapter with me, and the list goes on.

It’s funny that in an industry where people in their early 20’s are starting companies like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter – a vocal minority finds it surprising that someone as young as Kayla has enough experience to talk about this topic.

So very true! It’s nice to see (read) that as a web designer, it’s not just me having to deal with these type of clients :)

About client not understanding the website’s worth: Just wait for them to name the price they’re willing to pay, then simply adjust his briefing on the design (“yes, you’ll have a great blank page with your logo on it and a contact button”)

Marty Sullens Oct 23 2009

Great Post,

I would also like to add that all designers must set deadlines for the clients as well – I’ve made this mistake a few times by not clearly letting them know when the content and other information is needed, and have had some clients take MONTHS after the project was done to deliver it.

Make it clear what you need in the beginning and make sure they work on it while you work on the project..

Just my two cents.

– Marty

Aditya Dipanka Oct 23 2009

Totally agree with the above points and this is seriously useful stuff.. Thanks!

Lauren Jordan Oct 23 2009

I’ve been warned about some of these situations. I know a good way to deal with a lot of problems with clients is in the contract. That is, if they agree to it all and sign it. But negotiating with the client happens a lot, if not on some level all the time, and this is a great way to approach some of the problems that may arise.

Michael Krapf Oct 24 2009

Wow! I just dealt with many of these problems last week. It hurt a bit walking away from a job, but I’m not gonna work for free! Great article :)

Unfortunately this is what you just have to deal with as a freelancer :)

Think of it this way : time wasted on time wasters is better spent wasted finding clients who are worth wasting time on :)

sharath Oct 24 2009

awesome post! these things are soo very true.

thanks for sharing!

Ben J Walker Oct 30 2009

Ha, “It’s a bit boring…it just needs a bit more ‘pizzazz’.” just had that pretty much word for word from a client!

Thanks for such a helpful article! :)

Amran Nov 03 2009

How do you respond when after doing all this final answer from a client is? “I understand where you are coming from but I pay for this work so I hope things can be done my way”.

Most of the time, I bite my tongue and proceed to do as what they requested. After all, there are rent, salary, bills and 1001 things to pay. I know it sucks!

@ Marty Sullens
Not only deadlines, also the maximum mockups and revisions before you start charging again. Make a mistake once for a charity organization (nothing against them but some simply don’t understand what charity means) end up making countless of revisions because they simply need the whole world to approve the design. And when we put a stop to it, all hell breaks free.

That brings me to another point, treat all your clients the same, be it you are doing for money or for free. Get your terms and conditions in placed!

Wib Walk Nov 04 2009

Our CEO loves to say “It needs more WOW!”
We have yet to define ‘WOW!’

Karl Gilis Nov 06 2009

Some very recognisable situations indeed.

Reminds me of the article “13 quotes that show the customer isn’t ready for a good website”.

Michal Wurm Nov 10 2009

I’ll add another one – “Sorry I don’t have time to [look at your samples / supply materials / make decision] right now.”
It drives me nuts when you get half of the way in the project and cannot finish it because someone is too busy to supply the necessary texts or photos.

In a sense tight deadlines are way better these days because, if you structure your terms & conditions right, it means you do your job and you get paid soon.

Hi! This was a great post!

I’m not a webdesigner -I’m one of those “self-learned” ones that u seem to dislike… ;)

For me this article was more of a “how to treat those professionals that I talk to to get help/pointers”. I have never been a client as in paying someone to do my work, but I do ask a lot of questions around the web trying to get a hang of it myself. (Made posters for a while and got hooked on grapihc design and web..)

But one thing though -when someone like me give “pointers” it’s not always ment as “you have to do that” it’s more like “I do now something about this and I would like to learn more -this is what I know, do you perhaps have another suggestion? And could you teach me?”

I know that this probably not what you guys are referring to, but still -there are some of us (also clients I guess) that actually want to learn from the whole experience when dealing with a professional -not just being handed finshed work all wrapped up. ;)

I do agree with the article though -keep up the good work, and stick to your guns -freelance or not! There are a lot of people out there who would be demanding and nasty just for *fun*.

Jazzikins Dec 08 2009

My first client was one of those, “I could do this myself” types. Unfortunately I was very naive back then and let them do their thing. They wanted to update the site themselves, which is fine. They knew a little bit about how to use Dreamweaver, not enough to build the site, but enough to edit and add content once I was finished. I never thought it would turn out bad, until they started changing colors and fonts and things like that. I learned that one the hard way.

Lala McLala Feb 08 2010

“it needs to pop more” …”my coworker’s kid makes web pages he said he’ll make me one for 40 bucks”… all classics.

Anyone who liked this article would probably also like –

“Oh, and by the way, I’ll need this coded into a blog.”

For that reason, I recommend to all my clients that they host their site on WordPress or something similar. WordPress (my personal fave) is a full-featured CMS even if you decide not to use the blog features. Then if they come to you later with the blog request, you just tell them that it’s been available to them from the beginning and would they like training on how to add their first post.

The challenging part then is answering the question, “Well, I don’t have time to blog. Would you write my posts for me?” I then just steer them to my post on the subject at

Jermaine Young Feb 08 2010

Thank you very much for this article. Problem clients and unreasonable client demands made me certainly question my talent and ability as a designer. I almost reached a point where I decided that it just wasn’t for me. Worst of all, the biggest issues came from family and friends. These are great tips and I wish to frame them and hang them on my wall for clients to see as well. Thank you.

Geoff Feb 17 2010

Great article! I think we can all relate to at least one of those scenarios – the joys of being Web Designers hey! :)

Sooo many grammatical mistakes… ugh. Tough read.

When you move up to real people, real businesses, all these points become moot. People know what they want and price is negotiated based on industry standards, etc. So if you are a college kid struggling in your basement, sure, be wary of your uncle’s drinkin’ buddy wanting a website, but when you start building a base and moving up in the world of design, none of these issues will be of the slightest concern.

And Kayla, get on proof reading. Seriously. A cursory scan would have caught at least half of those. For those saying “great article,” you guys have a low, low bar.

web design May 24 2010

Haha for me, I really hate to hear this from client: (We are looking for long term relationship) thus they are expecting something to be done really cheap. In fact, just because of we are also looking for long term relationship, that’s why we can’t always give super low cost charging otherwise we can’t survive! :D

Great article! I’ve been in the business for over 12 years and I must say you are right on the money. Yes, we are taught the client is king, but you have to draw the line somewhere or else they will take complete advantage of you. By golly its a business not charity! Had it recently happen to me. But how about this fav tune…”If you give me a discount, I have so many connections I’ll get you more business.” or “I’m just starting out I can’t really afford it but I WANT it.”

Shany Sep 10 2010

Below are exact quotes I took from my clients:

“My budget is $10 for the logo”
“I need you to make me a 15″x25″ poster using 2 of my pictures I took with my webcam”
“I want my logo to look exactly like the famous ABC logo cuz I love that logo so much, only make it pink!”
“Can you design the website in Microsoft Words so I could edit and update it myself when I want to?”
“I have already given you the detailed description and now I have to repeat myself again: I want the logo to look professional and cool, it has to be cool, that’s the key. How can I describe anything more detailed?”
“Can you mix red and white together and not have pink?”
“It’s too bright! I told you I want it to be lime green! Don’t you know what lime green is? Lime green is the army color, the same color you saw in soldiers’ uniforms.”
“My 2 year-old son would do it better! I won’t pay for this sh*t”

Kenson Martz Sep 16 2010

Thanks for this post! i made a copy of the questions and changed the wording so i understand them better!

Martin Oxby Sep 16 2010

Firstly, please disregard the comments people have levelled at you for this article. Some people can be too judgemental too quickly.

This was a good read and encouraging to hear many people with similar stories.

My key bug-bear are people that think that they’ve done a course on Frontpage and read an article once on Google that they can design a website and manage the SEO. The idea that both are somehow ‘simple’ really gets to me.

Client’s vary drastically from the uninformed to the actively interested business owner and that’s what’s makes this job so great and a development challenge.

Thank you :)

Craig Sep 20 2010

Very good article about the 7 things web designers hate to hear from clients, with useful advice on how to handle each of the changes/decisions from the clients. Thanks!

Michael Oct 08 2010

Learning to take criticism is a huge part of the job. But it is not a matter of just learning to not feel hurt but how to take what on the surface appears to be meaningless uninformed comments into feedback that is constructive. Learning to “understand” and draw out the meanings of client comments is a very valuable skill.

Gemma Oct 10 2010

Good article.

However, all of these people criticising Kayla are likely the kind of clients Kayla discussed in the article. The article obviously touched a raw nerve.

Kayla has a very good idea of how to deal with these types of clients and I applaud her for being savvy at the age of 20. BTW, there are plenty of 20 year olds out there who are more business-savvy than a 50 year old who has been doing business for 20+ years! Age has very little to do with how much one really knows – and that applies to all areas of life, not just business.

Another thing to note, respect is key. It’s a two way street. If a potential client comes to me and shows me he couldn’t give a rat’s backside about me as a designer and the fact that I have a skillset, and that I have bills to pay, then there’s no chance I’ll show him the level of respect he thinks he deserves. Instead, he’ll be shown the door.

However, I do realise that a lot of people don’t know the first thing about design, and I can handle that by educating them. But when a client doesn’t want to be educated and insists on treating you and your business like dirt, then by all means, show him the door.

St Paul Nov 06 2010

I like the first part, about the budget. I get that a ton! It took over a year to realize that passing up some potential work can be beneficial, especially since people on a “tight budget” seem to want to nit pick the most. Why? I have no idea.

All in all, great article

Totem Web Design Jan 12 2011

Good tips Kayla. I had some experience as an account manager that is now serving me quite well when it comes to dealing with design customers! Expectation setting, expectation setting and write it down!

I hate when they want a cheap price because ‘that’s easy to do’ or ‘there is a lot of open source stuff that you could use’… Well if it was that easy why don’t you do it yourself? Obviously I don’t say that, I just ignore that part:P

Usability Vlaanderen Mar 26 2011

Very recognisable. Usability professionals meet such clients too. In general it’s a red flag, if you can afford it: leave them asap.

Viron Media Aug 09 2011

Some of these questions are all too common for web designers. How you handle these generally comes with experience and a good work ethic. Your suggestions were very good though.

Brian Oct 17 2011

Kayla, you are wise beyond your years. Excellent article.

405mediagroup Aug 31 2012

I personally experienced some “difficult” clients. Well if you ask me, i think the key here is communication. Just keep the lines open and provide them with good results.

Nate Balcom Sep 18 2013

Great tips! If you give your customers an inch they’ll take a mile. Keep them in check and keep them reasonable. Very good solutions. I’ll be passing this on.

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