Answering questions from video calls with emerging graphic designers. Topics include late design client payments, preventing clients from going off-brief, and communicating the value of design.

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How do you handle late client payments?

Thankfully, it’s rare when I’m paid late, in part because I keep the files I create (and their usage rights) until after final payment. See my standard terms. But that wasn’t always how I worked. Not long after I started in business, an overseas client refused to pay a final invoice after I sent the design files, and despite my client being happy with the work. Months passed when a print company involved with the project asked if I was having problems getting paid. When I said yes I was referred to a debt collection agency — the first and only time during my years in business when debt collectors were involved. A year later, my client unexpectedly got back in touch to settle the bill, and afterward I then paid 30 percent of the amount to the debt collectors.

Not an ideal situation, but it taught me to hold onto the design files until receiving final payment.

How do you prevent a client from moving away from the brief?

Now and again during the course of a project I’ll be asked to do work that’s outside the original agreement. If it’s a small job that won’t take long I’ll do the work, reminding my client that it wasn’t in the original scope, and that I’ll need to charge for further requests. That way the client’s happy, and I either get paid for add-ons, or the client then sticks to the original scope.

How do you communicate the value of design with non-design savvy clients?

The rates I set mean the people I work with already place significant value on design. If a client’s happy to pay what I charge, they tend to understand the positive impact that good design can have on their business. You’re much more likely to struggle with this if you’re underselling yourself.

As Tara Gentile points out, “Pricing is one indication of quality. Your customers will use your prices to understand ‘how good’ what you offer is. If your price means your service appears lacking in quality, you won’t get the kind of customers you want — regardless of how ‘affordable’ your work is.”

Good design, bad design

See my resources page for more on design pricing.