Nightmare clients: how to deal with clients who think they can design

Clients From Hell author Bryce Bladon gives four great tips for coping with 'the design savant'.

We've seen a lot of crappy client situations on the Clients From Hell blog over the past years. And we've picked up a lot of tips for dealing with nightmare clients, too, over that time.

From ungrateful clients to the ones who can't communicate very well or don't pay, we've been documenting some of the most common client problems (and how to solve them) on Creative Bloq.

Here, we look at one of the most infuriating types of client known to creatives worldwide…

Nightmare client: the design savant

I'm an educated professional, but my client thinks his powerpoint experience makes him an expert in my field.

"Nothing personal, but I don't think you should be involved with the budgeting/financial part. Because you're a designer. And a female. But that's okay! There's nothing wrong with being a female or a graphic designer."

Ah, the well-meaning idiot. These types of clients tend to know so little, they don't appreciate how little they know.

They think their wall of participation awards makes them a world-class athlete, their hours of American drama series House M.D. makes them a doctor – and the fact that no one ever told them otherwise makes it all true. Here's what you need to do...

Yukai Du for Computer Arts issue 233

01. Be professional

You don't want to be the one who tells your client they aren't the design savant they think they are. Try to avoid calling your client any names (at least to their face). Instead, be professional and illustrate what, exactly, makes you a professional.

02. Explain why it isn't easy...

If a client tells you it looks easy, or should be easy, explain exactly why it isn't. After all, the mark of an expert is making a difficult task look simple. If a client insists on watching over your shoulder, or that something has to be done in a way that breaks the rules of good design, tell them why this will hurt the eventual product.

03. ...but don't be a teacher

All that said, don't waste too much time educating your client. You aren't being paid to be a teacher. Your commitment to a client is to appreciate their input and try to utilise it moving forward.

04. Do the job well

If necessary, reiterate that the client hired you to do the job for them and show your genuine concern over the time they're wasting breathing down your neck. The best way to earn their trust is by doing the work well.

Words: Bryce Bladon
Illustration: Yukai Du

The full version of this article first appeared in Computer Arts issue 233, a special issue (with a photochromatic cover) revealing the UK's top 30 studios, plus how to craft the perfect folio and make more money as a student...