Skip to main content

Why nightmare clients can be a blessing in disguise

Self-taught illustrator, business owner, speaker and writer Alex Mathers (opens in new tab) is the latest creative to weigh in on our nightmare clients mini-series. Mathers specialises in digital vector maps and landscapes. He also runs the Red Lemon Club (opens in new tab) and Ape on the Moon (opens in new tab) websites – and has come across a few less than ideal clients in his time.

Here, he discusses how to deal with tricky clients – and why they can be a blessing in disguise...

Also read: Nightmare clients: the one who doesn't pay (opens in new tab); the poor communicator (opens in new tab); the ungrateful client (opens in new tab), the 'design savant (opens in new tab)'.

What should you do when a client tries to educate you on your area of expertise?

Be a mature human being and avoid directing deeply personal abuse in their direction. Ignore criticism that's below the belt, but let clients know who's boss by speaking with authority on your own product. When a client tries to educate you, they're most likely testing your professionalism without realising it. Be a cool professional.

How would you advise handling clients who breathe down your neck?

Tell them politely yet firmly to back down. Don't be afraid to show some balls to clients. They don't own you. Alternatively, a double shot of espresso often does the job. or a slap, below the right eye, and stronger than the last one.

How should you deal with clients who want a free sample to test your skills?

I'd probably take the offer and screw it into a tiny ball before unloading it in a baseball-style pitch towards the client's face. If I was feeling chipper, I'd make an assessment of the client. If their inclusion on my list of previous clients would help my own brand, then I might do a free sample.

Any advice for first-time designers?

Realise that dealing with a few crap clients, especially in the early days of your career, is actually a blessing. It helps build a picture in your mind of who to avoid in the future. It's so important to identify the commonalities and patterns of clients you should avoid.

Words: Bryce Bladon (opens in new tab)
Illustration: Alex Mathers (opens in new tab)

The full version of this article first appeared in Computer Arts issue 233 (opens in new tab), 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...

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of six full-time members of staff: Editor Kerrie Hughes, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Deals Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Digital Arts and Design Editor Ian Dean, and Staff Writer Amelia Bamsey, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.