Graphic Designers: How to Say No to Clients

The word no made from jigsaw puzzle pieces
Photo by Horia Varlan


You want to be liked. By your clients, your boss, your colleagues. So you take on work that you don’t want to do. You extend deadlines to the point where you’re stressed and can’t think about much else. You can say no.  You must do this on your terms or not at all.  Here’s how:

When to Start

Start today or better yet right now. Write to a client or your boss about a problem you’ve been having. Firmly tell them the terms of your employment and what you’re time is worth.

How to Begin

Think of something small.  It doesn’t have to be a huge problem. No I can’t stay 15 minutes late today. I will not run this errand. I won’t agree to these production deadlines.  No, I really think the color should be red and here’s why.

When to say no

When you believe it’s not fair, it’s unreasonable or downright stupid.  If you have a good reason, start by saying no, express your professional opinion, and wait.  Give the person a chance to speak. This is a negotiation. They might back down. They may counter offer with a more reasonable plan. Start with your ideal scenario, and if you hear a compromise that suits you then consider it.  Chances are if you went to a yard sale or bought a car, you wouldn’t have a problem trying some negotiation.  Why not do it with your business and life?

Why say no?

Because you are an independent person. You can think about yourself, your career, your business, and your family first before anyone else. No matter what your situation, you should think of yourself as an independent designer. We’re not permanently tied to companies or clients the way someone might have been forty years ago.  If a situation arouse where a client doesn’t think you fit their business needs anymore, chances are they would move on without hesitating.  Companies have been laying off employees left and right.  Think of yourself a little bit more.  Value your own time and opinions. You’ll gave a lot of respect for telling people that your time is valuable and they will begin to believe it to.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

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