The client from hell? Really?

By Richard Berman, CEO, VerbFactory

devilishEvery industry has places where professionals can go and candidly share their experiences with other experts who can understand the frustration of dealing with outsiders who make uninformed and off-the-wall requests. Many of these have gone online, and there are now dozens of websites featuring lawyers, chefs, teachers, and others complaining (usually in a humorous way) about their interactions with “civilians.”

The marketing industry is no different, and has become the go-to site for graphic designers to vent about their horrible interactions with existing and potential customers. The site is worth checking out for the humor value – and some of the examples are absolutely + – but it also highlights why so many people think that graphic designers are prima donnas or difficult to work with.

Exhibit A is a recent exchange between a designer and a client.

CLIENT: Can you crop this image for an 8×2 sign?

ME: 8×2 centimeters or inches?

CLIENT: Meters. Can you also make it landscape?

The image is a (tiny) portrait photo taken with a camera phone.

On the surface, it’s pretty ridiculous. After all, everyone knows that the quality of photographs degrades as the image is made bigger, and only a certified idiot would ask for a mobile phone image to be blown up into a massive poster. Right?

Not really. This may be obvious to designers, but most people who aren’t in the business have never worked with large-scale printing and have no idea that pixel count is absolutely essential to preserve the integrity of an image. The client involved in this exchange certainly didn’t meet the definition of “from hell.”

When I look at the correspondence, what I see is a designer from hell who took a reasonable question and decided to mock it in a public forum. It drips with contempt for the client, and shows a fundamental lack of respect for the people who pay the bills. It would be one thing if the person had asked for a 30-minute turnaround or for the job to be done for free “because it’s fun” (believe me, there are dozens of examples of this kind of behavior on the ClientsfromHell website), but this was a legitimate inquiry that deserved a straight answer rather than public scorn.

Creative professionals are often frustrated by unreasonable requests, but they need to remember that they get hired because their clients don’t have the skills to do the work themselves. Rather than ripping their customers for being idiots, maybe they should be a bit grateful that someone decided to write them a check to do the work they love to do.

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