today’s question: “how do you walk away from a project if it isn’t going well or is taking too long?

it’s unfortunate when a project has to come to an end before it’s actually finished. it could be creative differences or it’s just dragging on and on. if you can’t agree on the creative, hopefully you had a clause in your contract that says you are to be paid for the amount of work done if the project ends before it’s finished. or you could bite the bullet and just give them what they want so it will be over. you don’t have to show it to anyone and you could design your own version for your portfolio so you have something to show for all the work you put into it.

if it’s dragging on and on due to neglect from your client i suggest sending an invoice for the work you’ve completed and tell your client you’re there when they’re ready to pick the project back up again. in my timeline on my contracts i allot for feedback on designs. i give them 2-3 days for their turnaround. hopefully if you’re respecting the due dates, they are too.

this did happen to me once a few years ago and i remember at the time feeling really bummed out about it, like i had failed at my job. looking back now i realize that we just had really different visions for the project and we were both being stubborn. we ended up parting ways on good terms – i was paid for my time and luckily is wasn’t a big ordeal. usually you will be able to feel it out if your client is unhappy and you have a couple of choices: take this as a challenge and see if you can come up with a creative solution or you can ask them if they are interested in parting ways and finding a designer they might jive with a little better.

to avoid these situations i usually ask for a folder of photos (or an inspiration pinboard) from my client with their ideas for their project. in return, i usually do a quick mood board with my ideas to make sure we are in line. it doesn’t have to be super detailed but it will give you both a look into how it will be working with each other and if it will be a good fit.

and to steer away from projects dragging on and on, you must set the precedent. email your clients in a timely manner, and be very organized when explaining to them the next steps in the design process (i like to make lists for them of things i need by a certain day. example: “1. please provide bio and portrait photo by friday 2. i will need the final categories by EOD”) give people a checklist if you want results — everyone likes checklists!

(illustration by katie evans. here are all the advice posts over here)



Add your own

    Alex says:

    thank you for addressing this issue! I recently was in this situation but luckily we were able to turn it around but it was really sucky when it was going on

    This IS a tough one. It’s unfortunate when a client and designer can’t see eye to eye. I like that you do pinboards as an inspiration board beforehand to make sure you both are on the same page.

    Annie says:

    this advice is very timely, I’m having a small situation which isn’t directly related to the designer/client conflict but something similar – I shall definitely keep these wise words in mind! Also, I really like that illustration – it’d look great on a t-shirt!

    This is great! I love the checklist idea…this could work for the things I do for art as well. Fortunately, I haven’t had the experience of having to stop a job in the middle, but this is so good to know. Stuff happens!

    alicia says:

    thanks for posting these, they are so helpful! I love the pinboard and moodboard idea, it is so helpful. client needs to show designers what they like, we can’t read minds! I am currently dealing with a client where I am almost 3 revisions in and we seem to still be on two different planets regarding colourschemes.

    kiki says:

    OMG. I am in LOVE with this illustration. Katie, any chance you have prints available for purchase anywhere?? Couldn’t find a link on your site, but you’ve got a buyer here! 🙂

    stephanie says:

    This illustration bares an uncanny ressemblance to Tom Wesselmann’s Smoker 😉

    Ruth says:

    Jeez. This half sounds like a bad relationship, and could easily take the advice for it instead!

    Pink Ronnie says:

    It’s a hard one, but it definitely happens. I’ve had to cancel a couple of projects in my time. Loved both your advice.
    Ronnie xo

    Chrispy says:

    I thought the illustration was one of nubby twiglets. She does a great job sharing advice to aspiring and current designers on her blog too. But her style is less, flowery and glitter and a bit more bold and black/white/red.

    Amanda says:

    checklists is brilliant! totally going to do that… thanks!

    Abigail says:

    ooh. giving THEM timelines – genius.

    Ana says:

    I’m not a designer, but I love the advice column – it gives me tips I could apply to my work, as well.

    Moodboard swapping, giving clients deadlines and checklists… I think these will help tremendously!

    Lucy says:

    Hey ladies, any advice for desktop organization for projects and digital files?

    Brimmer says:

    Good web site you have here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

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