The Graphic Designer From Hell

A businessman I know recently contracted a graphic designer to produce a logo and web banner for his new website. He requested a fixed-quote and was quoted $600 for both logo and banner.

The businessman had set a deadline for the designs and paid the designer the required 50% deposit to commence work.

When it came time to hand over the designs the designer informed the businessman that ‘a few’ extra hours been needed to complete the job and that the businessman would need to finalise a ‘new’ balance before the designs would be provided to him.

The final ‘new’ balance owing on the invoice totalled an incredible addition of $1,450.00 +GST.  The invoice breakdown was an extra $1,150.00 for the ‘few extra hours’ plus the $300.00 original balance still owing. Needless to say he disputed the invoice and refused to pay the designer such a large sum for what he called ‘unauthorised hours.’ And needless to say the designer refused to hand over the logo and web banner for his website.

On checking the paperwork he discovered the designer had used a cost estimate form instead of a quote form to quote on. He sought legal advice and fortunately for him the designer didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. The email communication logs clearly showed he’d specifically stated he only agreed to proceed on the basis of a fixed-price quote.  These terms had also been agreed to by the designer in the same email correspondence at the time.

As the dispute dragged on the businessman realised whichever way he went it was going to be a costly exercise. He did the math and decided the more costly route would be continuing to battle with the graphic designer and hold his web design people up. Believing the most efficient and cost-effective way through was to pay the graphic designer, he did.

The businessman wound up paying the designer and getting the designs to his web people on time. And the designer happily pocked the extra $1,000.00 and is still in business today… out there.. some where…

There are a few morals to this story. One is that sometimes in business wise decisions can at times leave our dignity and ego a little bruised. Another is the importance of checking all large and fine print when signing up with a new service provider.  And particularly one whose reputation we have no way of confirming.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? What do you think you would have done had you been in this businessman’s shoes? I’d love to know what you think.

Copyright 2012 Gaye Crispin

Gaye Crispin has a Debt Collection and Credit Management Agency in Sydney, Australia and collects Gruesome Business Stories from her clients on a daily basis.

17 Comments on “The Graphic Designer From Hell”

  1. Hello, my apologies for my forwardness but I have used your article (credited to you of course)
    for my blog.

    If you wish me to take it down no problem but it is a perfect story.

  2. I think both people are at fault. One, the designer for quoting so low for a job like this, and two, the business person for not doing their homework and raising an eyebrow at such low prices. If the client has a low budget like this example, better to go with somebody like and getting the most bang for the buck and still follow fair trade.

    Besides that, from personal experience, unless I was grossly misinformed as a service provider I eat my “extra hours” that I put into a job if I didn’t account for them initially.

    I don’t expect the client to pay for my mistakes, but I also state clearly that X price will get you X revisions and X number of mockups and or changes. That way I’m protecting myself if the client decides to change directions completely from what was originally planned for.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Oscar,

      Good points all round and particularly like you terminology of ‘eat your extra hours.’ That’s integrity in business. I agree with that principle 100%. Thank you for sharing your obvious experience and valuable expertise in this area Oscar, I really appreciate it.

      And I hope you’re having a great week,


  3. Cole Ruddick says:

    I’ve heard of stories like this from several past clients. There’s been more than once I ‘quoted’ a job too low, especially when first getting started. The only right thing to do is complete the job at the quoted rate. On the final invoice, I note the additional hours worked at $0.00 but never ask for the additional money. My clients have always seemed pleased with the work done – and that I don’t mind going the extra to get it done well. Truly enjoyed your article – thanks for sharing!

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Cole,

      Great response Cole, thank you. I like the approach you adopted when first getting started. This makes a whole lot of sense to me. I am sure your clients were happy with that. And I guess it’s how we learn what our real prices should be. It also addresses that clients shouldn’t have to pay for a business owners learning curve.

      I hope you are having a great week,


  4. ladyislay says:

    I had an unfortunate incident with an audio tech that I hired to record an audition CD. I rented a venue (no local studios had a grand piano) and an accompanist. We spent a day recording. While reviewing & editing the tracks, the tech found an unremovable hum in all of the recordings. He suggested we re-record, offering his services for free. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to pay the accompanist or venue again, so the entire project was halted, and I was left with a “credit” for future services. Just a few years later, the tech passed away.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Thank you for your story. That was a real shame. I wonder why the sound guy didn’t do a decent sound check first? A friend of mine had a similar experience with a film maker. Sounds like it was a costly exercise for you and very unfortunate. I hope you did eventually get to record the CD and that all turned out well. Wishing you every success, Gaye.

  5. METROVIKING says:

    Do u know how many business men and woman have taken advantage of me in my long carrer? Far more than u could ever realize. I think if you dig deeper – the corporate world is far more corrupt than any artist. I would say by leaps and bounds the contract, freelance world is full of cheap, disrespectful clients. I could provide up to 12 emails from this year of clients beating me up over price, trying to get a little more when they what they paid for ~ but then again maybe its the artist who make the freelance world harder. Ha!

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi and sounds like you have had your fair share of difficulties and am sorry to hear that. Maybe the best thing to do is get an upfront payment or hefty deposit to avoid these issues in the future. All the best, Gaye

  6. As a designer myself, I’m appalled to hear stories like this. I have never worked a day in my life because I actually love what I do. To answer your question though, I would have also come to an agreement with the designer, paid, got my material and then filed suit against him.

    The fact is that signing a contract in the beginning is the best way to avoid situations like this. I will always give first time clients a contract no matter how small the project. If someone’s not willing to do that I don’t think they’re professional or serious enough to work with.

    On the flip side of this story, being the designer, I have been burned by clients before. I have done work and then not received payment. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. This is also why I require 50% payment up front in case that’s all I get.

    Thanks for sharing the story Gaye. I’m very sorry to hear about your friend, I hope in the future he has better experiences.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Timothy,

      You sound like you run a very clean ship. Good for you. Yes, I think coming to an agreement with the designer was probably the smartest way through in this case. And yes, even though there will always be serial delinquents and scoundrels who hide behind corporate veils and fleece the unsuspecting, having a contract is always better than not having one. I hear you about designers being fleeced regularly too. We have many graphic designer clients we are called in to collect for on a regular basis. There are just as many horror stories coming from their side of the table. I like this, “I will always give first time clients a contract no matter how small the project. If someone’s not willing to do that I don’t think they’re professional or serious enough to work with.” That’s a good rule of thumb you have there, and you could do a great blog on that! 🙂

      Thank you for your input Timothy and I hope your week is great,


  7. I am still recovering for having my own business and being cheated by rotten professionals many times. Can’t even go back there in a conversation without getting sick!

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Sally, I am so sorry to hear that. I know how this sort of thing effects business owners. Scoundrels have no concept of the human aspect, and if they do they just don’t care. I hope you are enjoying what you are doing nowadays. You sure are rocking favors and the empire 🙂 xx

  8. Gregory Jackson says:

    Going through something similar right now. However I’m not paying for any part of the service which by the way I’ve never seen the work, or been given the opportunity to QC the work. And similar to your story depicted, questionable merchant has now ask for more money to complete the project I quite frankly own and payed fixed price for. I’m hoping to settle favorably in the next 10 days with full refund. This from a person who I thoroughly researched, and mistakenly had belief in. One just never knows but I’m not the type to back down or accept unscrupulous behavior if at all possible. My suggestion is to always save all communications, emails ect. to protect yourself. I do believe there are good people who provide excellent and honest service. I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for them. I will be better prepared this time around especially after reading your horror story. Thank you for sharing.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      Hi Gregory,

      Thanks for your reply. Very good advice about saving all communication. I also think all phone conversations that involve any change in the project whatsoever demand a quick confirmatory email. I agree with you, there are good service providers around because I have some good ones I have been outsourcing to for years. Although I must admit I did have to kiss a lot of frogs before I was able to know I had a team I had in confidence in. I wish you all the best over the next 10 days with this situation Gregory, and hope the it settles favourably for you.

      Wishing you a great week,

  9. Jason flaugh says:

    Worse case, I would have sent the designer an estimate for the legal costs and damages I would have been seeking. First thing I would do is make sure the contract was solid and understood all terms; this makes sure it is fair for all parties. If the problem occurred, I would have been willing to pay a “reasonable” rate for the 3-hours, maybe $3-400. Look at opportunity cost, what you give up by fighting the fees and delaying the project and you realize not paying would probably cost more. Pay, get logo, file suit to recoup losses later if needed.

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