Freelancing Parents: Would You Ask?

Updated on September 26, 2015
M.S. asks from Boise, ID
12 answers

I'm a graphic designer and have been freelancing on and off throughout my entire career (too long to count, lets say 20+ years) but in the past six years since my son was born, I've taken a lot of time off and have had only a few clients each year.

Since my son is now in school full days, I've recently been pushing to gain back regular clients and I just learned a recent client has gone with another designer without telling me.

He seemed thrilled with my work and gave only one indication of being unhappy -- I had to have him purchase a very expensive font to work with his logo because the original designer did not give him a copy of the font. He refused to ask the original designer for it, wouldn't even let me ask for it, and was perturbed and didn't understand why I needed to buy the font. So clearly he's not well versed in the design process.

Regardless, it's bothering me that he went with another designer and I'd like to know why. I feel like he's probably a client I don't want anyway, but I'm feeling insecure as I get back into the field and want to make sure I'm not making avoidable mistakes.

So, would you ask this client what went wrong? I feel like it can't really be just about the font. Any designer would have to do the same thing unless they just happened to own the font. And I'm sure he'll have this same problem moving forward.

What can I do next?

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answers from Dallas on

You can't be all things to all people and this really applies in business! Let it go be glad he's gone


You can't be all things to all people and this really applies in business! Let it go be glad he's gone

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answers from Boston on

Don't let people who are clueless about advertising, graphics, design and other creative pursuits deter you or erode your self-confidence. My husband is a copywriter and you wouldn't believe how many people don't understand copyright law and intellectual property. They don't understand that he retains the copyright unless and until he signs it over to them. So, particularly for those who refuse to pay, we sometimes have to get tough and threaten legal action (and we've had to follow through on that threat many a time). Creative work can't be "repossessed" and sold to another client when the original client doesn't pay or or when a client repurposes the original work (using what you did for a brochure and then putting on their website, for example, if that wasn't in the contract). So when he doesn't even understand that the font has to be purchased from the person who designed it, it's like people who think they can download music for free or sell/buy pirated DVDs. This is the work product of the creative person/artist, pure and simple.

I'm not sure you'd learn anything by asking him, although you might leave the door open for future work by letting him know you're still speaking to him. But do you want that? I'm guessing he wouldn't ask the prior designer because he parted badly - maybe he didn't pay, and that's why the designer wouldn't turn over the font. That's the only leverage the designer had. Your client may also be going to someone cheaper, because he thinks "anyone can do" what you do. My husband sees that ALL the time - someone who wants a full screenplay written for $200, for example. These people don't understand what goes into the creative process, and they don't realize that you are much more than someone with clip art and a computer and the ability to change something from 11 pt to 12 pt type.

Move on. Your guy isn't going to get results because he doesn't respect the process or the expertise.

If you are looking for clients, my husband has had some good results with Thumbtack. You have to be careful because there are a ton of people looking for freebies or who don't pay or who don't really have a budget, or some who want to have 3 professionals do the work on spec and then only the "winner" gets paid. But there are a few gems out there.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

You win some.
You lose some.
That's the nature of the business.
Just let it go.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

let it go, hon.
i totally get it. ironically, it's my sensible sons who talk me down these days when i do this. when i teach a class and read the feedback forms, i'll get 99% glowing reports and 1 that's 'meh, it was okay', and THAT'S the one i fasten on and obsess about.
even though i know better.
most of us have no clue what graphic design entails. i sure don't. i'm sure i've done something parallel to people all through my life. a car mechanic encounters some weird quirk in my car that isn't easily fixable, so i go somewhere else. i'll never know if it was the mechanic, or my car, or just one of those things. but i'd be pretty hot under the collar if the mechanic hunted me down and demanded to know why i went elsewhere.
you can't corral potential clients or expect everyone to be happy with you. it could well be something completely outside of the issue- he doesn't like your voice, or he just found out that his favorite uncle ricardo has cancer, or your font issue was the 12th glitch he ran into that day and was just done.
go get a new client. this isn't about you. you're doing great.
and good luck with your freelance work!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I would not ask. Clients of any type are very fickle and often have no idea what goes into producing the product they are purchasing. You may find the site to be some comfort in knowing you're not alone. He may be mad about purchasing the font, he may be feeling ignored if you have not had enough time to dedicate to your clients. He may have a lower budget and went with someone cheaper. In the end, he is not likely to ditch his current designer to come back to you. And even if he did, the relationship would not be the same. What would you really gain from his answer? It could make you frustrated and angry with him, it could make you feel more insecure and thus less able to sell yourself well to new clients. Chalk it up to the fact that you two were not a good fit for *both* of you and move on. You will find new clients, just stay positive about your skills and stay focused on what you can do. Changing people's minds is not something you can do. Being a skilled designer is.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

This is just speculation, but I think it is possible that the font situation was enough. I'm assuming the best intentions on both sides and working within legal parameters.

I'm self-employed and have business expenses involving using resources to get work done for my clients. I do not ask my clients to provide my tools and supplies. That is part of my end of the job.

As a graphic designer, fonts fall under your work tools. If you don't have a font that a client wants you to use then you have two appropriate actions: 1 - purchase the font for your business, or 2 - politely decline the job because you don't have the tool required to do it.

The way you handled the scenario was like you were a friend who was doing someone a favor. In a situation like that it would have been fine to have your buddy pony up the parts he needed you to use, or to borrow something from another friend (original designer).

If you want to be a freelance professional, you have to operate more formally as a small business. Fonts are an operational expense.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

He probably wants someone who'll cut corners and cheat in his favor. Be glad he's gone.

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answers from Williamsport on

He was a recent client, so maybe he has no intention of sticking with one designer a long time. It could have been the font could find a diplomatic way to email him and ask..but. He might not feel obligated to answer, so don't let his non-answer make you feel worse! Also, do you REALLY want the truth? And if so, he may not give it. It was probably the font. He may feel like designers should have everything or he's spending large sums outside of their price. You're correct, he'll run into that issue again. Or he probably wants to try different designers.

I've never had a client announce when they are going to hire a different freelancer when I've done past art jobs. And if I get a new designer for my art website, I won't necessarily tell my old one first, but we don't communicate that often, so it's maybe not the same... Whether you ask or not, move forward with confidence in yourself and do not let this one lost client make you feel bad at all!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Sounds like you just picked this guy up, how long was he with his last designer? He sounds like he has commitment issues, ya know?

Sounds like it is him, not you. If you have the name of the other designer I would start by calling them. If they say yeah he was with me to three months and bolted it would show it is probably a pattern

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't think it hurts to ask at all. That is part of doing business in my mind. Gather information, even the negative information so you are more productive.

We run our own company, raw materials industry... plastics. Granted, it is different than freelancing but there are some things in common.

We sell truckloads and up to rail car loads of materials to several customers regularly. We also warehouse prime inventory in order to service the smaller business who cannot purchase or use a full truckload (42,000 pounds) of material. Many manufacturers will not ship less than a truckload and there are plenty of customers out there who cannot use a full truckload of material at once. We may break down a truckload and sell a box or 2, etc as needed. A box runs around 2000 pounds.

SO, in the event someone we do business with regularly does not re-order on the time frame that they normally do, yes... we contact them. We ask about their business (sometimes it is slow and that is expected). Our business follows the oil market and we forecast pricing increases and decreases. We base our purchasing on these facts as well. Sometimes a new competitor comes into the area and slashes our prices to get in the door but does not have a product comparable to ours which in turn screws up machinery, etc.

When that happens 9 times out of 10 when someone purchased from someone else to save a buck, they end up calling us back because my husband has been in the industry for over 20 years and knows it inside and out. Part of the service we offer is his knowledge. He can tell someone what type of product to use that will not mess up their machinery OR what not to use OR if they are running material too hot or too cold in order to get the end product they are looking for at the prime quality to pass inspections.

So bottom line, we ask those questions in order to keep ourselves grounded and in reality and to keep customers. I will admit there are some customers I wish would go away and do business elsewhere. The money we make off them is good but not worth the effort we put into it for them. Basically, some purchasing agents just want us to do their job for them and it gets very technical with MSDS, FDA COA, NAFTA and Federal documents.

Providing good customer service is key. We go above and beyond for customers and our vendors and it has paid off well. Every customer wants to believe that they are your most important customer. When we are in front of a customer... that customer is the only customer we have at that moment.

So yes, if I were you I would ask this past client just to find out for myself if it was something I did wrong in his mind. Sometimes it is simply personality differences. Don't assume you did anything wrong. It sounds like he is hard to please and did not understand what you have to do in order to do your job well.

Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I would definitely ask - but do it via email - much less confrontational and easier to respond to by the former client. I'm in financial services and I just lost a huge client (to my company, I'm salaried) and when the client called to tell me I asked her if I could have done anything differently. She said she'd think about how to answer that. She never did. So don't expect an answer.

But let me give you an amateur's perspective - Fonts can be owned by someone? who knew? I had no idea and if my new graphic designer told me I had to buy an expensive font I'd have been pretty surprised. Did you suggest finding a font that was similar? If not there's nothing you can do. A couple of things could have happened - 1- your client wanted you to pirate the font illegally, 2 - your tone with the client didn't make him feel warm and fuzzy (his fault or yours - who knows - perception is their reality) 3- you did everything right and handled it super-professionally but the client was just a jerk.

Move on. Send an email saying you use every opportunity to grown and learn professionally and would love feedback as to why you lost his business. And then leave it alone. Some people are jerks. (Sometimes we can be that person too.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

If you ask what went wrong with the hopes of fixing something to get him back,then yes I say go for it. It shows you care about his business and you are a go getter instead of someone waiting for it to come to you.

I have quit various things (or people) because a competitor has given me attention and the original service person did not. For example a realtor may have thought I was a sure thing because I used them in the past and relied on the auto emails that gets sent out. I said your auto email get sent 48 hours after a house is listed. He said no, it goes out ever 15 minutes from when it hit the market. Needless to say, I called the listing agent of a house that I found on my own. I did get an auto email from my ex realtor's company 40 hours later about the house I was already in escrow as a 'new listing' because the auto email is just not the same. He clearly did not have the time to care and at that time some houses were getting offers within hours of being listed.

1 mom found this helpful
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