We all know that feeling of dread, when a client seems to be moving the goalposts, or when a project just doesn’t seem to be coming together. How do you know when it’s time to cut your losses on a project and tell a client that the deal is off?

They don’t understand your skillset is a skillset:

Aesthetics is a matter of preference, skill and talent is not. You’ve invested years of hard work honing your abilities so that you can realize the client’s vision with flair. If you have the kind of client who offers to tweak your design or (worse still) thinks that all it takes to be a good designer is a copy of Photoshop, you’ve got exactly three choices: suck it up because you need the money (and resign yourself to the fact that the resulting car crash is never going to make it into your portfolio,) ditch the client and go where your skills will be appreciated, or encourage the client to try to realize their own design before you continue with the job. Once they’ve failed dismally, they’ll either be back with a new-found appreciation for your skills, or they’ll be too stubborn to admit defeat. Either way, you no longer have a difficult client on your books!

They mistake plagiarism for a brief

“I want my logo to look like the Starbucks/Nike/Facebook logo. Can you make it the same as that but with my name?” Doesn’t that just make your heart sink? You know that it’s not only illegal but completely unrewarding to try to work to a brief like this.

You can educate the client in one of two ways: you could try explaining that plagiarism will land them (and you) in a world of legal hurt. You might get a grudging acceptance of the fact, but you know they’re never going to be happy with a logo that doesn’t look just like the one they had in mind. Or you could explain that good design isn’t portable: use the logo as a jumping off point to discuss their needs.

If you take the second route you might just get a better-educated client who is enthusiastic about your willingness to realize their vision. But if they’re still intransigent, walk away!

The budget starts to evaporate

This is usually a sign of one of two things: the client is in financial trouble or they don’t appreciate your skillset. If you suddenly start being asked for spec work, or if you encounter feature creep and payment delays, ask yourself if you’re prepared to risk running this job at a loss.

If you don’t want to take a financial hit, talk to the client as soon as possible. If they’re in financial dire straits, work out a payment plan. Suggest shelving some of the work until they’re more financially secure. They’ll probably be relieved that you’ve come to an arrangement that buys them some time.

However, if design is just not a priority, consider whether you want this client. You’re likely to face exactly the same problems as you would with a client who doesn’t understand your skillset and you’ve got a choice between two equally bad alternatives: do a lousy job (which does your pride and your reputation no good) or make a loss on the deal (which does your bank balance no good.) It could be time to walk away.

“What we got here is failure to communicate…”

There are two sorts of clients who can’t communicate: one is easy to identify, the other less so.

Type number one just doesn’t answer emails, or gives you one-word replies to your carefully constructed questions.

Type number two takes longer to identify, but once you’ve seen them for what they are, run far and run fast because dealing with this type of client is an exercise in expensive insanity. These clients think they’re terrific communicators because they spend three hours on the phone with you (when all you needed was a five minute confirmation on something.) These clients send emails every time something new pops into their head, but are incapable of remembering what was agreed 24 hours ago. These clients will tell you nothing but at great and painful length. There’s nothing much you can do about a client like this. It starts to become a painful process of billing them for unproductive hours which does nothing for your reputation or your pride. Consider walking away.

Biting the bullet — how to say goodbye

Depending on your working relationship it’s sometimes as straightforward as not accepting any further commissions from this person. If you’re in contract you’ll probably have to see it out but insure yourself against any loss to your finances or your reputation: bill fairly but comprehensively based on the amount of time the client takes up, and make sure your name is not on any work that you’re not 100% happy with.If the is acting unreasonably, send a politely worded letter explaining why you can’t continue to work for them: you can say that you don’t have the resources to do the sort of job that they require and suggest that they use another designer. If the client has breached their contract or acted abusively, also terminate the relationship in writing, stating your reasons clearly.

It’s always a painful experience, breaking up with a client, and it’s hopefully not one you’ll need to go through very often. But ending the relationship on a cordial note is both classy, and good for business.

About: Raja loves writing abt webdesign, web development and SEO. He believes in green living and suggests everybody to recycle mobile for making the environment greener.