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Identify Control Freak Clients

If you are aware of the issues freelance designers face while dealing with careless unorganized clients, you should read up these indications for a control freak. The last thing any freelance graphic designer wants is to get stuck into a project where his creative work is being controlled and manipulated by someone with minimal or no understanding of how design projects are executed.

Being hired by a bossy or moody control freak is nothing short of marriage. There is a lot of similarity in marriage and client dealing, and therefore, you should know how to identify them in the very beginning; possibly in the first meeting.

The following points should be kept in mind but please know that they alone do not pose a threat to your peace of mind, but collective, or even two or three together; they can be your worst nightmare ever.


1. Jack of all. . .

Jack of all

Nothing makes you feel worse than working with a client who only needs you for your equipment.

If there is a client who claims to know and understand every detail of the project you are supposed to work on then beware; you will be having a pretty rough time in the hands of that client. You won’t be able to use your own thinking, ideas, creativity or anything except for the Photoshop and Mac which is exactly what that client would want you to do. Better run while you can, isn’t it!?


2. Constantly Complains About The Previous Designers

Constantly Complains

It’s never a good idea complaining about people in their absence, least of all about those who have invested their time and energy in order to solve a particular problem for you.

 If a seemingly potential client can’t get over the complains he has with other designers and keeps saying that “they don’t just get it”, it is probably because he’s a hard-to-please, ever complaining nuisance who cannot be made happy unless you apply the art of reverse psychology or something. Chances are he’ll disagree with either your method or its outcome almost 90 percent of the time.


3. Always Unhappy With The Contract

Always Unhappy With The Contract

The control freaks like to get their way at all costs and won’t hesitate in pointing out how many things are wrong in the contract you make.

Even if you agree to re-evaluate the terms, they will not like anything you come up with. Several visits to the lawyer and hours wasted are in order once you come into contact with such a person. Two words – stay away!


4. Calls 3 times a day

Calls 3 times a day

Staying in contact with your client is one thing and attending his calls every few hours is another.

This client will want to know updates of how the project is moving by the minute. How is a normal designer supposed to concentrate on work if the client just doesn’t let him and keeps interrupting with unnecessary communication?

It would be easier if you tell them in the beginning that phone calls are not acceptable for more than a certain number of times in a week. Better yet, tell them which day they can reach you on phone so you both can have something relevant to discuss.


5. “Help” In Your Work

Help In Your Work

Ah, this happens to be the worst habit of control freaks when they try to micro-manage every detail of your work.

In this scenario, the client would want to sit with you and practically supervise you while you work. For them it’s time saving and perfectionism. For you, it sucks.

So these were some of the most typical identifiers of a control freak client. Hope these will save you from getting stuck in an unpleasant confrontation with them. Do mention other points you know of about such people and help your fellow designers.


  1. Paper Acrobat On January 16th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Very good advice. I have dealt with clients from hell in the past so know exactly where you are coming from.

  1. Bruce Koren On January 16th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    What about the client that comes to your office with cut and pasted paper layouts?

    Mine wanted to sit over my shoulder and tell me what to do on the computer.

    I asked why we were using his ideas when he hired me because he liked my work.

    He didn’t have an answer. (“Um, because I’m a control freak.”). So I fired him.

    I think in the end it was the best solution. I’ve certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of telling the story and urging designers to nip trouble in the bud. It only gets worse with time.

    Bruce Koren

  1. Arminé Sef. On January 17th, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Well, unfortunately i have dealt with such freaks in the past too… worst is when they disregard the given and signed contract and try their best to sleaze in extra work here and there, AND NOT PAY AT ALL till they “get what i want and my money’s worth!” … aka the complete final files!

    THUS the designer ends up paying a lawyer’s fee far greater than the actual amount to be earned !! :(

  1. Charlie B. Johnson On January 19th, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Bruce and Armine, all designers learn their lesson with time. But as creatives, we should be observant enough to utilize other people’s experiences to avoid unnecessary trouble. The unpaid services clients expect from us usually become a headache over time, so the best way to deal is probably to mention the exact number of times a design can be revised into the contract.

    However, since there are many who even disregard the legal documents, it’s imperative that you learn to be discreet over time. I totally agree with Bruce Koran’s method in this regard. Just nip trouble in the bud.

    Thank you for reading the post, guys! :)

  1. Marshall On January 19th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I have dealt with people sitting over my shoulder trying to direct my every move on a design project. To say that it was annoying is an understatement.

  1. ER On January 21st, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Almost as bad is the client who doesn’t know what they want, or even worse, are wishy-washy on the goals/purpose. In design/marketing consulting, client training and expectation setting is a more important skill than building the message. What is the solution?

  1. Charlie B. Johnson On January 22nd, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Spot on, ER! Since most of our clients are non-designers, it becomes our duty to first introduce them to the process of designing and then deliver what they require (pay) us to do. Check out this post I wrote a couple of months ago:

    To be honest, it’s sometimes nothing less than a blessing that your client has to rely solely on you for his design project. Otherwise, mostly, graphic designers have more issue working for other creative minded people (as they almost always have expectations that are hard to cope with!).

  1. R. Anderson On January 25th, 2013 at 3:00 am

    oh man, even calling thrice in a week is moreee than enough…. and i particularly dislike those who disregard every term in my contract and still don’t wanna hire another designer. They keep on insisting on their own terms and simply get on your nerves till you give in.

  1. R. Anderson On January 25th, 2013 at 3:02 am

    I think the people who need a graphic designer should read such articles more. This will save both parties a lot of sweating.

  1. Nick L On January 31st, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Good article, it made me laugh! So true.

    Clients who use buzzwords to try and explain a solution to you are hard to deal with. “Dial up the cool factor by 25%!”, or “Make it pop!” are common in this field. Although, I often find it’s better to do what the client asks, because you can spend more time arguing about changes than it takes to make the revisions.

  1. Vicky On February 3rd, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Dealing with the unorganized client will ruin our day. It is wasting time, and the biggest problem is our reputation. :)

  1. CLIP Graphic Design Nottingham On June 21st, 2013 at 5:57 am

    A really good article. As dealing with clients myself I can relate to this a hell of a lot. I enjoyed reading the ‘call 3 times a day’ section as this has happened to me on many occasions. Keep up the good work.

  1. Wordpress Website Designer On September 7th, 2013 at 6:46 am

    There is nothing worse than a unorganised client, especially if they cant seem to sort out your payments on time!

  1. DAB On September 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am

    There’s nothing worse than a client that constantly pesters you nearly everyday of the week. Great blog post, thanks for sharing.

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