Baby, Don’t Do Me Like That

Ever had a client that turned out to be a nightmare? Oh, I’m not talking about a client that refuses to pay an invoice, or who is mean or belligerent. I’m simply talking about the client who just doesn’t know what they want. It’s not necessarily their fault. But for an artist, it can be torture trying to extract some decision out of them.

I had one person hire me to design a mascot character for a label on a product she had developed, and she basically wanted an image of a baby. Now, what I usually tell my clients is that they can give me very strong direction, so that I can give them exactly what they want, or they can give me creative freedom, but they’ll have to trust my judgement (within reason of course). But what I can’t do is continue to create one design after the other, because if the client doesn’t know what they want, that can become an endless process which never finds resolution. So I gave this woman my spiel about how I tend to work. She assured me she would never be one of “those” clients.

So I gave her a quote, she gave me a deposit, and I got to work. She told me she had liked a character she had seen on my website, and she wanted something “like that”. Okay, no problem. Except when she sees the roughs, she realizes that’s not exactly what she wants. Okay, no problem. So I start going in different directions. No, still not what she wants. Of course, now she’s not sure she knows what she wants. So this turns into the very kind of situation I had described, and was assured by the client would not be he case.

I kept creating designs, some of them I did as almost finished illustrations (in the hopes that seeing it in color would give her a better idea of the finished product), but still, no soap. Now I’m beginning to regret taking on this project, because at this point I’m losing money. Finally, she suggests that we just call it quits and I can keep the deposit. Even though the deposit doesn’t nearly cover my work, I was more than happy to get away from this gig.

I’m sure this situation isn’t unique to artists. Probably anyone having to deal with a customer in any business has had similar experiences. What would you have done in such a situation?

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