Every graphic designer seems to have a story about the clients from hell, but there are plenty of business owners out there who will trot out tales from the crypt about the graphic designers they hired for a job, only to be left with something that might be better than nothing – but not by much. As much as scammers do exist in those contracting with designers for work, there’s a lot of scams or just general ineptitude going around on the design side as well. Here are a few types to look out for:
The Bermuda Triangle Designer: You contract with the designer, make a deposit for the work, and that’s the last you ever hear from them. Your emails and text go unanswered, phone calls are not returned. Answers are vague if there are any answers given at all and there is little in the way of confirmation that work is progressing on your task at all. They disappear into the fog with your money, never to be heard from (by you, at least) again.
The Cheater: Presenting themselves as an experienced designer, they take your deposit for a custom built website and deliver something fiddled together out of free templates and a one-month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. They deliberately misunderstand the difference between custom and customized, and will often do a Bermuda Triangle – disappearing with your money in their pocket. Other cheaters also act as hostage takers. If you have given them access to your URL in order to build the site, they will change the passwords and hold it hostage until you pay up – they did the work, didn’t they?
The Hostage Taker: This designer can often make you think kindly of the other designers from hell in this list. Understand one thing – this designer never intended to build your site in the first place. Instead, they take your deposit, get your passwords, change all of them, and then issue a ransom demand while filling your site with malware, banned content, and viruses. They have your good name hostage, and there’s no guarantee that they will turn your site back over to you even if you do pay. Any reputable web designer will build a site in their own space, test and showcase it there, then upload it to your site.
The Friends and Family Plan: “Oh, you should use my friend/your cousin ____! They’re great with computers!” If anyone, even your spouse, even your own mother says this, do whatever you have to in order to change the subject. Slip and fall, run the car into a ditch, feign childbirth – just do it because this is an iceberg waiting to Titanic not only your business, but your interpersonal relationships as well.
The Upseller: It’s always something. “Well, I’m almost done, but!” And there goes another chunk of cash on something that the new website or logo or branding package just has to have or be doomed to failure. The job will end up taking twice as long and costing four times as much as you initially budgeted, and look like a train wreck plus a plane crash plus a 75 car pileup.
Five Mistakes to Avoid
- Not checking references. Don’t be afraid to ask for and check references. Talk to former clients about their experiences with the designer or design firm. If the designer refuses or stalls on providing references, that’s a big red flag.
- Not asking for a portfolio. Would you hire someone who claimed to be a contractor to build you a house without proof that they’d ever done more than play with Legos? Then why would you put your company’s hard earned money into a potential black hole? Portfolios can be put online, so even if your prospective designer is across the country, they can still provide you with examples of their work. If someone claims to be a graphic designer at Designhill, they should be able to provide you with links to their extant work.
- Not getting a contract. Get it in writing. When you have a designer, don’t start anything and don’t pay for anything unless you have a contract detailing what is being ordered, how much it will cost, and when it will be delivered. A contract is your legal protection, and if the designer defaults on any portion, that breach is actionable in civil court.
- Paying in cash, by check, or wire. Use PayPal or a credit card. Why? Because of the product is not delivered on time, you can file a dispute and get your deposit back. With a check, cash, or money transfer, there’s no dispute process. Once the check is cashed, the transfer picked up, or the cash in pocket, it’s gone.
- Not Googling the designer. Five minutes on Google can save you weeks of grief. Google the designers name, Google the names of companies they claim to have done work for. People who have had bad experiences air them on Yelp, The Rip-Off Report, and with the Better Business Bureau.
Above all, check that the designer’s work is current. The world of web development has changed a lot and so have internet users. Smaller devices like smartphones and tablet computers – which Pew Internet says almost half of Americans carry – have made web page development skew toward the fast-loading, mobile-friendly page. Picking a designer based on their most current work will keep you out of looking too Web 2.0, and give you someone who understands the importance of whitespace, which can increase reading comprehension by up to 20 percent according to Smashing magazine. With Statista’s data telling us that net users spend have an eight second attention span, and are so focused on the information they’re looking for that they only read about one-quarter to half the words on a page, you need a modern user viewpoint and direction to make your project stand out.