design advice {pulling the plug}…

im not sure if this is a taboo topic or not, but i have a question for all of you designers out there: have you ever had to pull the plug on a potential client?

if so, were there red flags? what was the final straw? & how did you execute the cut-off?

a couple of months ago i found myself in the deliciously decadent position of having all my stars align…

i had a lead on a local ff&e design job, an offer for an internship at one of my favourite interiors magazines & motivationally speaking i was back on track after a long hiatus…

i met with the client & was invited to submit a design for their guest room so that they could gauge if our styles were compatible…

that seemed fair enough, so i set about putting together a scheme having been shown the existing furniture {a bed & wardrobe}, paint colours & some imagery of rooms the client liked the style of…

there was no budget {yes, i asked} & the design brief was “high-end residential”…

anomadicabode_client moodboard

this was my first submission…

the whole process took about 12 hours {there were, of course, several iterations} & was submitted just over 24 hours after my initial client interview…

anomadicabode_client moodboard 02

i subsequently went back & tweaked some things to add a bit more colour into what was a particularly neutral scheme…

the feedback from the client was predominantly very positive, apart from wishing to change the overhead lighting {they wanted something cosier}, create more of a feature behind the bed & to disguise the exposed radiator …

but it quickly became apparent that even these changes were still not going to be enough to secure the role…

the client also wanted me to populate some photos they’d taken of the room to see if the pieces i’d chosen would work & i was provided with some plans, dimensions & imagery…

again, there were several iterations before i finalised my submission…

anomadicabode_client guest room 02

i suggested we build out the bedhead {also creating some storage behind} & add some artwork {though i generally think this should be something the client should be involved with as appreciation of art is a very personal thing}

anomadicabode_client guest room 03

the reading nook was kept simple & i provided three options to disguise the radiator, including built in cabinetry…

anomadicabode_client guest room 01

whilst the dressing area continued the clean, classic & elegant feel consistent throughout…

this submission took approximately 14 hours to pull together & involved some additional sourcing, image manipulation & drawing…

again the client feedback was positive & i felt proud of myself for persevering, especially considering the tight deadlines & moving goal posts…

but then the clincher came…

the client had obviously done some research based on my submissions, priced some of my options &, after telling me i had expensive taste {remember, there was no budget & the spec was “high-end”}, asked me to source cheaper options for some of the pieces i had proposed…

this is where i personally wanted to stop the merry-go-round & get off, but my boyfriend suggested i arrange another one-on-one meeting with the client as there’d clearly been some confusion: i thought the purpose of these boards was for the client to determine if our styles were compatible {this was never intended as a final, costed submission}

i politely declined the offer to sink more of my time into what was increasingly looking like a futile process & suggested we meet for coffee to discuss matters further including how the project would progress {timings, payment, logistics, etc.}, but this suggestion was met with a phone call from the client telling me that they still wanted me to supply cheaper options of certain pieces before they were willing to proceed…

& this, my friends, is the moment i pulled the plug: 2 weeks of back & forth & 26 hours worth of submissions later & my patience expired…

i was becoming more than a little suspicious that there wasn’t going to be any paid work at the end of this process & i determined my time & energy was better spent pursuing other options…

but i’m curious…

tell me please, what would you have done?

would you have gone the next step & provided budget options? or would you have pulled the plug on this project a lot earlier? if so, when?

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7 thoughts on “design advice {pulling the plug}…

  1. Sue if I knew how much I’d rely on my ESP (yes, extra sensory perception!) I’d have thought it was a joke. Inevitable that sixth sense is usually right. Some unscrupulous people think its perfectly ok to take ideas and walk away. It’s not uncommon for the value of design to be overlooked and as if your time, energy and knowledge is taken for granted and free. I think graphic designers are also susceptible to this type of client behaviour too.

    Chalk it up to experience and you’ll be forewarned for next time around.

    • thanks mary… i’m not bitter because it was a great learning experience for me on many levels, but it does make me ponder how some people sleep at night! 😉 it also reaffirms the need to listen to my inner voice! earlier next time though!

    • i’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people like this unfortunately… a case of looking for red flags & knowing how to weed them out! 🙂

  2. I’m not a designer, so forgive me if this is how things usually work, but she basically got free labor from you to get those amazing concept boards. I agree with Annie, the client likely had no intention of paying you and just wanted some free ideas to go out and shop for herself. You did the right thing by pulling the plug on this one. If there is “no budget” then she has more than enough money to pay you for your services. Which aren’t free. You honed them and they have a price tag. Always go with your gut on things like this! xo

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