How to lose all your design clients right now

How to lose design clients

1. Don’t return their calls for at least a week

Don’t be fooled by thinking that when a client calls you about something, they are actually in a hurry to get a task done. They’ll understand how important it is that you fix that flat tire on your motorcycle, go for a quick ride, and then finish that movie you started a few days ago. When you do finally call them back be sure to remind them they need to follow your example and prioritize their life.

2. Finish their projects at least a day late

Clients always give you deadlines that are a few days early because they know you will give it to them late anyway. Three or four days late may be pushing it, but finishing a project a day late isn’t really that big of deal. (Do you have a client who’s really pushy and demands their projects be finished on time? Tell them they don’t know anything about the design industry and you have more important things to do.)

3. Tell them you hate their current logo or identity

Clients always appreciate your professional input when it comes to decisions they have made about their current identity. Make sure you tell them every little thing that might be wrong with their company’s identity, logo, and design. This works especially well with new clients whose trust you have yet to gain.

4. Choose only a few hours a day to be available

Your clients will understand that you are a freelancer and therefore, you choose your hours. Let them know that if they have a problem at any time of the day other than from 1-4 pm, they’ll just have to wait until the next day (or Monday if it’s a weekend) to tell you their problems.

5. Follow the one-week-old email rule

Every good designer looking to get rid of their clients knows the “one-week-old” email rule. No client expects their emails to be returned sooner than within one week’s time. Explain to them that if we were still using the pony express, they would have to wait even longer. They should thank you for a quick response when you follow the one-week-old rule.

6. Bill your clients for time you spend on twitter or other social media

In today’s busy lifestyle of twitter, facebook, digg, and other social media sites, clients have come to accept that, as a designer, you will be spending countless hours a day doing, well, nothing online. Be sure to bill the client for what has come to be known as “cyberslacking”. It’s just part of the job. If you would like to include these details on your invoice, it will help with a more rapid loss of clientele.

Want more? Have a listen.

7. Let them know you work in your pajamas and at your kitchen table

Be sure to let your clients (especially the new ones) know that you don’t even bother to change out of your pajamas in the morning before you get going on their projects. In fact, to be more effective, you may want to let them know that sometimes you sleep in, do your work from bed, or while watching your favorite movie. This will assure them they are getting the least possible out of their freelance designer. They’re sure to drop you! (If that doesn’t work, start up charging them for your morning coffee.)

8. Tell them their ideas are worthless

When a client approaches you with an idea on how to make something better, explain to them that you went to school (or at least took a few community classes) and know way more than they ever could about how their company should look. Design is the only business where the customer is never right.

9. Let them know “that’s just not your job”

It’s possible your client may ask your opinion on the best internet hosting service or printer around. Be sure to give them a detailed explanation outlining why it is not your responsibility as a designer to help them with other aspects of the project. Let them know you are simply a designer and “that’s just not your job”. (Be sure to spend lots of time explaining over the phone so you can bill them for it later too.)

10. Ask them not to call too early because you’ll be sleeping in (oh and not on the weekend either)

Make sure your clients don’t inconvenience you by calling during the early hours of the day, on the weekend, national and state holidays, your birthday, mother’s day, april fool’s day, Ash Wednesday, and any day you just don’t feel like working. They will admire you for your boldness.

What other tips can you add to the list for all those who are looking to lose their freelance design clients?

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.


  1. haha! Love the approach you have taken in writing this. This is great and applies to many other fields of work as well. Thanks for the advice. I will pass it on.

  2. Love the tongue-in-cheek humor! I think we all need to be reminded about the consequences of slacking off! Thanks!

  3. Interestingly I’ve known some people actually do some of these things and not realise the problems with it!

  4. this doesnt work, I only lost 5 clients 🙁

  5. I’m going to try these today! Thanks, Preston!

  6. hahaha, that’s a refreshing read to start to my day!

    #11 Pass a comment to them on handing over the finished product, that usually all your work goes onto your portfolio, but in this case you’d rather not advertise that you did this particular one…

  7. you forgot – swear in every possible email and communication…[comment edited for profanity – sorry Dan]

    or is that a bit too far? may explain my restraining orders…


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