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Whistles and bells

"I don’t like your logo. It doesn’t have any whistles and bells. If you are so good at brands why isn’t your logo more exciting?”

Erm… *takes a deep breath and goes to make a cup of tea before responding*

I love reading all the success stories on LinkedIn. Celebrating the wins and the great client feedback. All that positivity is great. Real-life isn’t always like that though is it? You don’t win every job and there are definitely some clients you just can’t help. Or shouldn’t.

I’m lucky that most of my business comes from recommendations or via the networking groups I belong to. But I do get a few enquiries through my website or social channels. They usually start with the line, “I’m looking for a new logo, how much will it cost?” I’ve got pretty good at responding to these now. I have a shortlist of questions that I go back with that are aimed at establishing if it’s a serious enquiry or not. Most don’t respond. And that’s fine. I don’t follow these up. Some do and have led to some really good work and ongoing relationships.

A few weeks ago I had an enquiry that seemed genuine. It was a request for a brand for a new startup via my website so we did the familiar freelance dance… I’ve put a rough, shortened transcript below because, for me, this sums up what freelance life is really like. It’s not all LinkedIn high fives. It’s patience. Bucket loads of patience, a lot of head shaking, and a lot of swearing. Sorry, dad.

Client: “How much will it cost?”

Me: “What is ‘it’ that you are looking for?”

Client: “I need to know how much it will cost before I can tell you what it is. It’s highly confidential.”

Me: “If you give me an indication of your budget I can tell you what I can achieve for this.”

Client: “Just put me together a quote for all the usual stuff.”

Me: “I’ll need to know a bit about your business to know what you might need.”

Client: “I don’t have time for that, I’m really busy.”

Me: “If you would like to come back to me when you have a little more time to discuss your project I would be happy to try and help. We can have a chat if that is easier for you.”

Client: “Loads of other designers have just come back to me with a price. Can you send me some examples of your work so I can see if you are any good?”

Me: “I have a lot of examples of other brands I have created on my website that you can take a look at. These will give you a good indication of my style and experience. However, if you have already spoken to lots of other designers, I’m sure one of them will be suitable for your project.”

Client: “I just want a quote and some examples. I don’t like your logo. It doesn’t have any whistles and bells. If you are so good at brands why isn’t your own logo more exciting?”


Now I clearly checked out of this conversation several emails ago. This is not the kind of client I can help. But the sheer ridiculousness of it made me carry on just for my own entertainment. And so that I would have another good story to tell my dad. He’s a logical man. Having worked in logistics all his working life it baffles him when I regale him with my freelance tales! I’m sure he thinks I’m exaggerating half the time…

Me: “I’m sorry you don’t like my logo. Did you read my freelance promise of ‘Design without the drama’? I deliberately kept my own brand simple to reflect that. If you take a look at a few of the branding projects I have worked on you will see plenty of whistles and bells and a few fireworks too. You can also read the stories behind these brands and see what my clients have to say about working with me.”

Client: ”It’s really boring. I didn’t look at your website.”

Me: “Ah, I’m sorry, I assumed as the enquiry came via my website that you had taken a look and liked my approach. Here’s a link to a project that I think you might like. And here’s a link to my freelance promise so that you know what I would be like to work with.”

Client: “I don’t have time to go through every designer’s website. I just want a quote.”

Me: “The quote for the project that you don’t have time to tell me about? Let me save you a bit of time then as I know you are busy. I’m not going to be the right designer for you but thank you for getting in touch. Good luck with your new venture.”

Client: “You will never stay in business if you won’t even do a simple quote. I could have put a lot of work your way. I have loads of good contacts and I use designers all the time. I can’t believe you won’t do the quote. I thought freelancers needed the work.”


So, the moral of this story, there are some people you just can’t help. The trick is to weed them out as quickly as possible with the minimum amount of fuss. This is a pretty extreme example but it’s certainly not the only one like this that I’ve had over the last four years.

My design style isn’t for everyone. My approach isn’t for everyone. And that is why I have put so much effort into my website so that anyone who lands on it will know exactly what they can expect from me. That way, I don’t waste their time. And they don’t waste mine. If you are after freelance design without the drama (whistles and bells optional) I’m very happy to chat. Be warned though, if you want a quote, I am going to ask you what it is you want a quote for! Crazy, right?


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