Posted by on Jul 16, 2012 in How To, My Business Adventures, Webdesign | 0 comments

As I’ve been teaching dozens upon dozens of up-and-coming graphic design students through my classes, I’ve been wanting to create an article with tips about the lessons I learned the hard way about this business. Only problem is I can’t seem to get my thoughts in order about my list. One day something inspirational hits me and then I think, “OH this would be an awesome topic to tell my students” and then the next day I’d forget what my thought was.

Well, let me try post these ideas up as they come to me and then collect them all into some collection when I have them all written down? Here’s the first one:


Sometimes…generosity is NOT rewarded

What do you do when you’re WAY over the client’s intended budget?  Do you bill them outright for the overage?  Sure, that would be the best thing to do from a business standpoint. But other times, this isn’t the best idea – say for instance the client insisted they had a restricted budget and you decided to go ahead and try some new techniques to improve your own skill. What do you do then?

This has always been tricky. I’ve felt there were a few options afforded to me. For the sake of example let’s assume this was an agreed $3000 project.  But your final tally ended up around $6000, twice the agreed amount. Let’s just say in some instances it’s not really clear what pushed the scope up…but for the sake of example let’s say most of the extra time was spent because you were trying all kind of new CSS, JQuery or “responsive” design for this website (Stuff that could have otherwise been done easier and faster the old way; but who wants to keep doing the old way?) The client wanted the best and you gave it your all.

  1. Bill the client $6000 outright. Hopefully your contract is tight enough to support the fact that stuff happens. You’re covered. The client asked for a Civic and you delivered them a Cadillac. The client will never be happy that they’re paying more. You know right at the outset you’re in for a long heated discussion but in the end you’re likely to win because your contract was air tight and you’ve logged all your working time. I’ve tried these methods. I got paid for legitimate work I was owed. But in the end, the money might have felt nice padding my wallet, but as an artist the project was now tainted. The customer was upset and I no longer had a long term client result from this kind of situation. I traded future work for the benefit of a short term gain.
  2. Bill the arranged amount and let the customer know how much they’ve saved. You figure, well…let me be consider the extra time as a learning lesson for the next job. BUT I’m going to let my client know how much of a deal they’re getting. So you invoice for $3000 but you have a line item that says “Complementary time — $3000” They’ll be SO thankful, besides, they pay exactly the amount we agreed upon and see how much extra I put into their project. I’ve tried this method too. Didn’t work either, instead of intended result where my client worshipped at my feet thanking me for doing double the work intended on the site, instead, the client saw the overage amount as indication I lost control of my time and didn’t know what I was doing.
  3. Lie. If you plan to eat the time…just eat it. No need to rub it in their faces. You know in your heart they got away with nearly $3000 if the time they won’t even realize. But in this scenario you’re likely left with a thrilled client who may end up giving you future referrals and coming back to you time and time again for maintenance work. You may end up recovering that balance in the long run. Worse case scenario you can chalk this up as a record of this type of work and have a better justification for billing your next client closer to $6000.

Yes, there are cases where billing the client for overages are justified. Hopefully you’ve built a little padding room into your quotes and expressed this situation in your contract. You just need to decide which one of the scenarios works best for which client.

Anyone else had these experiences with client bills?