I’ve been a freelance designer for well over a decade and have worked with many clients. These relationships have been varied: some phenomenal, some functional, and a few… failures. In thinking about what makes some more successful than others it is clear to me that, just as with any relationship, the rules you establish at the beginning can be very hard to change later. As a freelance designer, you are your only advocate. Be clear about your rules, communicate well, and communicate often.

The 10 Commandments below, adapted for Clients, will provide the much needed guidelines which, if followed, will make all of you the exceptional Clients we know you can be. The ultimate goal is always to have a relationship of mutual respect for one another’s time, skills and knowledge.

These struggles are not unique to my path as a designer so I reached out to ten of the most talented freelance designers and lettering artists I know to each select and illustrate one commandment. These are people that I believe work carefully, deliberately and deliver the best work a Client could ask for.
Title Artwork by Nim Ben-Reuven nimbenreuven.com
– 1 – Thou Shall Have No Other Designer But Me
Dear Clients, When we work hard and give you lovely design files, please do not change them without us. Do not pass them off to your cousin’s roommate for future updates or hire a different illustrator to emulate the style we developed for you.
Artwork by Craig Ward wordsarepictures.co.uk
– 2 – Thou Shall Not Covet Design Done On Spec
Dear Clients, We would never ask you to do work for free. All work, including treatments, sketches, mockups, and concepts have value. No one goes to a bakery, asks for a custom made cake, and then says they’d like to eat it before they decide if they want to pay for it. 
Artwork by Ryan Hamrick ryanhamrick.com
– 3 – Thou Shall Not Use the Word ‘Exposure’ In Vain
Dear Clients, As it turns out, “exposure” does not pay our rent and we cannot use “increased followers” to buy coffee or to cover health insurance. This is not an acceptable form of compensation and we both know it.
Artwork by Lauren Hom homsweethom.com
– 4 – Respect the Weekend and Keep It Holy
Dear Clients, No Monday deadlines. As freelancers, it is often expected that we
never stop working, but please respect that we, too, would like to be off the clock on
the weekend.
Artwork by Juan Carlos Pagan carlospagan.com
– 5 – Thou Shalt Not Use Opposing Adjectives to Describe thy Project
Dear Clients, Do not set us up for failure. Please be clear about your values, your mission, and who your audience is. Do not ask us to make something for you that is both “whimsical” and “edgy” at the same time. This isn’t a thing.
Artwork by Joseph Alessio josephalessio.com
– 6 – Honor thy Designer’s Expertise So thy Project May Be Pure and Wise
Dear Clients, When giving feedback, avoid giving design direction. This is why you hired us; it is what we do, and we are good at it. Instead try to speak to ways in which the design isn’t fulfilling its ultimate aim and we will fix it.
Artwork by It's A Living itsaliving.nyc
– 7– Thou Shall Not Request Work Be Completed “Yesterday, hahaha!”
Dear Clients, Unless you can send us the project request “Last month, hahaha!” then this is not helpful. And it isn’t funny. If you want to be funny please send a good dog meme, and then give a timeline that reflects reality.
Artwork by Chris Piascik chrispiascik.com
– 8 – Provide Final Content That Is Final
Dear Clients, Whenever possible please do not change the name of your company after we finish your logo, please do not rewrite your copy after we’ve done your lettering. These are not changes they are a redesign. When a redesign is unavoidable, please expect to compensate accordingly.
Artwork by Isabel Urbina Pena isabelurbinapena.com
– 9 – Hold Sacred All Invoices to 30 Days
Dear Clients, Surely if we can get your project done on time, you can write a check in 30 days. Just saying.
Artwork by Alex Trochut alextrochut.com
– 10 – Thou Shall Not Consult With thy Neighbor’s Wife for Design Feedback
Dear Clients, Random opinions and personal preferences alone are not useful. Unless your neighbor’s wife is a designer who sat in on our meetings and read the brief then we don’t want to hear it. If you feel a focus group is necessary then let’s do that together. But your mom is not a focus group.
Artwork by Dirty Bandits dirtybandits.com
Written by Annica Lydenberg of Dirty Bandits and illustrated by Nim Ben-Reuven, Craig Ward, Ryan Hamrick, Lauren Hom, Juan Carlos Pagan, Joseph Alessio, It’s a Living, Chris Piascik, Isabel Urbina Pena, Alex Trochut and Dirty Bandits. We share these with you because we love you and we want you to be the best Clients you can be.

Please help us help you.
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