Youtube Facebook Twitter Deviantart My feed Feed directly to your inbox

What do you do when a client refuses to fill a brief?

25 January 2011

Articles, Ask me, Freelancing

What do you do when a client refuses to fill a brief?
Choose your language / Elige tu idioma:englishespañol

Some days ago I received an interview by email, somebody asked me about the way I write my briefs when designing by order. At first time it looked like Spam so I didn’t care too much, but on a second read I thought it would be a good blog post.

So let’s talk about the brief :)

1. How important is for you the brief you get from your client when you’re asked to design something?

In my current situation it’s not that important because my services and style are very defined, anyone that visits my portfolio knows what I do and what to expect, so I don’t need a very detailed brief. Actually I wouldn’t recommend an extensive brief if you work for small client profiles with low experience in the design process, in some cases it´s appreciated negatively, clients tend to think you are so lazy that you give them homework to save time yourself.

I recently had to do a refund because the client was so rushed that he refused to write a brief, he textually said:

 "We don’t need a corporate message… It seems to me that you have boilerplate questions that you ask regardless of the design goal or source and try to force your customers to answer them by repeating the same questions over and over. Your design process needs to work with the customer, for the customer — not force the customer to work around your methods or requirements."

2. Are you fully satisfied with the briefs received from your clients?

They usually don’t provide a brief, there are exceptions, specially for web design orders since the client perceives the task as more complex. For logo or corporate illustrations I usually ask some informal questions and they tend to reply briefly. It´s tough, on one hand you need to get the info, on the other hand, you need to ask carefully or the client could be offended.

3. Do you help your client to create his brief? If yes, how do you do it?

Yes, I do. I openly ask for their brief, they usually don’t have one so I write a list of key questions to understand their needs. As I previously said, it needs to be a short list and direct to the core.

4. How hard is for your clients to create a brief even if they receive some helping questions?

Most of the clients have problems to define their own corporate values and their corporate image, they actually are not conscious about their brand identity. If I ask something like: "what are the feelings you want to communicate? or how would you like to be perceived? they reply with series of adjectives with so wide meaning that is not too helpful, like: cool, professional, sleek, good looking… they don’t elaborate their replies too much.

5. Are you satisfied with the solution you use right now in order to get complete briefs from your clients (meaning a brief that is really helpful for you when you start working at your client’s project)?

Yes, I do. It’s not perfect but it works. 

The problem is not my design process, it’s a deeper problem, it’s my whole brand identity. Right now I’m perceived like an artist, but I’m redesigning my corporate stuff to be perceived like a brand manager with very good artistic skills.

6. An I add the following questions: What do you do when the client refuses to write a brief or he does it sloppily?. Would you accept the work even if you know it’s not going to be a good logo or web?

Honestly, at this point, sometimes I don’t know how to act. I usually refuse the work and I offer a refund… what do you do?

This post was written by:

- who has written 58 posts on SOSFactory Blog.

My name’s Sergio Ordoñez I´m illustrator, graphic and web designer. A selection of my work is included at SOSFactory. If you want to support this blog, please be an active member: tweet the posts, participate in the discussions and the exercises :)

Contact the author

  • Diana Hernandez

    Lo único que sé es aunque el proyecto o cliente sea pequeño debe haber al menos un brief, sencillo pero en el cual se reflejen los objetivos y necesidades del cliente. ¿Cómo se puede trabajar cuando le dicen a uno “necesito un logo, blanco y negro, no sé, etc” al fin y al cabo sería una pérdida de tiempo para ambos, si el cliente se niega al menos a dar más información entonces no se puede trabajar con alguien así.

    Saludos :)

    • Sergio Ordonez

      Diana, imagínate que te pagan 1200US$ por el logo, rechazarías el encargo?

    • Sergio Ordonez

      ¿Y si el cliente fuera un buen cliente? Digamos que te paga 1500US$ por ese logotipo.

      • Diana Hernandez

        Creo que sería lo mismo, una pérdida de tiempo para el cliente y el diseñador, sin embargo, con tal presupuesto, es bueno hacerle saber de que debe constestar un cuestionario para alcanzar sus objetivos sobre todo cuando el diseño es más complejo como una web, incluso un logo, en mi opinión. Bueno tú tienes + experiencia con esto :P

  • Nathan Monte

    Sergio, you’ve made tutorial to create 3D logo?
    No? It makes one for us!

  • Contato

    I’d help the customer so that he can understand where I’m getting at.

    If it is not very interested, as I do what he asks, if the end does not work is because he wanted it that way.

    But seeking help him, so I can point out all the doubts.

  • Publi Masmedios

    Pues yo trato de desarrollarlo por el cuando desarrollo una breve charla de su negocio, y me identifico con el al asumirlo como si fuera mio, hasta ahora no ha fallado, claro que creo que mis clientes no estan al nivel de los tuyos

    • Sergio Ordonez

      Si tienes poca demanda, está claro, hay que hacer lo que haga falta para ganarse un salario.

      Pero supongamos que tienes más demanda de la que puedes atender, tienes que ser cuidadoso al elegir los proyectos en los que te implicas porque es parte de tu imagen corporativa presente y futura. Nada mejor que un cliente exitoso para abrir nuevos mercados.

      La cuestión es: ¿trabajar para este tipo de clientes te aporta algo a largo plazo?. Mi opinión es que no, este tipo de clientes nunca tendrán éxito en sus empresas (a no ser por un golpe de suerte) y tiendo evitarlos.

  • Nathan Powell

    If a client flat out refused to provide a brief then I’d send them on their way. It sets the tone for the whole relationship… regardless of what they were going to pay!

  • Siso Studio

    Muy buen aporte, el briefing a mi me es muy últil, pero siempre que sea claro y conciso.
    De momento no me ha pasado que el cliente no quiera rellenar le brief, su pongo que sin el cliente es serio, sabrà que es un bien para el.

  • tebu

    Depends on how badly you need the money :)