story about bad clients: Having been a book designer for several years, I’ve worked with literally (pun intended) hundreds of authors on their books. Designing is my therapy: I love helping independent authors sell their books with nice cover and page design.
But when they fail to understand my worth, we have a problem.
Case in point: Last year I started working with an author to design the interiors and covers for her book series. When I agreed to take on her project, she hawed around on price (even though I had seen an article written by her on about how to make a million dollars a year… uh, what?).
Nonetheless, I welcomed the chance to stretch my creative prowess in a genre I wasn’t used to. I gave her a volume discount for her series.
The first book project went amazingly smooth. I was proud of my work, and she loved it. Ah, the excitement of a first book published! I was her new best friend.
The honeymoon phase soon faded.
With her second book, she asked if I would “bundle in” some social media post designs. Sure, it’s only a 1/2 hour or so more of my time. I complied. Then I ran into some Word issues (no, not Word! lol) which took more time to fix. Sigh!
With the third book, she suddenly became very nit-picky, and ended up putting many un-billable hours into creating design modifications that weren’t clearly defined beforehand. I wasn’t too happy, but assuming this was the last book in the series, I said nothing.
After the third book was done, she mentioned book #4. Um, what? There was never any discussion about a fourth book! Dios mio.
Reluctantly, I put forth the effort and cranked #4 out, WITH the original volume discount, with the anticipation of knowing it was all finally done. Finally. I’ve spent enough of my time and money to make her happy. At this time I should have clarified, but I didn’t. So when she mentioned another book in the works, I knew I had to speak up and let her know I cannot do any more of her work at the current price.
In Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom, and Abundance on Your Terms by Denise Duffield-Thomas, she says: “Pricing out of someone’s budget or comfort zone doesn’t make you greedy. It’s okay for those people to be served by someone else….It’s not evil or manipulative to make a significant living from your business.”
I love, love this book. I realized that I have “money blocks”, or preconceived notions about what to charge for my services. Her advice has helped me break through a guilty mindset and realize that I’m worth more, because I provide more. Now I charge what I feel my value is worth — so I am able to provide my very best service.
With this balance in place, everyone wins.
So, after applying this new, improved mindset, I decided it was time to weed out the garden and see where things fall. I crafted this letter to her:
Hi [Client], I hope you are doing well.
As you’re probably aware, I’ve been focusing on growing my business as well as starting a new business venture, and lately, some interesting opportunities have surfaced that I need to explore.
These opportunities, along with my 20 years in the field, have made me realize that I need to maintain integrity in my craft.
Moving forward in my journey, I have to stay true to myself. And that includes making some adjustments in my pricing I feel will better align with the value I provide.
For that reason, I will now only be accepting dedicated book clients who have the budget to receive my premium service. This ensures I am able to put 100% of my attention and care into every project—without resentment.
That being said, I would love to continue designing your books—but I completely understand if this does not work for you.
Careful consideration was put into this decision before contacting you— but as a businesswoman who knows the value you provide to your own clients, I am confident you will understand.
Regardless of where our relationship goes from here, I wish you the very best of luck with your series – I know it will be great!
I didn’t apologize for my actions. I made the decision to value myself, and had already planned for the “worst case” scenario (which secretly, I wanted, because I was sooo burnt out on this project).
I knew she would respond in one of two ways:
- As a professional writer herself who charges premium for her service, she’ll be able to relate to my position, and since she loves my work, budget for the price increase accordingly.
- She’ll be upset and compose a long reply telling me why she’s upset.
Well, you guessed it—She chose option #2—which surprised me, because she was so particular about her branded look. But again, I wasn’t going to feel guilty about my decision. I was relieved! My conscience was a little clearer, I didn’t have to dread her next project, and now I was free to accept clients who were willing to respect me and my work in exchange for my premium attention.
No more wasting my time with unreasonable, free modifications! No more bad client issues.
After her lengthy rant, peppered with snarky undertones, she audaciously requested I give her my original art files. Wrong. I had to break the bad news that, honey, those working files legally belong to me—
but I’d be happy to license them out for a fee.
Of course, presumably to save face, she turned me down—without even asking what I would charge… odd.
Come to think of it, she never asked what my new costs were, either.
Sigh. I’m not an evil, greedy bitch, I just respect my business self a bit more these days. And I give less fucks what people think.
Mieux pour moi!
Since pulling weeds, I’ve had time and energy to refocus my purpose. I’ve become super-clear on conveying my services and expectations before the project begins. Now, I have new clients who respect that. All in all, a great lesson learned.
To my former client: I wish you all the success with your books….
Oh—and that million-dollar business. 😉