Graphic Design Portfolio

Stay Safe by Sending Clients Lo-Res Images Before they Finalize Payment for Your Design Work

One classmate wrote some great advice:

When working with some pesky clients, instead of a contract, I will simply hold on to all high res files/printed pieces until full payment is received…

I think those are excellent ideas there. I fully agree that it is always important to hold on to all high-resolution files, and completed materials until full payment is received. I’ve done this in my freelancing work as well, and have never run into a problem. Even though a client may complain about critiquing a low-resolution print design as they “can’t see the sharpness and quality of the images,” sending them lo-res images will prevent them from just printing them without paying you.

Alternatives to Lo-Res Images

But if clients still complain about the low resolution designs, I find it helpful to send a high-resolution thumbnail, or half- or quarter-size image for them to look over. This will enable them to see the design in sharp detail on their computer screens, as they probably want, but if they try to resize it and print it, it will come out blurred and pixelated. Always hang onto the high resolution designs until full payment is received. After that, it becomes the designer’s responsibility to deliver the full materials – but not before hand. There is always a risk that clients will just take what we’ve designed, as soon as possible, and get it printed – without full payment, or with a convenient “forgetfulness” like, “Oh, I’m sure we already paid you what we agreed upon.” That is another reason contracts are so important. They should clearly spell out exactly what clients and designers agree upon. And designers should not allow clients to pressure them into extra work, or sending high-resolution designs early.

When I do webdesign work and coding, I send thumbnails, or 600×800 images, or even sometimes watermarked images to the client to approve initially. After the design is approved, I cut the PSD and start adding the pieces to code on my own webserver. When code is finished, I’ll send a link to the “test site” for the client to view and interact with. Often at this point, I haven’t cross-browser checked the site to be sure it renders the same across all browsers, and I haven’t optimized the code, or done any SEO on it. If any client did want to just take what I’ve done at this point without full payment, then they would have a difficult time copying all the images and code from the site by hand – plus it wouldn’t be all fixed up. I always wait for certain points in the design process and scheduled payments before moving on with the next part of the work. And, even in webdesign, I hold onto all the pieces until the end when the client finishes their payments. Once final payment is received, I ZIP the folder containing all code, images, PSDs, and whatever else, and send it over to the client.

A Contract’s Job is to Help Define Deliverables

I think that the contract is a great place to define the deliverables you will give to a client. Some clients only want a design they can print, like a PDF. But, if you specify within the contract all the pieces to be delivered, such as, all PSD files, high- medium- and low-resolution PDFs, all AI files, and so on, the client will feel pleased that you are delivering so much, and all within their budget. This will also allow the designer to keep some “cards” to hold on to until final payment is sent. If the designer only ever sends low-resolution or small-sized JPEGs, the client will be forced to wait for the high-resolution materials, and will more willingly (and quickly) pay the full price of the contract in order to receive their materials in full as well.

The Oxymoron involved with Immediate Delivery but Delayed Payment

Another classmate wrote:

Often clients are in such a hurry for us designers to get the work done (“I need it YESTERDAY!!”) but tend to delay that check being sent.

Isn’t that just a bit of an oxymoron when clients do that? They want an “IMMEDIATE! website” but give designers a “delay in payment.” Somehow, clients are often so concerned about their own business needs that they ignore, neglect, or put off our own. That’s again why I think it’s such a great idea to “hold out” on clients with their deliverables until they’ve delivered payment to you. We shouldn’t give clients major portions of their design projects for free – as in, before being paid. We should show clients the work via screenshots or lo-res images (as mentioned earlier), or other low resolution images, so that we can protect our intellectual copyright before we are paid. After payment has been received, then we can transfer the full files and copyrights over to the clients. After all, we wouldn’t order books from Amazon.com and expect them to be shipped before we sent payment. Why should clients expect that from designers?

What about you?

Do you have any thoughts about sending clients screenshots and lo-res images to approve? What do you think about holding on to all the hi-res files before your final payment is received? What do you do in your design practices?

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