My best client has just employed a new person who is vaguely capable of design work and wants me to upload all my 6 years and 70GB worth of files to their drive so they can update them when they need to (also reassuring me that I would still be needed for their regular design work). Unfortunately I had already given them the InDesign files to the most recent ad and banner I did for them but when they asked this latest request I baulked a bit.

I understand that I am the copyright holder of the working files and sent them an email stating this and that there would be some sort of fee for the handing over of it but I am not sure how much I should charge for handing over innumerable files? It will be quite a lot of work to sift through them to make sure there aren't working sketches and etc.

I have read other posts about the 300% but not sure how I would calculate the price for this big body of work. Any ideas on how to handle this request?

  • 2
    Hi retrochic, welcome to GDSE, we're glad to have you! I have edited your question to make it a bit more generic. If you feel like this edit doesn't reflect your original intent, feel free to edit it back. Feel free to look around, read the introduction in help center and answer questions if you feel like it.
    – PieBie
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:32

3 Answers 3



Unless specified in the original contracts of that 6-year body of work, you are not obliged to keep the original working files of past projects. That you do so is only for personal archiving. Shenanigans like this are the exact reason for that, and I advise you to include a statement to that effect in your terms and conditions from now on.

Try and explain this client how valuable source files are. Also explain to them that they are probably messy, as you were most likely not expecting to have someone besides yourself working on them.

Explain to them the strain that this request puts on your relationship. Explain that source files are the core of your work for them, and that handing them over is like giving away your trade secrets.

Tell them you understand they want to cut costs and response times by having an on-site designer. Are you too expensive? Aren't you efficient enough? Ask them these questions. If they say yes, offer to renegotiate prices or maybe even offer to work on-site for a few hours per month. Make them understand how much this means to you and that they are essentially telling you that your work isn't good enough.

If they persist in their intention after that, do stress that the procedure they are asking you to undertake includes the transfer of copyright (the 300%) in addition to a hefty hourly fee for preparing the files to be handled by someone besides yourself.

If that doesnt scare them off, create a quote for them that includes 300% of the original fees of each and every project you are handing files over from. Adding the hourly fee, this quote might approach two years worth of wages or something similar. That's intentional and is meant to scare them off. You might want to overestimate the number of hours you expect to spend on prepping the files. Make them feel you aren't letting go easily.

That quote is essentially you telling them, 'do you really want to do this?'. I would be offended to be cast aside like this to say the very least, and you should make them feel that.

This answer is hinging on a couple suppositions: one, that you have effective contracts for all the work you did, including terms that allow you to retain the work's copyright upon (original) delivery. And two: That you realise that actually sending the quote will most probably destroy your relationship with this customer in one fell swoop. If at all possible, I would try and explain them what they are doing: casting you aside.

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    "sesng th quote" ??? Jul 31, 2018 at 7:49
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    @user1306322 Never answer a question on mobile with autocorrect. :)
    – Vincent
    Jul 31, 2018 at 8:37
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    Thank you for your thoughtful answer. Well in the new developments of the day it seems they have some internal issues they need to sort out. I receive work from 3 different sources within the company and one of the other sources (not the newb) rang and apologised profusely for the email from said newb. For them everything was going to go on as per usual. I think there is some internal tussling going on as after that phone call I got an email from the newb who said "I'll wait to hear from you" re: files so there sounds like some mis-communication happening. Aug 1, 2018 at 5:37
  • @retrochicco That does indeed sound like an internal communication problem there. You might want to find your original contact person(s) and go with mayerdesign's answer on them. There's a good chance the 'newb' will get a reprimand and has to back off. You could get back to them personally, saying that you 'in principle do not release working files' and that you are discussing options with their higher-ups.
    – Vincent
    Aug 1, 2018 at 8:22
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    Valuable but messy. Nice. Seems like graphics designers work similar like software developers. Aug 1, 2018 at 18:11

As a designer working on both sides of the fence I will only tell what we did when I was hired as in-company designer.

I revised all contracts with our outsource agencies. I omit the ones where we stated that workfiles are my company property. In those cases we just requested the files.
But with all others we send a quote to buy them. We weren't interested in files like banners, headers and so on. We wanted the ones that contained hard data considered by legal department (and me) as "valuable".
The quote was negotiable so we could work out good price for both sides. For the proposal quote I used:

  • market price for creating a page
  • 50% of invoices for corrections, photo related topics etc.
  • price for data storage through the whole time.

Also we only bought back files that were created on company layout and were considered "reusable". All files that I considered as "creative work" on agency side were left with them to. First to make them safe that work will still go their way. And second because I was aware I cannot make all work by myself and we will need to use agencies and it's good to use reliable ones.

Ok, I did a little list that I think should be followed in this scenario:

  • Ask them for a list of files they would like to get
  • explain you may not have all of them (or any at all)
  • explain that they can prepare a proposition on how much they are able to pay you for the files. If not explain that you will prepare such invoice
  • Explain that hiring one in-company designer is not equivalent to your work
  • state that you are still ready for doing work for them (and suggest they will probably better if they split some work between you and their designer)


...always the first thing to do when an unfortunate incident like this occurs. I really feel sorry for you.

First job, sit down with the client and explain that you feel sidelined, and under-appreciated - with any luck that might be the end of it! He might say that he simply hadn't realised, and kick this new guy into touch... you never know (until you ask)

Then from there - from the approach that is least likely to damage your relationship with the client - gradually increase the pressure into areas that really might start to cause damage, like talking about money, and especially talking about copyrights.

I would have brought up copyright last. If there's one thing I've learned about clients, they don't like thinking that they don't own "their own work". It just doesn't compute with them, and they feel effectively blackmailed or cheated.

Then lastly. If nothing is working for you, it's simply a matter of calculating what the files are worth to you. If you feel personally attached to them, and really don't want to hand them over (and you have the requisite licenses of course) simply quote ridiculously high, and then likely never have communicate with the client again. Or quote it reasonable, and at least enjoy one last nice pay-cheque.

  • Thanks, I actually live in a different city but I am thinking now is the time to go take a visit and discuss the situation with them seeing as they have a bunch of new people there by the sounds of it. Aug 1, 2018 at 23:14
  • Great idea. Face to face even better! Aug 3, 2018 at 6:49

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