I'm an amateur graphic designer. I've been doing work for local companies and initiatives for just over a year now. I recently got a job designing for a pretty big client (by my standards).

They wanted me to sign over ALL of my rights. I asked for portfolio rights (only the right to display it in my portfolio as a work that I contributed to). The representative said that I could put it in my portfolio, but I asked that they put it in the contract. It's been two weeks and I haven't even received a reply denying my request.

Was my request unfair? Should I just send in a signed version of their contract, apologize for an unreasonable request and cut my losses?

  • How would you prove to anybody you have had big clients. If they have nothing against it they will put it into the contract. So what you do is you contact your lawyer and ask him to draft a change. (lawyers are cheaper than you think, if you use them proactively). Just tell him they told you it was OK and say its not enough for you acting in good faith. If it blows in your face your left with nothing in the future. Anyway dont take legal advice form perfect strangers on the net. This advice is worth as much as you pay for it.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 17:49
  • Two weeks is not that long, a lot of businesses are less organised than they make out and a change like this could require communication between a number of people. If I were you I'd call them on the phone and politely enquire about it, it may help as well by giving the impression you are still interested in the job.
    – Dom
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 17:54
  • 1
    Your request was not unreasonable in any way, unless the material is of a confidential business nature.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 18:14
  • @Dominic Offering to draft the change to the contract is usually easier for just this reason. The other and is likely going to say hey this isn't a big deal ok lest use this. Especially when dealing with a legal departments 2 weeks is nothing I agree.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


Look, you're a designer just starting out, and it sounds like you've shown enough talent to be noticed by a reputable client. You're off to a good start.

Let's look at your career path from a long term perspective.

  • As a free-lance designer, you're going to start out not making very much cash, and working hard to advance to bigger and better (and higher paying) projects.

  • The source of your business comes from your ability to show an impressive portfolio, and that impression will be increased exponentially by the reputation of those who the work was done for.

  • You want to advance to bigger clients, who will provide you with a steady flow of well-paid work.

So the answer to your question is clear:

  • Your request was not unfair, in fact it was the only proper move for you to make. Without portfolio rights to work completed for this client, you will not be advancing in your design career as you should.

  • You should not back down or anything of the sort. Chances are, your client doesn't care one way or the other. They want to make money, and you simply need to convince them that you can help them do that, without any issue or complication.

Have a lawyer draft an edited version of the contract (don't expect the client to do it), provide the client with a formal notice of the changes, and have your lawyer forward the signed, altered document to your client.


Alternatively, using a pen, cross-out the bits you don't agree to, and initial each area you've crossed out. The alternative is you're asking permission to operate how you see fit. You're not an employee, nor a subordinate. Assertive is not a four letter word. The client has the option to accept your terms or not. If not, it simply means you and your client were unable to come to terms, and that's perfectly ok. Invest your valuable time attracting clients who are interested establishing in a mutually beneficial business relationship. It may seem like you're losing work by sticking to your guns, but only in the short term. In the long term, you will have a design business with growth potential.

Best, Tom Rudman

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