Lately we've been slammed we decided to out-source projects that a few designers would provide source files to. Per the initial contract terms and requirements with a spec delivery sheet are agreed upon. The expectations are noted and an initial brief meeting is setup to deliver the source files, etc. etc. and it is addressed what is expected.

When the project is delivered issues arise on the finish project, example:

Example 1

A designed piece, initially stated in the meeting and the contract, that all fonts to be used in the design must be Opentype and must be from our list because we have rights. Access to our font list database was provided and font access was granted. After reviewing the design we noticed that postscript fonts were used throughout. When noted to the designer they came back and said they were not going to be able to meet the contract completion date.

Example 2

Outsourcing work to a different designer it was noted in the meeting and in the contract the purpose of the design and its intended usage. We requested all vectors to be created in Illustrator because we were going to develop SVGs. Three weeks before deadline we were informed the designer was unaware how to do the needed task and requested us to train them.

None of these example cases are from starting out designers. All of the designers supposedly have more than five years experience and they did have pretty good portfolios.

So my question is how do you handle freelancers that do not meet expectations?

  • 2
    This isn't so much a graphic design question as it is a vendor question. If vendors don't meet your expectations, you either work with them to find a compromise, or you drop them as a vendor you work with.
    – DA01
    Dec 19, 2014 at 20:33

3 Answers 3


"People rise to the level of their incompetence." :)

  • Should have a contract. Contract should contain penalties for the freelancer if they can not meet any of the terms they agree to.

  • Many projects I've worked on have a blanket contract then a "Scope of Work" contract which details exactly what is to be delivered and any specifications on that delivery.

In most cases, you can't simply decide to take punitive action due to the failure on the part of the designer. I mean, you can definitely sue them if they've breached the contract. Which it sounds like they have. But who wants to be running to court every time? I don't know many who are that litigious.

So, what I would do is ensure the contract clearly states expectations and requirements. And then clearly shows what punitive recourse you have should those expectations and requirements not be met. This is really where an attorney would be handy. If punitive actions are part of your contract, there's no need to take the designer to court. They've already agreed on your recourse due to their failure.


Accountants tend to think "a designer is a designer" and tell you to save costs by out-sourcing work to the lowest bidder.

As long as the requirements were clearly stated and agreed, you don't have to pay the designers that couldn't deliver of course. But the job hasn't got done, and the Big Boss will see this as YOUR fault. Suing the freelancers for losses consequent to the delay is hardly realistic.

Now it's about being a manager.

Maybe you've learned that a portfolio, stated experience and meeting skills aren't everything.

Maybe you've learned that creative people are more interested in the result than in being told HOW to achieve it, and that your special requirements should have been emphasised more at the meeting?

Maybe you've discovered one freelance who goes on your blacklist, another who was good artistically and with some support might be useful to you? Would it be quicker to ask him to do it over, even if he does miss the deadline, than to start again with someone else?

(DID he do it, or did he pass it over to a collegue with insufficient instructions? Outsourcing, particularly when "lowest quote" enters the picture, can be a minefield :-)

If you want something done right - and particularly if you want it done 'your way' - do it yourself. Or at least do it in-house. With savings come risks.


The client-service provider relationship needs to be one of trust. You need to be able to trust the designer that they can deliver what you've asked for, when you need it, and that it meets or exceeds your quality level.

The designer needs to trust that you have provided all the information they need to provide the service for you, and that you will pay them in a timely fashion for their work.

The best way to ensure that the trust is there is through referrals through mutual colleagues - colleagues who you and the designer both trust.

Online freelancing websites are like online dating for clients and service providers. You need to take the same sort of precautions you might when looking for a dating partner, and remember that there will be at least as many "bad matches" on those sites as you might find on Tinder or OKCupid.

If you really don't know anyone that could recommend a designer to you, and you decide you must use an online service to find someone, I suggest start with a non-critical, inexpensive task that will build the mutual trust you need. One that requires the skills for the important job, but that you can afford to pay for even if the result does not meet your expectations. You should be willing to pay a small price for someone doing some small work for you, because they have done some work for you. Barring that, perhaps they have references you can contact, or feedback on their profiles.

If you hired someone to do some clerical work in your office and they spent the day there, but it became obvious after 4 or 5 hours that there was no way they were going to work out, and you fired them, would you not pay them for that day?

Professional designers have in their contracts a "kill fee" that compensates them for the time spent on a project that is going to be cancelled (for whatever reason). They may call it something else.

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