I have a client who is "too busy" to provide direction (or even feedback) regarding his new marketing materials. I have brochure cover ideas that are going in vastly different directions. Do I show him and his small group of decision-makers works-in-progress, or do I work up 2 or 3 ideas into a "finished" state and let him pick (and hope that he likes one of the 3 ideas)?

I'm loath to spend huge amounts of time creating polished work that's going to be rejected and cut into my bottom line.

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    If a client doesn't think the marketing important enough to brief you well or review your work, then you shouldn't think their assignment to be important either.
    – Vincent
    Jan 20, 2016 at 16:35
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    If you loathe to spend huge amounts of time on the project then don't. I would present the client 1 work in progress approach to get the response to go forward with it or not. If the client doesn't like it let it rest for a while and then show him one of your other approaches.
    – zebu
    Jan 20, 2016 at 17:47
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    For next time, you need to have a creative brief with the client before proceeding. You insist on a meeting where you discuss what the client wants, and get a sense of likes and dislikes. I usually ask for three to five pieces that the person loves or hates and then ask why, so even if the client can't articulate art direction, I have some sense of what the person's aesthetic is. Jan 20, 2016 at 22:41
  • Thanks for that advice. I'm slowly getting it all together with regards to client meetings - at this one, we go the fees and schedule down, but didn't go far enough into a creative brief.
    – Voxwoman
    Jan 22, 2016 at 3:28

3 Answers 3


Well, you could do what Vincent says but if you still want to do the work what i usually do ( i always ask a 50% before starting a project ) is to design 3 different options that are different but make sense with the small information i have ( because the client doesn't give you more ) and make the presentation or send it by e-mail... after 2 days of no response i call him AND email ... after a week call again but this time send an email warning that with the lack of attention the project cant continue and that if he wants to re-take it later ill make a new budget for that.

don't forget to say that all the work you did and send by email cant be use without your permission.

  • Oh I already have a 50% payment in the bank from this client. That's not the issue.
    – Voxwoman
    Jan 20, 2016 at 18:56

Christobal made very good suggestions regarding the payment and also the permission regarding your files.

Split your project into milestones and allow a certain number of revisions. The extra revisions should be charged as extra. With this, you'll already avoid the 10-20 round of proofs that kind of client might end up forcing you to do. It's very important if you work for a flat fee.

Sometimes clients who don't give feedback or directions do it because 1) they don't care (or are very busy), 2) sometimes they simply don't know what directive to give you (inexperience) or 3) they think they can do as many revisions as they want. It's usually the case when working with a group of people. If it's the situation you're in, you'll need to make sure the client (e.g. the "leader" of the group) sorts the feedback of his team for you. Otherwise you will end up getting 20 different feedback that go in 100 directions and every single member of the group will want to add their own comment. It's alright if your client has the budget for it but if not, this will need to be limited.

Ideally, it's better to agree on this at the beginning of the project, and one way to make your client agree to this is simply by charging more when you need to work with a team. The reason is that it requires you to manage more people and communications as well than when dealing with one person. And usually, it requires also more rounds of revisions.

For the feedback, you can think of that client as a spoiled kid who wants everything in the candy store but can only choose one thing: Present them a few options without putting too much work on it and go by elimination each time. The goal is to make them say things like "I like X in the proof 01A, and Y in the proof 01B and keep that color from 01C". If you finalize your brochures and show a final result, you might end up having to go through that elimination process anyway but will have spent more time on the first round.

For example, you can start by showing them some drafts of the cover of the brochure only, and use different colors/styles to make them pick one. Then you use the feedback you got for the next round of revisions and make the layout progress a bit more by showing one or a few examples of 1-2 panels. And you do this until you can complete the whole brochure entirely. In other words, you spoon feed them in order to force them to give you some "yes/no" feedback and not waste your time.

Don't be too worried about not getting feedback or directions, sometimes these clients are awesome to work with and very efficient too! Sometimes things get done very quickly actually and it's even better than having clients who micromanage you.

If the client is slow to answer: this happens rarely when you already ask for a down payment and also get paid at every milestone. In fact, you can get paid before every milestone and this will make the client move a bit faster as he will want to get some results for the money he invested. If you only get paid fully at the end of the project, he can drag this for 6-days or 6-months; it won't make a difference to him! The way you can proceed is to send an invoice every week or every 2 weeks no matter if the work has been done or not. That's also a way to accelerate the feedback process ;)

Don't push too much on your client; waiting 2-days is not always enough to get a meeting with their team and get back to you with some feedback. I suggest you let them at least a week or two, and then simply send a friendly email to ask for updates after that.

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    A lot of good advice here. I like the spoon-feeding Yes/No approach, not allowing unlimited rounds of changes, and keeping client contact to one person rather than the whole team. Jan 20, 2016 at 22:40

The first question you need to ask yourself: Do I need the money/more work from this client?

If you don't then have a heart to heart and educate the client on how your studio works.

If you do need the work when you've spent the time the deposit covers explain politely that the delays have used up the deposit and you need more money to continue. This is also the time to inform the client that due to the lack of timely response/feedback that the original cost estimate is no long valid.

In the final analysis you may have found the inevitable client from h*ll and you and they need to move on.

This is an eventuality that should be clearly addressed in your agreement/understanding with the client. Written contracts/agreements like fences make for good neighbors and business relationships.

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