Have You Ever Been Insulted by a Client?

For anyone that does graphic design, photography, brand strategy, videography or any kind of creative work, I’m sure you’ve encountered an insulting client at one time or another. If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. What do you do when that insulting client is a friend?

They’re supposed to be on your side, right? They’re you’re friend, why wouldn’t they have your best interest in mind? For the conversation being had, friendship isn’t what the discussion is about. Business is what’s being discussed at the moment and they’ve forgotten about courtesy and what friendship is, or so it seems.

The situation is that you’ve been tasked with duties for a project by said friend. The actual tasks don’t matter so much. They could be anything from prepping mock-ups for a new product, curating materials,
establishing relationships with vendors or designing business cards. The part that’s important, to you at least, is that this is work that you have done for years and are without a doubt an expert at.

Being the efficient and motivated individual that you are, you show up with quality materials that have cost effective options. Who wouldn’t be stoked about that, right? You’ve created a way for them to make
money and save money at the same time.
You’re maybe expecting a hug, a handshake, a high five or at the very least a “thank you creative friend.” None of those things happen though. In fact, exactly the
opposite is about to happen.

Is it Ever Easy to Get Things Done When You're Working With an Advice Slut?

You’re geared up and ready to move forward on the project. All
necessary items have been assembled, and all you need is the “GO” from
your friend and colleague and this project can easily be added to the
“making money” column. Suddenly, the friend that put this whole process
into motion has other ideas. They’ve gotten a few opinions from
family members and other folks that don’t even work in a related field,
and they’ve called to tell you what those opinions are. There is only one reason for anyone to seek out additional opinions on anything, and that’s because they don’t trust the first one. Think about that, and what it says to you and the value of your work.

It’s like you’ve turned in great work and the next day when you get
to the office, the boss says “good job, but I had a moment to talk to
the janitor this morning and he has a few opinions.” So now the janitor
is an expert in my field? Maybe so. But if so, why are they the janitor
and not a colleague?

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, especially when they’ve been asked for it. However, having an opinion doesn’t mean the opinion has any value in a field you know nothing about. Would you ask a rocket scientist for advice on plumbing? I suppose, the friend that we’re currently discussing would do that.

What You're Hearing in the Conversation

The conversation comes through as sounding like something different to you though. What you’re hearing is insulting. You’re hearing you’re friend say that they have so little value for the knowledge and expertise that you have in your given career that they put it roughly on the same level as opinions from people that don’t even work in a related field.

So why are you putting in all kinds of effort if just anyone off the street with a half baked opinion can do this type of creative work? Is that a good question to ask yourself? Or is it a better question to ask the client and friend that has just insulted your years of knowledge and expertise?

Crafting Your Talking Points

In responding to what has just been said to you, your initial thought might be to give this client a giant middle finger salute. You have just been insulted by the way. However, in your head and in your heart you know that this friend/client didn’t do this on purpose and they never would. They’re just the type of person that speaks before they think and often misses the underlying meaning of what it is they are accidentally implying. That doesn’t make what they’ve said any less insulting though.

Appropriate Responses Might Include
  • Stating your concerns about their accidentally offensive methods
  • Asking for an apology
  • Insisting that they gather future opinions from professionals in a related field
  • Punishing them with a rate increase
  • Politely withdrawing your participation from the project entirely

Possibly Resolving the Issue

It's awful to think that you could lose a friend in the course of doing creative business, but that's why communication and courtesy for your fellow creators is essential.

Hopefully, the person on the other side of the conversation can understand your point of view and see how some changes in communication styles could be helpful. Would they be willing to work with a company or individual that blatantly devalues the expertise of its co-creators? I would think not. It doesn’t take much to derail a creative collaboration. It’s awful to think that you could lose a friend in the course of doing creative business, but that’s why communication and courtesy for your fellow creators is essential.

We should all think a bit more before we speak anyways. It’s not about people being too sensitive, it’s about giving a little thought to the implication and context of the words coming out of our mouths. And if all efforts fail, you still have your middle finger to throw up.