Should You Take the Check Even if You’re Not Into Your Client?

Posted on 13. Jun, 2010 by in Clients, Essentials, Motivation

Should You Take the Check Even if You’re Not Into Your Client?

Graphic Design / Creative Freelancer Advice: Should You Take the Check Even if You’re Not Into Your Client?

Whether you’re looking to break into the business world as a hired graphic/web designer for a company, looking to find another full-time gig as a graphic/web designer or you’re out there working for clients as a freelancer, it’s bound to happen to you sooner or later: you have to decide to work for a client/company that you’re just not that interested in.

Over the years I’ve had clients/employers like an online document company, insurance company, contact lenses, realtors, laundry mat chain, an auto garage and even hang-over pill (yes, you read that right). None of these businesses were all that bad to work with (well, maybe the hang-over pill); I just wasn’t that into them.

I suppose it’s kind of like dating a girl/guy that you’re not all that into isn’t it? Sure you’re with someone but it’s not all that fun.

Of course your list of “not-so-fun” businesses to work with will be different than mine, that’s cool – everyone is going to have a slightly different list.

The question is, “Should you consider still working for a client/company that you’re not all that into?” What do you think?

In looking at this from somewhat of a logical standpoint, here’s what I am seeing:


  • Money…good for paying bills and getting cool stuff
  • Opportunity to add to, and diversify portfolio
  • Opportunity for testimonial, referrals


  • You’re design, focus and effort might not be that good if you’re not into what you’re doing
  • Borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring work, you’ll often end up procrastinating / perhaps missing deadlines
  • If this is a longer-term or permanent position (like a job), it really might start to suck after a while…whether you’re getting paid or not. There’s nothing worse knowing you’ve got a butt-load of work ahead of you that you’re really not all that into.

My Advice on Taking the Money or Moving on:

For me, there really was no concrete answer, although I’ll tell you that more often than not, I often regretted, “sucking it up, doing the project and taking the money“.

On a short-term basis I’d personally take the money and run, especially when the economy is rough. If it’s not a permanent position and you feel that you’ll probably only be doing one or just a few small projects for a client, I’d go forward, take the project and get paid.

Longer-term, which would include on-going/big freelancing projects and of course a full-time gig, I’d most likely pass. My logic here is that if I am totally not in to what my client/employer’s doing, it’s going to be challenging for me to design for them – I am not going to be nearly as effective, nor will I be providing my best work and effort. There’s a good chance that I am going to be slower in delivering the project (since I won’t be motivated to do it) and worst of all, I am not going to enjoy the experience.

I’ve found that I can stay with a client/company for a little while even if I am not into what they’re doing (especially if I needed the cash), but I never found that over time that I became more interested in working with them. Longer-term, permanent positions never seemed to work out, so I’ve elected to just be honest with myself up-front and ask:

  • Do I really want to work with this client/company?
  • Is this a long or short term gig, and can I just tough it out?
  • Will I be able to deliver a great effort in spite of not really digging what they’re doing?
  • Are there other clients/companies I can work with instead of this one, or do I really need the money?

If you’ve been in this situation before, how have you handled it? What questions do you ask yourself? How did it all work out?

Jeremy Tuber is the author of 2 essential breakthrough freelancing books:
Being a Starving Artist Sucks” and “Verbal Kung Fu for Freelancers“, available on and the iTunes store. If you liked this post, check out his blog at – FreelanceShack readers can score an exclusive 25% on all products by clicking here.

Incoming search terms for the article:

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Design Float
  • DZone
  • Reddit
Google Buzz

Tags: , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Should You Take the Check Even if You’re Not Into Your Client?”

  1. Meryl K Evans

    14. Jun, 2010

    Jeremy, this advice is on target. I believe that if you have a client that drags you down — you’re better off letting the client go — you may have more energy to handle TWO clients in the drag’s place. But you’re right… sometimes we need to take on a dreaded project if things are a little slow. Great insight.

  2. Matt Barnes

    14. Jun, 2010

    I definitely track with what you’re saying here. I have several clients who fall into this category – nice people, but I’m just not into what they’re doing.

    The part I’m having trouble with is knowing how to “break it off” with a client like this. How does that conversation go?

    If I were being treated badly by a client, then it would be easy to drop them. But if I’m just bored by them, I feel like kind of a jerk for not wanting to work with them anymore.


  3. JeremyTuber

    15. Jun, 2010

    Thx for the kind words. When funds are tight I know freelancers need to ease up on how finicky they are about working with a client that’s shown up at their door. Still, it’s helpful to understand that we don’t have unlimited time to work with everyone, so being selective has its advantages.

    Good points here Matt, but this may help you in deciding that it’s time to let a client go – most designers are passionate people and they do their best work when they are inspired and excited about what they’re doing. When you or I are not all that into a client we’re working with, our work probably isn’t going to be at our best – so the client suffers a little.

    Perhaps try, “Hey CLIENT NAME, I appreciate the chance to speak with you about your business and future goals but with my workload I am just not going to be able to dedicate the enthusiasm, time and energy to really make this project a success for you. I do have a couple of other resources I can refer you to, but I’ve found that in situations like this, it’s best for the client if I step aside rather than try to take a project on that I might not be giving my 110% in.”

  4. Nick Villaume

    15. Jun, 2010

    i agree. I have always been really clear personally on expending effort on the right clients. It can really hurt sometimes. A little over a year ago, I switched from being a freelance developer who worked for a variety of clients, to starting a development company that caters only to small graphic design shops. As a result, I have had to begin weeding out some of my old clients and some have been big revenue sources.

    So, I think another angle to consider, aside from good, bad or fun, you also have to consider your business model and who you are trying to serve. The larger accounts that I have trimmed have had a definite impact on revenues, and not for the better, but I realized that as long as I was continuing to service them, I would never be able to give my core client the attention they need to grow their business and mine.

  5. [...] Should You Take the Check Even if You’re Not Into Your Client? (FreelanceShack) [...]

Leave a Reply