When to Say No: What Logo Projects Should You Turn Down?

As a graphic designer, there are many projects you might not want to do. But logo projects often seem like great opportunities. After all, it’s the chance to create an essential part of a brand identity!

Logos are indeed important, which is why you should choose your projects with care. Bad clients can cost you many hours and a lot of frustration — and your brilliant logo may never see the light of day.

Here are some signs that a logo project isn’t worth your while and that it might be better to walk away. 

Many freelancers, especially designers, have been trained to feel lucky whenever a job comes their way. After all, you need to find your own clients. How great is it when they come to you? 

That said, there are definitely situations where it would be better if you said “no” or perhaps “no way!” Or even “hell no!” Not all jobs are made alike, and especially for logo design projects, a bad situation can be too frustrating and time-consuming to justify the pay. Here are some situations where you’re perfectly reasonable to say no to a logo design request.

The client can’t make up their mind.

There’s a world of difference between a client who needs a bit of creative guidance and one who absolutely can’t commit to anything. If you’re skilled at translating vague project briefs into compelling logo concepts, have at it. But if the brief is so directionless and ambiguous that you can’t figure out what the client wants, you’re probably in for a frustrating project.

Even worse, these types of clients tend to be wishy-washy on any progress. If they don’t have a clear vision, they’re more susceptible to others’ input. This leads to situations where they approve your concept, then show it to everyone at their office and come back with a dozen conflicting requests. It’s okay to have a bit of back-and-forth, but be wary if the client doesn’t seem capable of making decisions at key points of the process. 

The client rushes you. 

Quick turnarounds are becoming an expectation in the business world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but if a client has unreasonable expectations (e.g. a 15-minute turnaround time) or attempts to tell you how little time something should take, that’s a red flag. Logos should not be rushed.

A client who insists that you deliver at the speed of light is usually one who disregards the creative process. And often, they aren’t willing to pay much. They may think designing a logo is a matter of pushing a few buttons in Photoshop, and therefore why should they pay more than $5? It’s not up to you to educate them. Our advice? Give them a reasonable timeframe and rate, and if they continue to rush you, walk away.

The client wants you to cheat or steal.

Yes, stealing logos is a thing. Some unscrupulous clients will ask you to copy a competitor’s logo or, worse, a design that another designer created without being paid. We see it all the time: someone will get the low-res or watermarked mockup from a designer, refuse to pay them, and attempt to find someone cheaper to re-do the design or remove the watermark.

This is unethical and technically intellectual property theft, because if the client did not pay for the logo, the rights did not transfer to them. Be wary if a client shows you a low-res or watermarked design and says, “We had someone working on this, but they quit” or something like that. Sometimes that’s true, but often, it’s a sign that you’re being asked to duplicate a stolen design.

The client wants you to work for exposure.

Most new freelancers know that they need to build up a portfolio before they can regularly land high-paying jobs. Unfortunately, some clients take advantage of that by asking that you work for exposure. You should never do this.

First of all, it’s highly unlikely that your name will ever be attached to the logo. So while the company may make tons of money using your design, no one will ever know that you did it. You won’t get clients based on it. And there’s no guarantee that the client’s company will do well anyway. 

Secondly, there are far better ways to get exposure. You can enter a design contest such as through Hatchwise, barter services with your fellow creatives, or simply create your own designs for fun and post them (watermarked) on Instagram. If you must work for free, donate your time to a for-cause nonprofit that would benefit from your talent. And be sure to get documentation for tax benefits!

Wrapping Up

Make no mistake: logos are crucial to a company’s brand. There’s a lot at stake. That means they require time, effort, and good collaboration with the client. Otherwise, you’re in for a frustrating and, often, low-paying time. Choose your logo projects wisely and listen to your gut. If you suspect that a client is being shady or won’t be a team player, the project is probably not worth your time. On the flip side, clients who pay well, respect your ideas, and want to create something great can help you do your best logo designs!