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Get a Deposit

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Requesting a deposit from clients is standard trade practice for designers. While some clients might balk at paying something up front, never apologize or become defensive. Simply explain the rationale behind getting a deposit and, if necessary, explain how it is to the client's advantage to pay in installments.

  • When you accept an assignment from a client you will be incurring many billable hours prior to even delivering a preliminary design: time spent doing research, brainstorming, conceptualization, and developing layout ideas. Without a deposit you are essentially working on spec (doing work that you may not get paid for) or extending credit. Without a deposit you may not be able to expend the time and related expenses to do the research necessary to come up with initial designs for the client.

  • A deposit, including interim payments, benefits the client by not requiring a huge payment at the end of a job. They can pay for your services in smaller installments throughout the design, production, and printing process. Working with a deposit and interim installments helps insure that the design process and final delivery doesn't get held up or delayed due to outstanding payments.

How much of a deposit you request and how you structure interim payments can vary from client to client and project to project. It should be explained to the client prior to starting a project and outlined in your freelance design contract with that client. For small or short-term projects you might want to ask for 50% (of the estimated total cost) at the time the contract is signed with the balance on delivery. For larger or longer term projects you might do 1/3rd or 1/4th at a time or request a specific amount or percentage each month or after you've incurred a set number of billable hours.

"If a new customer refuses to pay a deposit, run far and run fast. In fact, a deposit can help weed out the problem customers."
~ Judy Litt, Former About.com Graphic Design Guide

When the project will involve paying a substantial amount of money to third parties such as for printing, be sure you have a deposit or interim payment sufficient to cover those costs before you have that work done. If the client bails you still have to pay the vendor.

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