I know this is subjective to a degree. I am asking for best practice or experienced input.
How willing should a designer be to share specific job specifications with a past client after the client has chosen to find another provider?
Should all information regarding the processes of creating materials be open for request or is it wise for the designer to not share production information and specifications?
I’m referring to general job information – color, size, stock, print vendor – I am not referring to files or artwork. Actual files are another matter entirely
And specifically.. the client chose to terminate the business relationship. Not the designer.
Scenario: I’ve been working with a client for approximately 10–12 years. They were a startup when I was introduced to them. This client was related to another client whom I’ve known for a couple decades. So, it all started as more of a “favor”. There is no formal contract (yeah my mistake to a degree). But there have always been emails back and forth.. price of X is $X.. is that okay?.. yes… etc. So there is a written record of transactions.
I created a logo design, corporate ID package, web site, marketing collaterals, etc. Much of this included custom vector artwork. I’ve essentially been their sole provider for design, print or web, for more than 10 years. I performed many things at a very reduced rate and never bothered “nickel and diming” them over small things. This is all fine with me.
Over the years they’ve grown and been successful to the point where I can’t effectively accommodate some of their desires in terms of web design in the timeframe they want.
They have a habit of thinking of me as an “employee” willing to drop everything and do what they need the moment they ask. I explained the issue to them – I can perform what they need, but the time necessary for some tasks simply makes me slow due to other commitments. There’s been a trade-off the last few years. I take a little more time with their projects and in turn I was charging a bit less.
Recently, I was asked for all web site passwords/login because, as they put it “In case something happened to me.” Well, lo and behold they had actually hired some WordPress-factory to redo their web site and they needed the information to move hosting and alter DNS and, well, cut me out of the loop entirely. This, while it’s not something I enjoy, was understood. I would have supplied the information even if I knew they were moving things to another company. Business is business and as posted, I wasn’t turning things around as fast as they wanted.
Since that time, I’ve been asked to supply vector files, which I refused, explaining “all custom artwork remains the property of [me]”. This upset the client and they sent a rather abrupt email to me with the standard [misguided] “we paid for design so we paid for the art too!” argument. They even through in.. “we don’t have a contract so you can’t keep the art.”
I politely asked the client to call so I could explain. They said they would however never did. I know that I own the art. I also know without a contract my position on the matter is stronger, not weaker. I’m a freelancer.. using my tools on my time as I see fit. I am not an employee. But again, that seems to be the general mindset towards me here.
Since I never got a call.. I am left to assume that the new company they’ve hired is cannibalizing previous PDFs I created and taking artwork. Although I have no evidence of that directly, yet.
Today, I get an email request specifications for their business cards… specifically stock and weight.
Clearly they are cutting me out of the print loop as well. Again, their choice I won’t argue about it with them. However, I feel it is a bit inappropriate for them to ask me how I performed my tasks. That would include specific specifications for any project.
The client apparently knows the vendor I was using. (Over the years, I probably forgot to tick the “no label” option at some point when I ordered something for them and shipped it directly to them.) However, if I were ever asked for that information directly I would not have supplied it, even when we were on good terms. To supply such information now, seems untenable for me.
I don’t want to be “difficult” intentionally, but I also do not want to “give away the store” trying to avoid conflict. I really do not wish to create any animosity or generate an adversarial relationship with the client. But I feel some of the requests are becoming overreaching and supplying the information is essentially asking me for how I run my business.
Where I’m wavering is in that thought. I do not know if I’m being over-sensitive regarding the sharing of information or if my perception that they are asking too much is correct.
So, I’m left wondering… Should all information regarding the processes of creating materials be open for request for a past client? Or is it wise for the designer to not share production information and specifications?
I get, and retain, clients specifically because of how I perform tasks. Sharing that seems too much to me. Should former clients be allowed to “pick my brain” regarding my processes? Or am I being silly?
To be clear.. the client has chosen to go elsewhere for services. I Have not chosen to stop supporting the client. Therefore.. if it is the client’s choice to leave….. should I be concerned about providing anything which I am not legally obligated to?
I wouldn’t give them or any client really anything if its one of your sources.
“Thank you for your inquiry. My sources and vendors are part of the value I bring through my X years of experience. Just as you have your sources for Y and Z (whatever they do) and wouldn’t want to be disclosing that. I cannot provide you with this information as it will cause material harm to my business.
If they persist perhaps an anology would help:
After you buy a shirt from Ralph Lauren (or whatever) do you then demand the sales person to tell you where Ralph Lauren sourced the fabric from? Of course not, so please don’t make such ridiculous requests from me.