What to do if you're not happy with the project

What do you do if you don’t like how your project is going? Maybe your designer doesn’t communicate well with you or maybe you just don’t like how the project looks.

Don’t despair, I’ll talk you through what you can do if things go wrong.

Can the project be salvaged?

The first thing you need to decide is whether you think the project can be salvaged. Is the problem something you can solve with a bit of communication or do you feel it’s gone too far to produce something successful?

If you’ve only just started the project and you’re not keen on the designs you’ve been shown - maybe you don’t need to throw in the towel just yet. Can you work with your designer and get to the bottom of why it isn’t working for you, or what you were expecting.

By simply saying that something is wrong, your designer should be able to guide the conversation and ask the right questions to uncover what’s happened and present ways it can be fixed.

Don’t worry about hurting feelings, just be honest. A good designer won’t take it personally, pinky swear.

. . .

But how do you know when there are potentially deeper issues? Here are some warning signs that could signal something more serious which could mean you need to let your designer go:

Are they constantly missing deadlines?

Assuming you’re doing your part in keeping the project on track (i.e. delivering content and feedback in a timely manner) if your designer is always missing deadlines with no reasonable explanation (or worse, no explanation at all) it may be worth reassessing whether this is something you can live with or not.

Are they really bad at communicating?

If you feel like you’re constantly having to check up on your designer to see if they’ve done anything or if your designer will randomly go off the radar for long periods of time, you may want to find somebody else who can keep you up to date with your project better. Ultimately a designer is meant to make your life easier, not harder.

Is their quality of work poor?

Maybe you hired your designer and thought they were more capable than they actually are. Maybe their portfolio pieces don’t line up with the work you’re receiving. Either way, if you’re getting sub-standard work and if your feedback isn’t getting through to them, it’s a good idea to cut your losses here. Do you really want to have to finish this project and get a full redesign in a few months time?

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These are some of the most serious issues you can face so if you do decide that you can’t work through any of them then sadly it’s time you let your designer go. Here’s how you can go about doing that.

Give warning

You should give some warning that things aren’t going well and that you’re considering ending the project. Sometimes your designer may be totally oblivious to the problems so a simple email stating what you’re not happy with could be the push they need to get into gear.

I recommend keeping communication written so you have proof should you ever need it that sufficient warning was given.

You should be clear about what’s not going right, how you expect them to improve and when you will reassess.

Check your contract

You do have a contract, right? Check what’s in there in regards to procedure when terminating a contract. Usually it will say that you’re obligated to pay for any work completed up until that date. This is assuming you’ve documented that there is a problem you can’t rectify.

If you just decide to end the project for no reason, you may be obligated to pay the whole project fee.

Contracts do vary so I recommend checking yours. The above is just the most common practice.

Pay for completed work

If there is no contract in place then any work completed, signed off and paid for, you generally won’t be able to get that money back.

If you haven’t paid for any work, you should pay for the time your designer has spent so far but no more.

Cut your losses

Next it's time to cut your losses, dust yourself over and move on from the whole experience.

It totally sucks having to cease a project that you’ve plugged money into. But if it’s not working, you need to end it as soon as possible to prevent more money being thrown down the drain.

Evaluate why it went wrong

Finally, you need to try to figure out why it went wrong and what you could have done to prevent it.

Did you notice any red flags before hiring? Did you go for the cheapest quote even though your gut told you something wasn’t right? Is there anything you can do to ensure that next time you hire someone, this won’t happen again? Make sure you learn from this experience to prevent the same thing happening again.

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It may take some time for you to trust designers, freelancers or agencies again but as long as you follow the above steps and most importantly, learn from the experience, you’ll be in a much better position to make sure you find the right person next time.

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