It’s ok to say no (to your client).

And win some respect and trust in the process.

Have you ever felt an overwhelming desire to show a work-in-progress to a client? Well, neither did I. During my 15 years in advertising I did almost everything, but I never got the client to work alongside me. Sometimes I just wished that way; at others, the bosses wanted to save the “Wow” effect for last (at all cost).

The problem with this approach is clients tend to feel pushed away from their projects as if they were incapable of coming up with good creative inputs. Here is something I’ve learned from situations like this: the more you isolate the client during the creative process, the less he will be inclined to say yes to your ideas. In this grim scenario, how can you stop clients from interfering in your creative process more than they’re supposed to? — Especially with the “don’t-take-no-for-an-answer” kind. Simple: get them to trust you.

We handle this sort of agency/client dilemma by following a few rule of thumb principles:

01. Be smart. Make sure always to have an argument to sustain your proposition. You are a problem solver and have the answer right in your pocket.

02. Be polite. Raising your voice won’t make you win an argument. The jungle law doesn’t apply here.

03. Be humble. No one likes to be challenged or humiliated in front of others. Keep your tongue at bay.

04. Be respectful. Probably your client knows much more about the product he sells than you do. Take his considerations seriously.

05. Be a co-worker. Treat him as an equal. Usually, clients work in a vertical hierarchy system. Level up with him and you’ll see wonders happens.

06. Be concise and clear. Often clients honestly don’t have the time (we think we deserve) to check our work thoroughly. By keeping it brief, you increase the chances for you work to be analyzed as it should.

07. Be pro-active. Clients love to follow the job’s development. Stop hiding the work-in-progress in your computer. Invite the client to act along with you every once in a while. Usually, every two weeks is a good timeframe to share a small batch of production work.

They are not that easy to accomplish. Even more, if your relationship with the client is not going well.

From the Creative Department point of view, the quality of the deliveries risks going down the sinkhole when people feel dissatisfied with their assigned tasks or the overall atmosphere of the workplace. The “bad vibe” usually happens when we:

  • don’t invite clients to think along with us;
  • push our ideas down their throat;
  • don’t think as one single team instead of as individual departments;
  • Drop a big bag of creative deliveries at the same time instead of delivering the work in small batches.

These principles are the baby steps towards something greater. And, when you get all them going, you’ll find yourself fearlessly saying “no” to your client without getting into trouble or upsetting anyone.

Thank you for reading,


My name is Finaga. Design Director @ Fjord. Dribbble, Twitter, Linkedin.


Edited by my dear friend Ana Mangeon.