Posted by: Lisa | September 19, 2008

When to draw the line

As a designer and event planner, I try to be as accommodating to my clients as possible. I understand the challenges and stresses of pulling together every facet of an event to make things work. I’ve help coordinate galas and conferences with guest lists in the thousands, so it’s something I am well aware of. One of the biggest keys to a successful event is the communication between the parties involved. If the communication is clear, the project works. If it isn’t, the project, along with everyone involved, suffers.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to design invitations for a client. As with my other clients, I asked for a master guest list of names to help address the envelopes. Rather than receiving one or two typed lists, I was given dozens of pages of handwritten names, some with no listings, with the words “find address” on it, as well as hard copies with names and addresses highlighted. Now, I do my best to accommodate, and even take time out to try to help “find addresses,” but logistically speaking, it’s a pretty impossible task given the fact that some names are very common. Not to mention that this doesn’t even fall within my scope of duties.

Soon after, I started receiving several messages a day, each time with more names, sometimes the same name twice. Sometimes messages to refer to “this name” on “that list.” What was initially a count of a couple hundred ballooned to double the original estimate, leaving me to scramble to make up the difference because of the fast-approaching deadline. (For those that have never dealt with printers, you’re better off with overestimating the amount you need than underestimating, because it will cost you a lot more to order extra.) But I try to be understanding and do what I can to help.

What doesn’t help is, when a client takes my generosity and willingness to help for granted, and becomes unreasonable expecting me to do things beyond what was agreed. I will help you if you give me a clear plan. I will not help you if you insult my professionalism or yell at me. This is where I draw the line.

Please excuse me for this need to vent. And please don’t take this as anything other than that. It’s just that sometimes being a service is a lot more complicated than selling a straight up product. If people don’t like your product, they move on. With service there’s a lot more energy involved, and I feel the need to get this off my chest before I physically get sick from holding it all in.



  1. oh no! i’m so sorry that happened! i was in a similar situation creating a seating chart for a client. she sent me first and last names- couples separated and on their own line. when i sent her the proof she was upset that it wasn’t in a formal manner (i.e. mr. and mrs. doug jones) and blamed me! she said i should have known! oy!

    best of luck… but remember with every handful of difficult comes a few amazing clients!

  2. I know exactly what you mean…no matter how much you try, there are always impossible clients.
    Thank god, most people are polite and more understanding…we just have to get through the tough ones every once in a while.

    Well…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!

  3. Hi Lisa and fellow etsian. I found your blog tucked into my favorites and thought I’d check in and say hi. I *loved* your article on “when to draw the line”. I felt terrible sympathy pangs for you (and me) as I read this part “I was given dozens of pages of handwritten names, some with no listings, with the words “find address” on it, as well as hard copies with names and addresses highlighted”. No matter how much you love your clients and want to help them you do have to “draw the line” somewhere. Mine is definetly WAY before “find address”, LOL! Wishing you contined success. 🙂


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