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Designers: Using PayPal is a Big Gamble – Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

Some of you designers' may already be familiar with a few very challenging problems that I've experienced with VERY unscrupulous clients, and a very rigid and 'you are guilty until proven innocent' approach by Paypal.

Some of my top-tips are at the end of this post:

Several times last year, after completing several freelance logo design projects—in one case the client actually stating that my work was good, and was just what she was looking for—subsequently filed an 'Item not Received' dispute with Paypal.

The long and short of this means: Paypal immediately put my funds on hold, and actual debited my Paypal account with the amount being disputed, which in one case was £1000, until the dispute is resolved.

Resolving these disputes is incredibly time intensive, very frustrating, and so stressful, not to mention he financial burden.

If you feel that the client will win the dispute, even though you have proof that they DID indeed received the logo designs after spending a solid month on the project, then this obviously leaves one very financially ducked.

I'm happy to say that in each case, after I submitted a considerable weight of evidence in my favour, the disputes were finally resolved in my favour.

The process took weeks to resolve, so that's a lot of needless stress to be dealing with when you're trying to work with other much nicer clients.

Not the end of the Story

After seeing that a VERY small minority of clients tried to screw with me, ultimately trying to get a logo design for free, I decided to limit my use of Paypal to receive project payments for new work.

However, I would still use it on very few occasions: mostly when I had a good previous relationship with a client, but also using a more bullet-proof contract, and work-flow (to prove that I had done my job, and that also to prove the clients have also seen this work).


Last week I woke up to find an email from Paypal: one of these past 'clients', even though they'd tried to get a full refund from me by filing a dispute, which inevitably went in my favour, that the client had now decided (a full year on) to file yet another dispute.

Apparently they weren't happy that their scam backfired, so wanted to try again!

This time they were using a chargeback process on the debit card, issued from their bank, which they had used to pay me, which was linked to their Paypal account.

This was a total surprise, and frankly shook me to the core.

Once again, I was now £1000 down in my Paypal account, and once again I had to provide proof that I had indeed done my job, and delivered the final logo designs etc.

That I had already been completely vindicated the first time around, it apparently means nothing when a client decides to go through their bank, if they had used their linked credit card.

In this case Paypal are basically supplying all the proof/evidence that I submit, back to the clients bank, and then the case is dealt with with Paypal an intermediary negotiator.

I'll leave my upset ramblings there, because the whole system with Paypal is so messed up when a 'buyer' decides to pull a fast-one.

A Fair Warning

I'll end with a big warning to any of you freelance graphic and logo designers, who still use Paypal to receive payment.

There is no guarantee that a client may choose, at any time, to file a Dispute, not once, but twice (with apparently no time restrictions in place, and even if the first dispute was settled in your favour, which is just utterly ludicrous.).

Even if they have said they were completely happy with the work.



Some Tips to Avoid being Scammed by a Client

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself, in order to help yourself provide the evidence needed to show Paypal in such a situation.

  1. Use a project management application—I use, that allows both the designer and client to add comments, and also 'Approved' notes to any design.This basically shows Paypal that the client had indeed seen your work, and that you were doing what you were being paid for. Even better if you can get the client to 'sign-off' on an idea during the project.Without showing the clients comments that had expressly stated she had both seen my ideas, and also liked them, I'm not sure I would have won the dispute.
  2. Keep all emails (sent and received), take screenshots of any correspondence that show the client has been seeing your work, your progress and any positive comments and/or feedback they have given you.
  3. Ensure they have signed acceptance of your Contract and/or Terms of Conditions, and ensure you get a copy of this signed documents before starting.I use Bonsai to provide my digitally signed Contracts, that has several clear clauses/explanations of what will happen if a client decides to 'play dirty'.It's shame one feels the need to do this, but it sends a message.
  4. Based on this recent 'Chargeback' fiasco, you're not even really safe using Credit Card services like Stripe etc, as you're still open to a client deciding to file a Chargeback dispute, leaving you in exactly the same position as I am at the moment.The only real safe option is to use the tried-and-tested Bank Transfer, Cash, Cheque, PO, Western Union, etc for all monies sent by your client.
  5. An obvious one is not to use PayPal, but this is not always convenient for many designers etc.If you still need to use Paypal, then if you adopt the above, although you'll not avoid having a 'Dispute' being raised, you will be in a good position to win the Dispute with the evidence you have, such as I have on two occasions.

Rest assured, once this current dispute is resolved, either way, I'll absolutely be termination my PayPal account, as not knowing if a client from last year, or year before suddenly decides that they need some money, and tries to file a Chargeback dispute from their bank via PayPal.

I simply cannot live with that uncertainty any more.

Any questions you want to ask, or any other tips you can share, then please do so in comments below.

Previous Posts on Paypal

You'd think with all my bad experiences, and rants and moans, that I'd have learnt my lesson by now, but I'm simply too trusting, and hate to think the worse in people.

However, this current situation has completely thrown me over the edge, so no more 'trust' with Paypal.

  1. Graphic Designers: Avoid PayPal ‘Item not Received’ Dispute
  2. Using Paypal Safely
  3. Paypal a Curse for the self employed designer


The Challenges Facing Freelance Logo Designers and NDA’s

Challenges Facing Freelance Logo Designers and NDA's

The Challenges Facing Freelance Logo Designers and NDA's

Thought I'd share a letter I once wrote to a client, regarding some compromises on an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) I was asked to sign, for a logo and brand identity project.

The challenge was that my client was an 'agency', acting on behalf of their client.

My role was to produce 3-4 logo concepts, that 'my' client would show their client. Their client would then choose 1 of those concepts for us to move forward with.

I felt it addressed a number of issues that I had been worried about before in other, but had not had the 'courage' to raise them with the client.In this case, I just felt I needed to raise these recurring concerns.

I'm very glad I did, as the client is question was only to please to accommodate my suggestions, which made it all the easier.

I have since added these points to a Contract template that is used in response to signing any further client NDA's.

The biggest lesson learnt here: Don't be afraid to question the NDA, if it doesn't 'flow' with your own contract, or way of working.

Note: I've pretty much just copied and pasted this letter as I wrote it, but obviously removing names etc.

The NDA Letter

With reference to your NDA and contract: I do have my own contract, but this may conflict with some of the aspects in the NDA, which isn’t a problem as I can change it as required.

The main topic of interest: relates to 'Ownership of Copyright’ of the logo design ideas submitted to you, and also my usual approach of putting my finished logo and graphic design work in my portfolio.

Ownership of Copyright

Typically, with OoC (Ownership of Copyright), this automatically passes from me to you once the balance has been paid ( I do also sign a form that I send clients showing Transfer of Ownership)

It is at this stage when I’d usually release the final digital files, concepts to the client.

No final balance; no final files or Transfer of Copyright.

One Logo Design Idea

The other issue is that the client will only always get the copyright for the one chosen logo design, and none of the passed-up previous concepts, ideas, sketches etc. 

In this case, the NDA would conflict this rule of mine as I am to present you with 3-4 logo concepts which you are to show to your own client.

If your client doesn’t go with any of the ideas, then this is a bit of a grey area: you would have 3-4 ideas, that you’ve paid for, but yet I would ordinarily only allow for 1 idea in relation to Transfer of Copyright. 

This is meant to protect me from a client using any of my previous ideas, that they’ve previously passed up. I might have created countless sketches and vague concepts, maybe a handful of more polished digital ideas, but my client will only ever get ownership of the one chosen idea.

I’d need to make some kind of provision that you are not permitted to use my concepts (except 1, as you have paid for that) for other works’/clients’ if your client doesn’t select any of mine.

Also, this would apply if your client does choose an idea, this means the other remaining concepts cannot be used or repurposed, by you, for other clients/future projects etc.

In Conclusion

• If your client awards you the pitch, and we get the go ahead to progress with one of the concepts, only this 1 logo design concept would be covered by the Transfer of Ownership of Copyright. 

The remaining logo concepts remain my ownership, but I’d adhere to the NDA and remove any mention/reference to the clients brand name etc, obviously. This would allow me to repurpose a logo mark, for example, that they passed-up, for another client. Not clear at this point if the Ownership of the chosen concept eventually goes to you, or to your client.

• If the client doesn’t award you the pitch, then you are only permitted to use/repurpose one of the concepts I’ve created, for any other project/client you see fit in the future. You’d  just need to let me know which one, and I’d arrange the Transfer of Copyright etc accordingly.

Showing of Client Works

Typically, after a project is complete, and the client is happy etc, then I’d put the logo design on my portfolio, external portfolios, and usually blog about the project etc.

I understand the NDA prevents me from doing this initially, but I’m not sure if this is a ‘forever thing’, or time limited?

So for example: you win the pitch, and we work on a final version of the logo. Would I, at any point in the future, be able to put this design in my portfolio?

Sorry for all this, but I’ve been burnt before, and seen other designers’ in a similar position see a number of their ‘unwanted’ concepts actually being used.

I hope this all makes sense, and feel free to suggest edits/amendments, then I can include this in my Contract and send it to you for your approval, along with the Invoice.

Logo Designers: Don’t Promise Deadlines

Logo Designers: Don't Promise Deadlines

As a graphic designer, I'm sometimes asked to 'promise' an urgent deadline as well as providing a logo design the client loves: Don't Promise Deadlines.

Somethings one can promise; other things, however, would be foolish and irresponsible to promise.

When a client asks me to promise, guarantee, or even stipulate in the contract, that the project will be completed by a certain date, I absolutely refuse to make this promise. Not because I'm being awkward; because I simply cannot keep that promise.

As a Graphic Designer, what shouldn't I Promise a Client?

So this is easy: don't ever promise a client that you can 'finish' a logo design project by a certain date.

If a client is really pressing you hard to commit to a deadline, you still need to try and avoid getting tied up with promises that are almost impossible to keep, or certainly guarantee.

But Why Can't I Promise This?

There are various reasons that make it almost impossible for a graphic designer to promise, and guarantee, that they'll have a logo design, that the client likes, by a fixed date. Even more so if the schedule is urgent, or needed in weeks, rather than months.

The main reason, that's beyond a graphic designers control? You can't usually foresee, with absolute certainty, which idea a client will really like.

So if you can't know when/if a client will like any submitted ideas, how can you then guarantee that you'll come up with something they'll like by a promised deadline?

What Can I Promise then?

You can promise that you'll have either a set number of logo design ideas, or a at least a few by a certain date. This is much more realistic, and is certainly something you can promise.

I'll promise a client, without any doubt, that I'll have at least one idea, and likely a few ideas, by the clients deadline.

What you can't promise, off the back of this, is that the client will like any one of those designs. 

I'll make it abundantly clear that: my promise of delivering logo design ideas by a deadline, isn't the same as: promising the project will be completed by that deadline.

I'll also make it very clear that: I'll obviously try my very best to meet any suggested deadlines, but the client must be aware that the project could well run past their ideal deadline, and to make accommodations for that.

The shorter those deadlines are, the less likely the design will be as well researched and thought out, as one that doesn't have restrictive deadlines.

Keep it Real

When all is said and done, we graphic designers are mostly not miracle workers, when it comes down to the VERY subjective nature of graphic design.

We cannot usually predict how a client will react to any presented design, and we certainly shouldn't make promises that we simply cannot keep, even if we really feel we are the best logo designer in the world.

Remember: By all means promise a client you'll have x-amount of ideas by a deadline, but you cannot promise that within this initial bunch of ideas, will be one the client likes.

Don't Promise Deadlines: It's just not a wise, or appropriate thing to promise.

The very least you'll have some constructive feedback to work off, and hopefully you'll have narrowed down the creative directions that you can take. Once the client sees you are working, and delivering evolving ideas, this is usually enough for the client to ease of the gas pedal, and give you the time you need.

Thoughts on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness

Thoughts on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness

Photograph Credit:

Thoughts on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness

One of the topics that a client will bring up prior to the commencement of a project is on Logo Design Longevity and Timelessness. Specifically they'll be hinting that the logo I'll be designing for them survives 5, 10, 15 even 20 years into the future.

No pressure then.

It's actually a reasonable suggestion on the face of it—who wouldn't want the result of any investment to last years into the future—but the more you consider what external factors are against a logo design lasting a decade or more, the harder this'll seem possible.

It often seems a challenge to ensure a logo will last a few years, let alone 5+.

Ensuring logo design longevity is not something that ANY logo designer can predict, let along actually promise to a client. To promise to a client that this new logo design will last 5, 10 or 20 years would be so very wrong on so many levels—would be curious to know if any designer has tried to pull that particular stunt.

The best any logo designer can do is to ensure that at the very start they have a complete and full understanding of: the brief; the company, service, product (or whatever requires the logo design); the branding of direct and indirect competitors; the target audience; being aware of, but not necessarily sucking up to, current logo design trends; and numerous other mitigating factors.

If these points have been adequately factored in, and the designer has delivered a 'fit for purpose' logo and identity design, then this could be considered a job well done.

Even if this is true, no one can predict how long this particular logo design might stay in service for. It might be a 'rad or sick' looking logo, but that doesn't guarantee the longevity of a logo's life span.

Factors Influencing a Logo Designs Longevity, or it's Timelessness

There are a few initial reasons that I can think of in why it would be irresponsible to tell a client you can design a logo that last 'x' amount of years. I'll refer to a fictitious brand called, "Poppycock".

— One of the factors that's mostly out of the control of a logo designer, is if the people behind PoppyCock decide to rename/rebrand/refocus the core of their their business to be nothing about poppies, or cocks.

This would require a logo redesign, and would be something the original logo designer would have been hard pressed to account for (unless one designed a suitably generic or type only logo design, and only then if this is what the client was happy with, and let's not forget said designer might have tried to sell them a more neutral, time lasting type based logo, but the client rejected it. So meta.).

— The arrival of new competing companies can also throw a considerable spanner into the works. If their competing brand shines brighter than PoppyCocks, and their branding is far more audience inviting, then this can have a knock-on effect.

This might result in a subtle brand refresh (not a complete redesign) for PoppyCock sometime in the near future, or it might mean a more detailed analysis of how PoppyCock needs to stand-out above the new competition.

— The company might be scooped up by a larger company, thus seeing the original logo banished in favour of something completely different, or more in line with the new parent companies branding. Again, hard one for a logo designer to predict.

— If the client/board/committee had 'pushed' for a certain style of design that leaned heavily towards current logo design trends, and was against the wise advice of their logo designer, then this could likely end up being relatively short lived.

 Especially so if PoppyCock was a product where it's UPS (Unique Selling Point) was a product based on longevity, then well…

In Conclusion

There are a few ways a logo designer can try to ensure a certain logo design has more longevity over that of another style of design, but even this doesn't mean it's immune to external factors mentioned above.

Some of the methods employed to try to increase logo design longevity and timelessness might be to under-design, than over-design.

By this I mean: to decrease the chance of a style of design becoming a victim of an inadvertent design trend (you might accidentally create a style of logo that becomes a trend without meaning too, and thus becoming a victim of it's own success!) a few years down the road.

The more neutral a design is, the less chance it has of becoming victim of a flash-in-the-pan trend, and an example of this might be a typography based logo design, or a simple but strong logo mark.

This doesn't mean boring, bland or a lack of imagination from the designer. It just means that the accompanying identity ideally needs more substance/personality to it (requiring just as much imagination, if not more, from the designer), thus creating strength through the whole brand identity, rather than the logo taking a lot of the weight.

More In Conclusion

So when a client asks me how long my logo design will last them, or they specially ask that the logo last 'x' amount of years, I generally have a pretty good explanation to hand of why this isn't probably going to be possible.

Ultimately though, I always ‘try’ to design-in longevity and timelessness by not being overly dependant on current design trends, and to ensure I've a complete handle on the brief, and trying not to be 'directed' in inappropriate directions by the client.

That's about as ‘responsible’ as one can get.

When a Shell Tanker Overtakes Cyclist (Me) Dangerously Close

Shell Tanker Dangerous Overtaking Bike Shell Tanker Dangerous Overtaking Bike

When a Shell Tanker Overtakes Cyclist Dangerously Close

Been meaning to post about this for a while, then I forgot about it until a recent video went viral of a rather angry man tying to chase a cyclist and trips over, who confronts him about his 'little too close' passing manoeuvre.

What you can see in the photographs is a Shell tanker overtaking me, then start to close in on me.

The first photo shows the tanker a little more than half-way in his overtaking of me, but already starting to close back in far too soon. You can see my my biking buddy in the distance. At this point I had already been forced to come dangerously close to the kerb, but when you see the second photograph you'll see that I simply had no 'wiggle' room as the back of the Shell tanker drew up along side me and continued to close the space in front of me.

The second photograph simply shows how I so very nearly got sandwiched between the Shell tanker and the kerb, not to mention being clipped by the rear light and significantly sharp and heavy bumper fixtures.

The driver had basically started to overtake when an oncoming car meant the driver had to steer back over very quickly, leaving me just a few inches to keep the bike steady from the significant blast of air and noise.

This is one of a few times where I've literally feared for my life: being sideswiped off on a busy main road. Fortunately I often do take a helmet mounted camera, and on this occasion had it set-up to take photographic stills every few seconds.

My Stolen AV Logo Design: Latest Update


Screenshot 2015-06-19 08.04.16


Further to my post last week, AlotVine Steals My AV Logo & Uses It To Make Money, it turns out that AlotVine used the infamous website, to pay a 'logo designer' $5 for my AV logo. Yes, you heard that right: a logo designer on appropriated/stole my AV Logo, in it's complete unamended form, and sold it onto ALotVine.

Now this clearly places Fiverr, the logo designer in question, AND ALotVine in a very tricky situation, as I still demand full payment for my AV logo.

I sort of understand the position that AlotVine finds themselves in, as they apparently didn't outright 'steal' my logo, but they are still using a logo design that is NOT their property, no matter how legitimately they believe they came about it.

So, I will partially take-back my initial accusation that AlotVine 'intentially' stole my logo, but the fact remains: they ARE using my logo without my permission. I don't care that they believe they have already paid for the logo, they haven't paid me.

One still has to question the questionable business decision to use a design on Fiverr to brand a VERY popular Youtube company, one that simply makes alot of money off other peoples' Vine video's.

I would like to see both Fiverr and the logo designer being sued in some form or another, be it AlotVine or myself. Watch this space…

AV-Logo-Design-by-Graham-Logo-SmithAV VA logomark 1 for Sale designed by Graham Smith copy

AlotVine Steals My AV Logo & Uses It To Make Money


Screenshot 2015-06-19 08.05.27

Screenshot 2015-06-19 08.04.16

AlotVine Steals My AV Logo & Uses It To Make Money

Getting sick and tired of people stealing my portfolio, individual logos, passing them off as their own work, but this is the first time someone has stolen one of my Logos for Sale, and actually has the audacity to so blatantly use it for their business.

Screenshot 2015-06-19 08.40.43


AlotVine are clearly making money from YouTube advertising, and t-shirt sales, so reckon they can now afford to pay me. Shame on you ALotVine, and I'm waiting for payment, royalties and interest!

I'm not sorry I've taken this straight to Social Media, rather than approach ALotVine privately, as I'm just far to angry to care.

AV VA logomark 1 for Sale designed by Graham Smith copy AV-Logo-Design-by-Graham-Logo-Smith

Finding Freelance Logo Designers on Google? Surprisingly Difficult!

Finding freelance logo designers on Google

Freelance Logo Designers

Just a wee snippet of a post, but when I read this recent client enquiry for a logo design the matter-of-fact way in which it was worded just made me pause.

On my Logo Design Brief and Logo Design Enquiries form, I have a box where the client can indicate where they might have found me/come across me, and more often than not it is usually some kind of Google search, no big surprise really. But this particular one just hit me with the phrasing, "It is actually surprisingly difficult to find a professional designer outside the "big" sites of 99designs, Crowdspring, etc."

Again, I don't think that's actually a big surprise to any of us freelance logo designers, but to just read it like this from a client really highlighted how these 'big' sites are sucking the lively hood of far more talented, and worthy designers, not to mention leading clients on a probably route to unprofessional and sub-standard work etc.

Just to note: Back in the day, I was once a newbie freelance logo designer on sites like 99Designs and Crowdspring, trying to forge a name and portfolio for myself. With this hindsight and experience, I feel quite comfortable telling it how it is.

It's still a shame, but a reality we have to deal with, or fade into obscurity.

These crowdsources websites are going to continue devaluing various disciplines of the graphic design industry, and we as freelance logo designers, who rely on our on logo design portfolio, self marketing and advertising, social media, and Google rankings etc, must continue to plod on unabated.

Client Advice: When Will My Logo Design Be Finished?

Client Advice: When Will My Logo Design Be Finished?

Client Advice When Will My Logo Design Be Finished?" is one of the most often asked questions by potential new clients, yet is the single most hardest one to give an accurate answer to.

As much as I completely understand the need for us all to control deadlines and schedules, not to mention the feeling of helplessness when tasking an outside designer to work on a project, the question still erks me.

There are a number of factors that are completely out of my control when it comes to determining when and if a logo design, or even a general direction for a logos possible direction, can be confirmed by, and a relatively accurate date given.

I don't like not being able to answer the question in the way a client will be hoping for, but I simply cannot, and will not, promise a finished date when it's a complete crock of shit, and a big fat lie.

The reality is: who knows when I'll come up with that logo design idea that the client, or board members, or select group of trusted advisors will all unanimously approve.

When design itself is so subjective, how can one logo designer promise and assume that they'll come up with a logo design that will, without fail, knock their client's collective socks off!

If I could always determine the exact date and moment that the finale of all a single logo design projects: groundwork, mind-map's, understanding the clients business/product/service, research of competitors, sketches of multiple ideas, and creating digital version in Illustrator, and give that date to a client with 100% certainty, I'd quickly realise I would be able to book up years worth of clients with week-by-week start and completion dates. Indeed, that really would be quite useful.

We all need Client Schedules

Obviously it's very important to know when the client ideally needs a logo done by. After all, if there were no schedules or deadlines, we'd likely never finish it.

A schedule helps us focus our priorities, and allows us to prioritise other projects. However, a schedule is quite different from a promised completion date, especially with something as unpredictable as delivering a winning logo design idea right on time.

Each time I am asked, "When Will My Logo Design Be Finished?", the only thing I can say for sure is that I really don't know, but I will work my damnedest to complete the logo project in a timely manor, with any deadlines/schedules that the client has in mind, but without sacrificing the quality and integrity of the design. Not to mention putting myself under unnecessary stress.

If this is not good enough, then I simply refuse to take the project on. It doesn't do me any good at all to take on a project knowing that an urgent deadline is waiting, and knowing I can't possibly know if I'll be able to deliver.

I can often give an overall idea, based on previous projects, but then again, anytime I give even an 'approximate' idea, it often feels like you are being held to that.

I simply try to just say it could take a few weeks, or it could take a a month or longer. It depends on how well the brief is put together, how quickly I'm able to get on track with the interpretation of the brief, how quickly I'm able to narrow in on that particular design that the client will like.

If each presented logo idea is rejected, then this clearly adds more time onto the project, and I can't possibly know how a client will react to any one design. Even after all these years, it remains mostly a mystery to me.


If you really don/t know how long a new logo project will take, and the client is pressing for a completion date, try your best not to provide a date you cannot possibly stick to.

Do try your best to explain to the client that you are working on the project, it is your sole focus for the foreseeable future, and that you will just 'put in your all' whilst ensuring the brief is adhered to, and not at the expense of 'is it done yet, is it done yet'.

By all means give a approximate guide, BUT stress this is most likely going to change. Sure, you could stumble across that amazing idea overnight, but you can't rely on that happening.

Far better, and considerably more professional, to count on experiencing a few challenges during the projects development whilst trying to hone in on that one logo idea that wins the hearts of all concerned.