Client demanding removal of work on Folio

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  • SigDesign

    I have a client I made a website for a few years ago, and it's been on my small biz portfolio for that entire time.

    They just recently noticed it showing up on the first page of their company name search in Google, and now are demanding that I take their work off my site. This was a job that had a rather loose contract (we didn't actually sign one), so we never stated whether or not we could use the work in our portfolio.

    They're claiming the website is 'completely' redone, and therefore we no longer designed it. However, they're still using some of the photography I took, and the website looks exactly the same. It also has most of the original code.

    I don't really need it on my folio, but ... I don't know that I want to comply with this... what would you do?

  • shellie1

    Be more specific in your contracts next time and move on.

    A solve I've seen a few people employ is preserving video and screenshots of a site and keeping those behind a password protected portfolio area for the purpose of new business presentations or interviews. A working version of the website will definitely change at some point in the future anyway. Most of my portfolio cannot be shown to the public but I use it all the time behind closed doors. That's all that really matters.

    • < thisrobotron3k
    • yupmoldero
    • Interesting. I always thought it was your work even after they stopped using it.monospaced
    • @mono try telling that to Disney or Sony. They aren't having it. For my work on the west coast (luxury brands and entertainment) they retain ownership forevershellie
    • and they will send designers a strongly worded letter. Most agencies with those kind of clients tell you that you can't upfront.shellie
    • As a result of this project I actually had a lawyer draft up a nice SOW agreement with T&CsSigDesign
    • very smart sig. everyone needs a tight SOW. i had a lawyer make me one 15 years ago when i first started freelancing. life saver in so many waysshellie
    • Including payment terms and additional fees and interest for late payments which has made me thousands more over the years.shellie
    • makes it easy to define deliverables, schedules and charge for change orders for scope and schedule creep.shellie
    • Yeah. I did Coca Cola work about 10 years ago and have never been able to show it in public.monospaced
  • _niko1

    Do you think you'll get more work out of them in the future?
    Just make sure you add a note on the website that the work was from 2015 or whatever and you should be good.

    • No. They were thoroughly dissatisfied. But for some reason ended up still using the website for 3 years.SigDesign
  • moldero4

    upsell them on some SEO work because it sounds like they need it.

  • doggydoggdog0

    Are you showing screenshots or only linking to their site?

    Do they think people will be confused by the "differences" between your version and the current one?

    I don't understand what they're objecting to if you're showing .jpgs of what you designed or coded.

    • Just jpgs and an old wireframe...links to the current one...explains differences. They just want it removed cause we're showing up in their keywords.SigDesign
    • You can hide pages from Google. Also remove the link. Don't give in unless you don't care.doggydoggdog
  • doggydoggdog0

    I've never heard of a client objecting to a designer about putting work in their portfolio / site, if it's been released and the designer isn't misrepresenting their role.

    • They're claiming it's a misrepresentation, because they changed the back-end a bit. But it's still is still the same...SigDesign
    • ^ you're only claiming to design what's on your site though. Tell them to chill.doggydoggdog
  • microkorg0

    They just pissed cos you winning on SEO ;)
    Add some goatse to the page.

  • noneck0

    I've been in a similar situation. My client was pissed because my portfolio linked two of their shady business dealings. Client called and demanded that I remove all their work from my portfolio. Eventually, I did; but I never got another job from them again.

    My thinking is that you're fully entitled to show your work - even if you didn't specifically state so in your contract - as long as you are accurate and honest about what you did.

    If they're belligerent in their request, you likely won't ever get work from them again anyways, so trying to placate them will ultimately be fruitless. Offer to take it down for a fee. Since you're going to be without that as a means to advertise yourself and obtain new work, they should compensate you.

    They won't pay you, of course. But it's a good response.

    • Have you actually ever offered to take something down for a fee? That seems like a potentially deeply problematic route to take..detritus
    • i wouldn't suggest fighting with them about this. just clean up your process.shellie
    • They didn't even pay us for the last I'm not going to fight them... but I'm not going to rush to pull it down either.SigDesign
  • shellie0

    I've been on the client side of this argument before. Footage ended up in a reel for a killed project because it looked terrible and misrepresented the artist it was for -- the artist hated everything about it. The director was actually fired however he WAS paid. Nonetheless we own the footage used or unused. We never approved public release and I can burry it if i want to. The director was served a cease and desist and he complied before the video could be copied or spread. I don't care if he shows it privately, but I have a big problem if it shows up online and I'd shut it down again, with damages, if I ever noticed it popping back up in whole or in part.

    It's not just my opinion that if they pay for it, they own it. You didn't sell them a license to use your work, you sold them THE work as a whole as a gun for hire with unlimited use for an unlimited amount of time. It's their right to exercise that even if you think it's a dickwad move. One of the reasons movie studios do this with contractor is they literally don't want to expose their vendors or the employees of their vendors to competition. They want everything to appear as an in house job to the general public. there are hundreds of artists hands that touch a movie campaign on the marketing backend that you'll never know about. Agencies that display big projects publicly are usually the agency on record and have negotiated that upfront but those rights do not extend to the employees or 3rd party vendors of the agency. You've got to be a little more chill about how you display the work of paying customers. Even moreso if you're actually an employee of a vendor and the client isn't yours directly.

    Your situation doesn't sound as serious but it's basically the same general problem. id say if you pick up a small client simply adding a version of the following line will avoid this problem as they'd probably sign it at the top of the project:

    "Upon final approval and launch _______ has the right to show this work in whole or in part as completed work in a public portfolio."

    With that theres no problem SEO or not.

    • That line is broad enough where if signed in a SOW you could copy their entire site on ur server & they couldn't stop u. Although prob should password that tbh.shellie
  • SigDesign0

    I've been in this position many times before with work that I cannot show. I have a lot of work I've done for various businesses that was internal-only, or explicitly involved with an NDA so I can't show it publicly. Totally understandable...

    This project, however, was a simple public website for a direct client, and the design hasn't changed at all. There wasn't an NDA, or any request from the client for us to not show this in our portfolio. It's been 3 years since this site was published and it's been in our portfolio that entire time.

    I don't think they have a legal case to force me to remove it. But, at this point, I don't really need to show their project, so i'll take it down. They're one of those clients that makes you want to quit working as a designer.