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Does Your Process Include a Graphic Design Proof Approval Form?

August 6, 2020 | Productivity

Graphic design has become increasingly important to businesses worldwide, and the amount of work for graphic designers is growing tremendously. In fact, Adobe found that 71% of businesses are creating 10 times the number of design assets they did in past years. With this, one would expect graphic designers to be compensated as the valuable resource that they are. Unfortunately, this is not always the case – but there are ways to mitigate the risks. 



If you design something for a company and they approve it, you deserve to get paid – no question about it. Unfortunately, some companies find a way around actually doing so. This could occur for a number of reasons; they could say they don’t like the work, or it isn’t what they were looking for, or perhaps it was exactly what they were looking for but once they saw it they changed their minds. It doesn’t really matter what the reasoning is – if they approved your work, you deserve payment. The problem lies in the approval stage, without a graphic design proof approval form, you don’t have much evidence to support your case down the line. 

The gig economy lends itself to many issues, the largest being unfair treatment and payment to gig workers. This is true in the graphic design industry as well. According to Shutterstock, 20% of graphic designers worked freelance in 2014; by 2019, IBIS World found that number had risen to almost 90%. For freelance designers, the risk of not getting paid is heightened significantly. A big company knows they can out-lawyer you, and a small one may just take your design and cut communication. Even if you are paid, it may be well after the agreed-upon date, and it may be below the agreed-upon price. This is why it’s so important to get the terms of the agreement in writing. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, and it’s definitely worth more than 10 cents two months from now. 


Financial liability 

What’s worse than not getting paid for your work? Losing money over it. Say a company prints your design on 1,000 baseball caps, if they don’t like the way they turn out, they could try and hold you responsible. This is downright wrong, but that won’t stop it from happening. Before any design goes to print, it should be thoroughly vetted by the powers that be (a.k.a., the client); if you can prove this has happened, you are no longer liable. 


Hopefully, a lawsuit will never be a part of your graphic design career – but it could. If a company decides your design damaged its reputation in some way, they may try and blame you. Don’t let them. When they approve your design, they are essentially saying “this is what we want our brand to stand for.” Of course a company is going to blame the designer if their reputation is hurt by the work, accepting blame themselves would be admitting they were wrong (and that doesn’t happen all too often). A graphic design proof approval form is all the evidence you need to say “you asked me to make this and you approved the final piece, so anything that comes from it is on you guys.” 

Graphic designers may also find themselves on the other side of a lawsuit; if a company doesn’t pay for a design and then uses it themselves, you can sue them for copyright infringement and a breach of contract (if you had a contract with them). 

Job Creep 

Job creep, otherwise known as scope creep, occurs when the amount of work is increased or changed after you have agreed to do a job. This is extremely common, especially for freelancers. If you encounter an experience similar to the following, you could have job creep: 

  • Your job was supposed to be printing a 4×6 banner, but the client tells you they need you to print it in a larger size with a different material after you agreed to accept the assignment.
  • You agreed to illustrate a 20-page children’s book, but the author tells you she needs 10 more pages later on.
  • You’re running an Instagram campaign for your client, and they decide they need you to launch their Facebook advertising as well.

How to Mitigate the Risk of Job Creep

Extra work is not inherently problematic; in fact, it can be a great source of additional income. The problem arises when you are compensated for the agreed-upon work and nothing more. There are, however, measures you can take to prevent this – the best being a written agreement. The agreement should include, at its barest, the following:

  • The work: lay out exactly what you will be doing for your client (very, very specifically).
  • Schedule: share a timeline with the client that covers all major deadlines. If additional work is added, make it clear from the start that the timeline may need to be adjusted.
  • Payment: tell them how much they will owe you for the work you discussed. If more work is added, let them know from the get-go that your payment should reflect this additional labor.
  • Rights: This will vary case by case, but be sure you and your client are aware of who holds the rights to your work and for how long.  
  • Approval: Be sure that all parties are on the same page about the approval process and what it means when they hit “approve”. 

Reducing the Risks with a Graphic Design Proof Approval Form

A graphic design proof approval form is an absolute necessity for designers, it can save you from unfair payment, lawsuits and having to re-do your work right before the deadline. Even if you aren’t in a position where you could get mistreated, an approval form is still a great tool to use – having a definitive answer on if your work has been approved will save a great deal of time. 

Using Ashore for the Approval Process

Ashore’s checklist feature functions like a graphic design proof approval form – and what’s included in the checklist can be customized to best fit your needs. The approver (your client) has to say that they have reviewed your work for each item in the checklist – so if a mistake is found later on, you can’t be blamed. Essentially, Ashore’s checklist feature ensures approvers have consented to any design they approve. If you’re ready to get compensated fairly and streamline the approval process, sign up for a free Ashore account today! 

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