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Have you ever had a customer call/or email and say "hey, can you design this...and send us an image proof before we place our order?" Then you supply the proof and never hear anything back only to later notice your work printed by another competitor?

We hate charging graphics fees for everything, considering most things we work up only take a few minutes sometimes, but this type of situation is so ridiculous and unethical. How do you remedy without getting rude and possibly losing other customers through the process from bad mouthing when you didn't even do anything wrong?
 

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Have you ever had a customer call/or email and say "hey, can you design this...and send us an image proof before we place our order?" Then you supply the proof and never hear anything back only to later notice your work printed by another competitor?

We hate charging graphics fees for everything, considering most things we work up only take a few minutes sometimes, but this type of situation is so ridiculous and unethical. How do you remedy without getting rude and possibly losing other customers through the process from bad mouthing when you didn't even do anything wrong?
There is no good way. You either have to charge for your time in designing the proof or accept that this happens very often! Pretty much anything you do will more then likely get you talked about in a bad way.
You can try to put watermarks on things but that only slows down people.
We charge for anything that takes more then a couple minutes. Depending on the product they are ordering we may take the art cost that are paid off the total bill once they have ordered.
 
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I like the two great suggestions above:

Charge a fee for the art upfront, but say it will be deducted from the printing costs when they place an order. I would probably use this one if the design involved quite a bit of work.

Or send the art to them as a T-shirt mockup jpg. Make sure that mockup has some nice wrinkles, shadows, and highlights. I've done this myself when doing a bit of freelance design work for others ... I don't send them clean usable art until they are happy with the results and pay.
 

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I quote them a price first and tell them that if the pricing is OK I'll work on a proof. Once they approve the price and ask me to proceed, I'm reasonably assured that the job is live and I go ahead with the artwork. Of course they have to like the design before I can proceed with the printing, but I can't remember anyone ever cancelling an order because I couldn't come up with something they like.

If it gets to the point where they start asking me to do time consuming custom illustration, I'll quote them pricing for me to do it or for me to hire a professional illustrator. If they want to go that route, I'll collect a deposit.

What I DON'T do is provide multiple designs so they can decide which one they like best or design a shirt so they can then decide whether or not they want to place an order.
 
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