Printer’s mistake has cost thousands of pounds. Help!

What happens if a client’s flyers arrive late due to a printing error? Hopefully the problem can be solved by having a transparent conversation with an understanding client. However, in this story the mistake left the freelancer vulnerable to reprint costs and a financial fallout with the client—even though it wasn’t their fault.

“I’m a graphic designer who will sometimes arrange for client’s flyers to be printed. The problem is that the printer I use made a mistake on my client’s recent campaign and this lead to the flyers not arriving on time. This has resulted in £1000 to reprint the flyers, and cancellation fees for the event. Even though it wasn’t my fault the client doesn’t see it that way.”

One of the most common claims against graphic designers is mistakes in work, and as is demonstrated with the example above the error doesn’t always stem from the designer themselves.

Who is to blame—graphic designer or printer?

Some freelancers assume if they’re using a third-party for printing services it absolves them of responsibility, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is the client’s perspective and the client usually blames the freelancer.

After all, the freelancer is their point of contact. The freelancer is who the client has entered into a relationship with, often contractually. The freelancer is who the client has given responsibility to.

In an ideal world the graphic designer would assist with proofing and organising files, but the client and printer should be in direct contact. This means that any mistakes made during the printing process will not impact the freelancer financially. It’s between the service provider and client to resolve.

Reducing your level of risk

To minimise claims from mistakes, you should have your client sign off on your work before it’s printed or published. It’s beneficial for a few reasons.

  1. Having another pair of eyes review your work means they can catch mistakes you’ve overlooked
  2. By having the client sign off on the work the responsibility for any mistakes now sits with them

What happens when printing mistakes occur

Some professional indemnity policies include cover for emergency correction costs.

You’ll want to check your policy wording, but if included it will say the insurer will cover the necessary costs to correct a mistake in marketing content so that it can be released in the form originally agreed with the client.

Whilst that addresses the issue with the reprint, what about the event cancellation fees the client’s incurred due to the flyers not being published and distributed on time? Assuming the client looks to recover these costs from the freelancer, this is something professional indemnity insurance can help with.

Professional indemnity insurance is very broad and this can make it difficult to understand. We’ve written a guide on it here, but it can be triggered if a client tries to recover damages from you due to an error with your work. In this example, the client has incurred costs from cancelling the event due to the mistake with the flyers. If they try to recover these costs from the freelancer, the designer’s insurance can assist with this.

Remember, these policies exist to defend you. So if a mistake happens it’s important not to invite a claim against you. You don’t want to say “Don’t worry, my insurer will cover the cost of this”. That’s not how insurance works and this could invalidate your coverage. The policy will spring into action if a client tries to recover damages from you.

We never want mistakes like this to happen, but we know all too well that they sometimes do. There is also the unpredictability of how your client will react to these mistakes. Some clients will eat the costs and write it off as an unfortunate mistake, but other clients will hold you responsible.

Being insured can be the difference between paying expensive reprint costs and whatever financial fallout there may be with your client, or paying £14 a month.

We asked ourselves one important question…

What do we want out of an insurance provider?

With Jack is the answer