• I want to thank all the members that have upgraded your accounts. I truly appreciate your support of the site monetarily. Supporting the site keeps this site up and running as a lot of work daily goes on behind the scenes. Click to Support Signs101 ...

How to politely ask for deposit before any work is started?


New Member
We have had several instances of people coming in and asking for a sign or vehicle graphics and we do he artwork and thats the last we hear of them. I would like to come up with a general statement that all the counter people can use to say we will start the design as soon as we have a deposit. I thought something like saying this after taking the order "thank you and we can get started on the artwork as soon as we get a deposit". Im not sure if this will get the point across politely or let them know that our time is valuable. I am also thinking of what amount to ask for a deposit, if its a small sign or large vehicle wrap, if you don't know what the final cost is going to be, how much do you ask for? I am certain that we are going to have people just walk out but I am tired of paying the artist for his time and then getting no return on that investment.

What is everyone's thoughts on this?

Locals Find!

New Member
Ask for enough to make it worth your time and, get the client to have some skin in the game. A good rule of thumb is 25-50% of the average price of the project your doing.


New Member
I don't think it is a matter of being polite or rude. You just have to be frank with your customers that a deposit is required. If you spend 6 hrs working on a design for them and they don't pay you that is 6 hrs of your time you could have been making money with a different job. Come up with a standard form for graphic design services with an area that lets you set a deposit depending on the job. Make sure it describes what they will get for their money with balance due upon completion. Next time someone comes in wanting you to design a sign for them you can tell them you would be glad to work with them on their project but you do require such and such up front.


New Member
its not just a matter of saying,, gimme a deposit..

There is a step by step process leading up to the close..

You use the 4 p's to get there. If you use these steps then your close rate will increase by a huge percentage.

Pivot, Profile, Praise, prompt.

I have written about this numerous times.


New Member
sounds like YOU need a sign...lol...once they sign the order its 50% or nothing gets done, full payment on completion..simple & you sleep better

Craig Sjoquist

New Member
Simple ...
You have a shop.. they come to you ..make a good sized sign well displayed in shop..

All your requirements .. & what you get

Example orders under $100 pay in advance
Orders over $100 under $500 50 % deposit
All design /layout charges 50% deposit before we begin

On & on list everything that is important so customers do not see a ..bait & switch ...put it down in black & white

Just like you go to a fast food place you see everything you know how much your paying for what.


Pretty much what Craig said. Nothing wrong with just telling a customer you require a deposit. We ask for 50% unless it's under $100 too, if under $100 than 100% in advance. Only customers that do not pay deposits are BIG companies / State / Federal, and previous customers in good standing.

Good example - new client for us, never done anything for them before. They asked for the price on multiple signs (acm) and banners. Over a grand, they said super, lets do it. No deposit, did not even consider mentioning it. Client, Westinghouse. Yeah, some you just do not hit up for a deposit or you will not be getting their business. Another, some small business local plumber service. Been around for years but new to us. Deposit, of 50% required....


New Member
For us new customers pay 100% up front no matter what the price is, returning pay 50%. Very well established customers are allowed to order without a deposit up to $500, after that a deposit is required of 50%. All jobs are 100% payment on delivery, no credit.

At the conclusion of the conversation over what they want, we total up the bill and say 'That will be X dollars'. Sometimes they pay, sometimes they ask if they have to pay, sometimes they ask if they can pay later. No responsed needed for #1, 'Yes' for #2, 'No' for #3

Some red flags to consider, this is part of qualifying the lead or customer. If they say they don't have much money or they have a budget you need to establish what that dollar amount is. If you don't know you could very well waste your time. If they balk at your price or wanting a deposit then they are probably kicking tires and are not ready to buy or they are shopping prices. If they want to post date a check they don't have money in the account. The same if they ask if they can write a check (sometimes).

Be fair, be honest, be polite. Your customer will understand, and if he doesn't, you didn't want him anyway.


Premium Subscriber
What you need is a basic dialog for your own business.

You need to convey what it is you do and what you require.

Oh, so you need your truck/banner/sign/anything lettered ??
That will cost $675.00, including our design time. We require 50% deposit to start this job and the balance upon completion.
Smile and tell them however they wish to continue, those are your terms. Then, go on about your business.


Premium Subscriber
It is a mind set. Once you feel confident in your abilities, and enough customers take your designs to your competitors you won't feel guilty asking for a deposit.

But, there are certain things you have to satisfy before you can ask for a deposit or it feels like a trap to the customer.

Your sales people have to sell them selves, your company and show they truly care about the project by finding out what the customer needs. Often, what the customer asks for is not the best solution. Your customer should feel like your trying to provide the best bang for the buck whether it is an inexpensive short term project or a high quality long lasting one.

Then the customer needs to know what they can get for their money. Pictures and samples with price ranges will give them a feel for what they can get for their money. It is good to show them 3 tiers; simple, typical, and complex.

Once they feel comfortable with the sales person, your company and have an understanding of pricing, it won't feel like a bait and switch. "give me some money and I will do something for you."

Your probably already doing these things but it is important to put yourself in the customers frame of mind so you can evaluate your point of sales personnel and procedures.

At my previous company we typically would do 30 min layouts with pricing for most projects without a deposit. We would lose about 10% to 15% but we felt like we gained enough new customers to justify it. Also, these were layouts not designs.

We still had a few projects that ended up with a competitor that drove us crazy (exact duplicates of our layouts). The satisfaction comes a year or two later when the inferior materials started failing. If you talk about quality vs inferior materials and durability, those customers learn their lesson and become you customers eventually.


New Member
I have made up two signs today to put right on top of the counter saying a minimum charge for a sign is $40 and cut vinyl is $25 and that a 50% deposit is required. I am also in getting our photographer to take some really good shots of things we have done (wraps, can letters, pylon, etc.) and have about 5 to 10 exapmples of each and are going to put them in a portfolio to leave right on the counter to show the quality of our work. We had a rather lengthy discussion on the subject and the other side of the argument is that we could scare some customers away but like was said in an earlier post those people are most likely tire kickers and we can use that time to work on actual paying jobs. It is going to be a a process in the mind set of how we interact with clients but we have to do this I am tired of the time lost on non paying jobs.

Some very good advice here though, going to have a meeting in the A.M.


New Member
just remember that a customer has no clue how this works and art of the job is to lay it out for them in writing what is expected of them and what they can expect from you. trust me, once you get all that in place, there will come times when you need to update everything to make sure you've covered as much as possible

Keith Jenicek

New Member
We ask for logo payment upfront. Like you said, the customer will take your design and run if you let them.
It is very important to tell the customer what they will be recieving...
- .jpg files for easy print reproduction (high res)
- .pdf file for universal file importing
- .ai file for vector reproduction ***
*the vector file is one the graphic designer usually leaves out for the client...or it is corrupt in some way. I explain that this file can be used by not only signmakers, but promotional products, screen printing and embroidery. This is the added bonus of getting a logo from a signmaker who uses these files for production.*

After the logo is created, I also explain that any signs we create will have a greatly reduced design time, since the logo is assured to print or cut perfectly. (No middle man!)


New Member
budget and artwork?

I ask what type of sign they are looking for then I ask "do you have a budget and artwork?"
You can then show photos of your work and cost using "simple", "complex" and "custom". This gives the customer an idea what quality and cost for that type of sign. The first cost is the design to produce the sign.
If it is just a for sale by owner sign of car mags then you have set cost for those type of signs.


Active Member
- .ai file for vector reproduction ***
*the vector file is one the graphic designer usually leaves out for the client...or it is corrupt in some way. I explain that this file can be used by not only signmakers, but promotional products, screen printing and embroidery. This is the added bonus of getting a logo from a signmaker who uses these files for production.*

I would actually send an EPS file (typically either version 3 or 8 depending on the effects used) over Ai or CDR file. It's usually more universally accepted. A lot of embroidery programs have vector modules for creating/importing/exporting vectors (or other graphic files), but the importing function is still behind the times. So you have to be very careful. My embroidery program is directly interfaced with Corel DRAW x6, so I can accept anything/everything that X6 can. When it comes to ai files, that means up to CS5 (ironically that's the level of Adobe software that I have to accept those files, I do have workarounds for some of the newer versions though, so keeping Adobe around helps with that). That's why I would actually do one of the legacy EPS versions.

Also, if you are going to use that as a selling point, be sure to mention that some things may not translate, particularly when you are talking about your non print type of production. I would either understand production limitations in general terms for the more physical methods of production (for me it would be embroidery, but routing would be another one) and design with that in mind or provide a simplified version that would still maintain brand consistency while work for those methods of production. I can't tell you how many times I have had to tell customers and even designers that it won't work at the size that they are wanting. I can certainly digitize it in there, but that doesn't mean it will look good.


New Member
When they ask me about "let me see something first" I tell them that I quote the job, get the payment, and then start on the design process. Most are totally ok with it, they just need to be informed. People that do have a problem paying up front (half or whole) are shady and never intended to pay for what the value of your services are in the first place. I still generally don't get a payment up front, but I tell them a price for the job, they agree, and they pay before we get into production. That's probably a bad thing to do, but it's how my situation normally turns out.

Keith Jenicek

New Member
Forgot to mention, we also include a .cdr file. It is what we design with...

As far as design, yes, you must also communicate your understanding of layout, how the logo will be used with several medias and the importance of a versitile logo for vertical & horizontal formats.


New Member
As far as having something simple and succinct to say (for your counter people) how about this? "Well, okay sounds like we have enough information for us to begin the layout/design process. How would you to handle the deposit? We accept cash, check, and credit cards."


New Member
As far as having something simple and succinct to say (for your counter people) how about this? "Well, okay sounds like we have enough information for us to begin the layout/design process. How would you to handle the deposit? We accept cash, check, and credit cards."

This is how we handle it most of the time, along with a sign stating our policies and deposit requirements. In my 16 years I have learned this weeds out the tire kickers! You just have to make sure they know the value they will get before there willing to open their wallet!


New Member
well we had a meeting Friday and implemented the new policy and I have been paying attention what they are saying to the customers and thats just about what they say, we had a couple people give the excuse "I need to talk to my wife about that" which is nothing new just a polite way of getting out but for the most part the customer have obliged and not freaked out as I had feared, looks like this is going to be a good thing.