A few clients have approached me whey they were in urgent need of help to finish their brand or website after a horrible experience with a scammer. They have been really excited to start creating their brand and have been left high and dry after parting with a lot of money to [designers] that are less than reputable. This is heartbreaking, but there are ways to protect yourself.

How can you protect yourself online?

As a client requesting design work, always do your research:

First and foremost (and probably the most important!), always have a contract.  No matter how seemingly small the project is. If your designer doesn’t take protecting themselves seriously, question why. If they don’t offer putting a contract in place, then you will need to draft one. This doesn’t have to have any legal jargon, but you need to ensure that you are protecting yourself: search for design contracts for a template.

Read the contract very carefully and dispute any aspects that you feel aren’t protecting yourself. You’ll need to find out who owns the intellectual rights once the project is over, what the deliverables are and what happens if they don’t deliver, to name a few.

Find their online presence: Do they have social media accounts, and/or a website. If they don’t, question why. This is normally a red flag as it’s likely that they are deliberately preventing you from reading testimonials, finding previous work, or seeing their interactions with others online.

Google their name: It’s surprising how often clients have handed money over without googling the designer’s name – only to find a lot of bad reviews once it was too late.

Double check contact details: unfortunately, there is a common scam at the moment to impersonate legitimate designers. The scammer will offer design services and point you to a legitimate designer to gain credibility. For example, someone will be posing as ‘Lucy Elliott, a graphic designer from London’. They will speak to you in person and give my website as examples of their work to persuade you to part with your hard-earned money. This has unfortunately happened once using my name. The email address they used is lucyel1982@gmail.com and they posed as me. This ruse is particularly devious and can be devastating to a small business, such as myself, so how do we protect ourselves? Here the key identifier is to note that hello@lucyelliottdesign.co.uk is my only email address, which is different to the one being used by the scammer. Equally, there was no contract issued or discussed before money was hand over. If in any doubt, contact your designer from the same place as the reviews to double check that you have the correct information. Your designer will understand the need to be sure if you are not meeting physically or via word of mouth.

Unfortunately, there is little to no policing around this sort of scam so hopefully we can take action to prevent.

Go with your instincts. Finding the right designer for you means that you can build a great working relationship. If alarm bells ringing, then it’s likely that you’re just not the right fit or you may be taken advantage of. 

One bad review may just be unfortunate for the designer, but combined with a bad feeling when talking to them and a lack of contract means that it may be worth your while to find another designer. There are so many incredible designers out there and you only have to search #graphicdesign on Instagram to see how competitive the industry is. They are likely to ask for some money – if not all – up-front so make sure that you have a great feeling and are confident that the designer is compatible with you before handing anything over. And please don’t hand over any money without getting a contract in place first!

Building your brand should be fun and exciting and with a few precautions, it can be just that! And you can always get in touch with me 😉 even if you just have some questions about the process!

Good luck and have fun!



I have drawn these points from my own experiences, but I am by no means an expert. I am not responsible for any action taken through this advice. For further information, please find some important links below.

Reporting a scam in the UK: