My client wanted a website that included the purchase of a few (6) professioanl images, which I suggested iStock as a place to get them. It was hard at first to convince him he needed to pay for his images as he thought it was perfectly fine to save the images from their competitor's website and use them on his own site. It took some convincing but he finally agreed he would pay for his own. We discussed he wanted 6 images, and on iStock images are bought with credits. Some images can be 1 credit, others 2 or three. I told him to purchase 6 credits on his account and I will download 6 images (thus, making each image the price of 1 credit each).

While looking for the best image that suits a particular page, I would send him a few screen shots so that he can decide. For example "on the X page, which image would you prefer. Option A, B, C, D" etc.

I've done this with each image that needed purchasing as I wanted him to be happy.

However I still have 3 more images to buy and have just noticed on the account is only 1 credit left. I looked through the purchase history and saw one image was 3 credits, not 1. I suppose this is my fault for not checking before downloading, but now there's not enough credits to purchase the other 3 images I need.

He chose all the images I have downloaded, but I probably should have checked before clicking the download button. Is it my fault or his? He was the one that selected them.

Do I:

  • Appologise and say this is my fault for not checking while also explaining that for my error he will need to purchase more credits

  • Say 'Because you chose X image, I will need you to purchase more credit ( putting the fault at him)

  • Purchase more credit out of my own expense because it was my blunder

He was already not happy about purchasing items to begin with, so I don't think he will take option 1 or 2 very well. Also a thing to note - I checked the refund section to see if I could get one - I cant. So that's not an option.


The correct strategy pretty much depends on what sort of client relationship you have or want.

I'm guessing you are a relatively new freelancer, since you are very much focusing on the past and present instead of the future.

If this is clearly a one-time client that you're absolutely certain won't harm your business by bad-mouthing you, then you could try options 1 or 2. Personally, I would never do option 2, because you as the expert then shift all blame to the non-technical client, which pretty much is a mortal sin for a freelancer.

A better approach is always taking the long view - especially if the amount is a mere USD 35 (as quoted by @Scott). Take that expense on yourself, as the primary objective is ending up with a happy client - even if they have been somewhat grumpy during the process. They will remember the delivery, not all the details of how it came about.

And don't worry about the client being unhappy and surprised because they unexpectedly have to pay for something they thought was free. After successful and professional delivery, they will most likely also be grateful for you steering them clear of any potential legal embarrassment. Despite costing them additional money, you have demonstrated that you are actively looking out for them - which ALL clients want to see.

The situation is similar to you having a very nice dinner only to discover that they charged you for the extra bread (which you thought was free). In the end, if everything (including the bread) was really good, would you really care?


Well, it was your decision to set the budget and to choose which images he could select from.

I'd be inclined to purchased additional credits as needed myself. It's really not a major expense. So, I wouldn't run the risk of client dissatisfaction due to ~$35.

I actually build cost of images (or other necessary resources) directly into project bids. The client never knows what, or even if, they cost anything. If I built in $60 for images and I actually need to spend $80... well, that $20 comes out of my profit rather than asking the client for more money. My fault for under budgeting.

I tend to use blanket amounts for stock images though -- If I know stock images will be needed that's an automatic minimum of +$150 to the quote. I may not spend that entire $150 on images, however, any left over also compensates me for the time to search for images, client communication regarding images, editing the images as needed, etc.

For what it's worth iStock (since being bought by Getty Images a couple years ago) is WAYYYYYYYYYYYY overpriced any more. You can quite often find the same exact images at other sites for much less. Most of the contributors will contribute to multiple sites, not only iStock. I only use iStock when a client has sent me a specific image to use that I can't find at other sources or the client is directly purchasing images themselves based upon my suggestions (some large corps have iStock accounts and I merely send them image #s for the ones I want)

  • My client is super stingy, and is paying me way less than what I would normally ask for, for one reason and another. With that being said, he was the one to determine the budget on images. He was grumpy about spending ~$40 and refuses to pay any more money on anything on the site. I dont see why it should be me footing the bill. In the end, he just said he will stick with the images we have and wont be buying more. – Chillin' Jul 24 '18 at 17:45
  • Any client "paying you less than you would normally ask for" is not at fault for what they are paying. No one forced you to take a project at less than you feel you are worth. if anything it is your fault for not charging appropriately. Shifting blame to the client is completely illogical. All clients, ALL clients, want to pay as little as they can. – Scott Jul 25 '18 at 5:38

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