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About 18 months ago I completed a brochure design for an old client. I added a few spreads of it as mockups to my online portfolio. The booklets contain text written by my client — helpful information for their potential customers — and for them to be given out in their stores.

I've recently had an email from my client saying that they found it on my portfolio through a Google search (for their company name) and has asked for it to be taken down. Saying that the text is 'confidential' and they are unhappy that it is being shown online where their competitors could see it.

At no point did my client tell me (until now) that the text was confidential or that they didn't want me listing it as a portfolio item. Had they got me to sign an NDA beforehand then I would have happily complied (albiet most likely with billing extra money).

Not only that, the body copy in my portfolio piece is barely even legible... you probably could make it all out if you really tried but it would take a lot of effort. The headings and intro paragraphs are legible but this of course accounts for the minority of the text... also the photography is all stock photos.

The way I see it, the design is my IP, but the content is probably that of the client. But surely they should have told me this upfront?

I'm thinking I'll at least remove the client's company name from my portfolio so their competitors don't find it in search results, and maybe just blur out the body copy some more?

  • Replace their text by Lorem ipsum. Which you should be doing for ALL text – Mawg Dec 13 '18 at 14:40
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As a freelancer myself, I always ask upfront if the client lets me show their project on my portfolio. Most of them would say "okay" but some of them would say "no."

If they say "no," I would honor their request and not share the project with anyone.

Next time you're interested in showcasing a client's work on your portfolio, simply ask for a permission.

In this particular case, if you really want to showcase the work, I would:

  1. Remove the company's name and just replace with "Company Name" to make it generic
  2. Blur the text so the content is not readable in any way.
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I would remove the piece entirely.

It is not about who owns the IP.. it's about keeping a client happy.

Yes technically without some sort of confidentiality agreement in place, you can use the piece - at a minimum under "fair use". However, is it really worth losing a client over one piece in a portfolio?

A single portfolio piece should not cause you any real heartache. So, if the client is requesting you not use it online, then it's really not a big deal. I would not bother with removing company names or trying to obfuscate the company in any way. I would just remove the piece entirely. Any resistance to this, any at all, will merely ensure this client does not request more work from you.

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