Email Signatures – How to Manage Client Expectations as a Web Designer


Life as a web designer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Whilst dealing with mangled code that you’ve inherited from another web design agency who uses an intern to do their coding, you’re also dealing with ever-increasing expectations from your clients. Add the complexity of email signatures into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Email Signatures are often the bane of every web designer’s existence because they are needlessly complicated. Whether you’re a freelancer or own a huge web design company, I’ll show you some ways you can manage your clients’ expectations when it comes to offering email signatures as a service.

Common Customer Misconceptions

Let the eye-rolling begin. There’s a big difference between how you (the web designer) think about email signatures and how your customer thinks about them. Your customer mainly focuses on the visual aspect of email signatures and they rarely think about functionality or if what they are wanting is even possible to create.

With web designers, the opposite is true. We first think about whether what we have imagined in our head will be possible to code, and then think about putting it on paper and designing it.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most common customer misconceptions…

Email Signatures Work Perfectly in All Email Clients

They just don’t. We know that, but the aim here is to explain it to your client.

The reason they don’t work in all email clients is that most of them use different rendering engines. For example, the older versions of Outlook use the IE rendering engine, whilst the newer versions (2007 onwards) use the Word rendering engine. Apple Mail uses its own Webkit rendering engine. Gmail uses whichever rendering engine your browser uses, and so on.

Email Signatures Won’t Break

In addition to the last point, when an email signature is sent from one HTML rendering engine to another, it will likely look different, and sometimes even completely break. This is the norm with email signatures, and there is nothing anyone could do (apart from all software companies agreeing to use one universal HTML rendering engine).

Also, what’s to stop Microsoft from making changes to the way they render HTML in their next update for Outlook, thus breaking email signatures that were working perfectly before? It happens more often than you would think.

Email Signatures Are Easy to Make / Change

An email signature which has high compatibility with email clients can be very difficult to create if you’re manually coding them without a template or base to start from.

If you’re manually coding email signatures for your clients, then you’re likely spending a lot more time on it than you should, which further reinforces this misconception.

What do you do if your client (of 100 staff) wants to change their address on all their signatures? Change them all one-by-one individually?

This is where a professional email signature generator like Gimmio makes life much easier for web designers. With the example above, you could easily change everyone’s address in a couple of clicks.


Explaining What Is Possible

This is where you try not to pull your hair out by all the inevitable “but why?” comments your customer will likely present to you.

What You Design in Photoshop Might Not Be Possible or Advisable

There’s plenty of cases where some email signature designs just don’t work in the real world:

  • When the design relies on spacing to be exact in order to look good. I know from experience that Gmail and other email software will insert random spaces underneath images which can cause an email signature to look broken if it relies on perfect spacing between HTML tables.
  • Having a background color on your whole email signature. Since email software uses a white background color when composing emails, most of the time it just doesn’t look right.
  • Using fonts which are not web-safe. If you use a fancy font which is not web-safe, you run the risk of the font not displaying on the recipients’ device if they don’t have it installed. Web-safe fonts are basically fonts which are widely installed and available on all devices.
  • Creating a design that doesn’t accommodate short, or long names. There’s been plenty of times that I’ve seen an email signature that has a narrow design but isn’t wide enough to fit a common name, and instead wraps the text to the next line.
  • Making a design that doesn’t have space for additional fields (if needed). Some people may need an additional field in their email signature, such as a second phone number, or another social icon, that most of the other signatures don’t have. Does the design allow for that?

How HTML Tables Work

Web designers get taught about HTML tables in their first class, but do your clients know how they work?

A lot of the time, in order to get them thinking on the right path, it helps to explain how HTML tables work. Once you explain it to your client, they often start understanding the complexities of creating an email signature and stop thinking about just the look of it.


Setting Realistic Deadlines

Hopefully, if you’ve done a good job explaining to your customer the complexities of email signatures, you should have some leverage here.

Email signatures are complicated to make – which takes time. The idea of sticking to a deadline is made much easier if both parties have a solid understanding of the job at hand. Unrealistic deadlines are only set by people who don’t understand what’s involved.

Make sure you set yourself enough time for:

  1. Consultation – Where you explain much of this article to your client.
  2. Design Draft – Which either you or your client will prepare.
  3. Design Revisions – Where you revise the design with customers input (more on this later).
  4. Final Design Approval – This is the design your customer wants to use.
  5. Development – This is your job to code up the signature manually or use a tool for the job.
  6. Testing – Once you’ve created the email signature, cross-testing to make sure it is compatible with all email clients. Well, as compatible as can be.
  7. Duplication (optional) – If your customer has multiple staff, you will need to create the same signature for them too.
  8. Project Completion – Pat yourself on the back.

Design Revisions

Ever hear the words “it just doesn’t look right” when designing a website? Well, sorry to say but not much is different with email signatures. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Because design is such a subjective task, it’s important to place limitations on it, for your sake. The only real way to come up with a design revision limit is by trial and error. Start with 3 design revisions, and work from there.

If you don’t put in design revisions, believe me, you’ll regret it when you’re doing your 53rd design at midnight.

Pricing Guide

Creating a price for your email signature services is (unfortunately) also done by trial and error. You’ll need to take into account your time and resources to come up with a good pricing structure.

To help you out, we asked 4 web design agencies about their pricing structure for email signatures.

Agency #1

“We charge by the hour for email signatures for our clients. The first one or template takes about 2 hours. Then depending on if we are including a photo of the person it takes 15 – 45 minutes. In many cases we also remote in to the client’s computer to install the signature in Outlook. This could add another 15 minutes per email signature. Our hourly rate is $125 (USD).”

Tom Malesic –

Agency #2

“I charge $100 (USD) for a single HTML email signature design.

The client can then edit the name and contact details for each employee on their own, so I typically don’t create individual files for each person. However, if a company did ask for that, I’d calculate the cost based on my hourly rate.

I don’t see myself discounting this service for bulk signatures because it’s tedious and boring work that I wouldn’t particularly enjoy. They could simply hire an intern for data entry if they’d want to save money.”

Nela Dunato –

Agency #3

“We offer logo and email signature designs as an add-on to our website development services. When clients need a website made, most of the time they also don’t have a logo made, so we create that for them and also create an email signature based on that. Usually clients only want 1 email signature for themselves, however, if they do require more we provide discounts since the design is the same, only the name has to be changed. We charge $30 (AUD) for 1 email signature, $200 for 10 and $1000 for 100.”

Divanshu Verma –

Agency #4

“I’ve never seen email signatures as an a la carte item, so we break them down into our hourly rate. We’ve had companies that need one, we’ve had companies that need hundreds. But honestly, once you have one complete, the rest are just data entry, and even 100 signatures take no more than 2 hours with design and coding. So, our pricing for that number would likely be $250 (USD) at our rates, but the number would vary depending on the firm – freelancers in certain markets might charge $50, large firms $500.”

Josh Rubin –

Scope Creep

When the customer mutters the words “just one extra little change”, web designers tend to shut down and roll into a fetal position whilst contemplating life.

However, you can avoid scope creep by doing these things:

  • Writing an in-depth scope that defines the exact work you will do, which includes the design revisions as well. You can create a template for the scope that you can use for most jobs.
  • Use “add-on” prices in your agreement with the customer. If someone wants to break the scope, reward yourself for that by factoring in prices for additional work. For example, if your customers sometimes want the Photoshop file of the design, and that isn’t listed in the scope, then you could write something like “Photoshop Design available for an additional $30”. The idea is to use scope creep to your advantage by pre-empting it and pricing it accordingly.
  • If you strictly don’t want to (or can’t) do any additional work, let your customer know in the agreement.

Although it’s annoying when the scope of a project expands, it can definitely be avoided. However, it takes practice saying “no”, which brings me to the next point.


When to Say “No”

Sometimes when a project is too far out of your zone of experience, you should just decline the job. Saying that, I always think it’s a good thing to learn new skills, so gauging how complex a job is before you take it on is a good practice to get into.

Ultimately, you’re the person who gives a “Yes” or “No” to a job. So, if a customer is adamant to have an email signature with a black background despite all your efforts to convince them otherwise, it’s better to decline and save your reputation and frustration.

Keep Your Sanity by Using Tools

As a web designer, you should always be on the lookout for new and effective ways to decrease output and increase revenue. One great way to do this is to always be on the lookout for new tools that help you increase the efficiency of your workload.

A web designer’s toolkit is like a mechanics toolbox, it’s your bread and butter. So, do yourself a favor once in a while, and optimize that toolkit.

When it comes to creating email signatures for your customers, Gimmio should be part of your toolkit. Not only is it the most customizable email signature generator, but it also allows you to completely white-label your customer-facing portal, making it a popular choice for web designers.

Wrap Up

Like other web design services, offering email signatures as a service isn’t an easy road to success. However, it can prove to be a good income earner if you build up some experience and a great looking portfolio of email signatures that you’ve created for clients.

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