Bonus Tip: How To Work With Clients is the eleventh, and the last article in the Ultimate Graphic and Web Design Basics Guide. It was meant for those looking to get their career started as designers, but also for those that are interested in the design process. Within the following series of the nine articles, and two “bonus tips” articles, we will cover everything you need to know to get started. Stay tuned for the following articles:
- The Basics of Graphic Design: What It Is, and What’s It For?
- Color Theory & Psychology
- Typography: How to choose the proper font
- Layout & Composition
- Photography in Graphic Design
- Branding & Logo Design
- How Graphic Design Translates into Web Design?
- User Experience – How to get it right?
- Modern Trends in Design
- Bonus tip: How to find your first gig
- Bonus tip: How to work with clients
And that concludes the full series!
As a designer, your job will consist of two main things, creating designs and building relationships with clients. Every project begins with getting to know the client in order to be able to establish communication, and with that, build a relationship. Client-designer relationships are extremely important because your clients are the reason you are in business, but as much as you need your clients, the clients need you. To them, you are a tool/resource that can bring their design vision to life. In your career, you will deal with all sorts of clients. Those who are certain what they want as a final product, and ones that are completely clueless.
This is due to the fact that your perspective on design is based on design knowledge, while theirs is most likely based on their personal tastes and preferences. Whatever type of clients you end up with, they all need to be dealt with care and clear communication. In this article, we will go through a list of tips that will help you deal with clients and cultivate a great relationship with them. But first, let’s talk about some of the most common problems you will face when working with design clients.
Most common problems
Price sensitivity – Some clients might have a hard time understanding why you value your work at the price you do. Clients don’t know all the ins and outs of the design process, which often leads them to underestimate the effort, skill, and time it takes to bring their design to life. Don’t be surprised if you get clients that offer absurdly low pay for your work or clients that have a problem with the fee you present them with. There will even be ones wanting to bargain with you.
Indecisiveness – Occasional changes in the design (suggested from your or the client’s side) are normal and are most likely going to happen during the design process. But if you have a client that constantly has new ideas for the design and wants to make changes to it, whether they are necessary or not, you are dealing with an indecisive client.
Too many stakeholders – When you first came in contact with a client, you were most likely talking to just one person. More often than not, more people will want to give you directions on how to do the design should be done, give their two cents on it, and just in general, get involved in the whole process. Some of them will be qualified to do so, but the majority won’t.
Changes in the project scope – Every project has a scope, referring to the things that will be included in the project, project length, deadlines, budget, and other things depending on the project. Some clients will try to make changes to the scope of the project that are contrary to your initial agreement without openly discussing it with you first.
Too controlling – The fact that they are the ones paying you gives some clients the belief that they can be totally in charge of the design process and give instructions for every move you make. A lot of them might not have positions of power in their workplace, so they are using the opportunity of working with a designer to be in charge of a change, or they are just someone that has a controlling personality.
Practices that will help create a good relationship with the client
Every relationship is built on trust; the same goes for the relationship you have with your client. Now, how do you build trust? Well through communication.
There has to be clear and regular communication between you and the client through the entire design process.
Communicate on the project scope, deadlines, the frequency of updates, your level of creative freedom, and everything else. If at any point in the process, you are confused about anything regarding the design project, you should be able to communicate it to the client. Otherwise, you might risk misunderstanding directions and making a mistake. That will cause far more tension between you and the client than asking them to clarify something early on.
All the agreements you and the client come to should be documented. All the requested changes as well. If you had a conversation with a client over the phone, a video call, email, whatever, follow up that email with a document containing the most important points you agreed to during that conversation. This way, both you and the client have proof of the agreed terms, and in case there is any back, and forth regarding any of the terms, you can always go and check the documentation. Whether you are a freelancer or not, contracts are a must.
Know the client’s history, current situation, and future plans
You will be able to create the best design if you know your client well. Find out what their business went through, where it stands now, and where it wants to go. This way, you will create a bond with the client, understand their idea better, and give more suitable suggestions for the design.
Have patience and educate the client
Your client isn’t a design professional; if they were, they would be doing the design themselves.
The request your clients will give you might not be the best ones in terms of good design practices. You must have an understanding of this, and only in a respectful manner, advise them not to make a specific design decision. Using your knowledge and expertise, you should attempt to educate the client on what is wrong and right in the field of design. They will be more likely to follow your advice if they understand where it’s coming from.
Know who is your boss
Like previously mentioned, there will be projects where a lot of people will want to get involved. When this happens, you should know who has the final word and who you should be listening to. If you take directions from the wrong person, it might lead you into trouble with the right one.
Don’t be a pushover
The fact that you are the employee doesn’t mean the client can treat you however they please. You have to remember that you are the one who’s skills and talent the client needs in order to create their desired design, so you should demand a certain level of respect from them. This doesn’t mean you can be egoistic, just have self-respect and confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Learn to say no
Saying yes to things you didn’t agree to in the beginning isn’t being nice, it is being taken advantage of. Overdelivering is great if you genuinely want to do it and have the time, but you aren’t obliged to do anything that isn’t in your contact or its amendments.
Give updates and ask for feedback
You should update your client on the progress of the project regularly. They want to know if everything is going to plan. By receiving updates from you, they can offer their feedback on time. If there is something they want to change, you can make the necessary adjustments on time and not when it’s too late.
Always do your best
There will be project plans that you don’t completely agree with that you would have done differently. In those situations, you have to remember that this is what the client wants and that the client is always right. If you have offered all the advice and suggestions that you have, and they are still sticking to their idea, you should respect it. The worst thing you can do is purposefully do a bad job. A bad design will be a stain on your portfolio, and it will certainly leave the client very dissatisfied. You should use your skills to create the best version of the design your client requested, whether you agree with it or not. The client might have a reason why they want the design done a certain way. Maybe it’s just what their audience will give the best reaction to.
Give the final price only after everything has been discussed
Don’t make the mistake of telling a client a price before you know what exactly they want you to do.
If you say a low price, they might use that as an opportunity to underpay you. Also, let the client know that every new request they add during the design process is charged and might require an extension of the deadline. Don’t settle just for any price, unless you have no other option. You have talent and value, and those shouldn’t be compromised on.
The client should know how, when, and where they can reach you. Of course, there needs to be boundaries, and you shouldn’t turn your days off into working days just for the sake of being polite, but you should respond in a timely matter to every question or concern your client has.
Go the extra mile, sometimes
When a client pays for your work, they have certain expectations. If you have the will, time, and resources, try to exceed those expectations. The client will likely want to work with you again and won’t hesitate to recommend you to others. A little extra effort might lead to a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.
Hopefully, the advice given to you in this article will help you better deal with clients, bad ones, and good ones. The job of a designer is a difficult one since you have to be an artist and a customer service agent at the same time. Even though it might be difficult sometimes, you have to remember to receive feedback and criticism without taking it personally, to listen and do your best to understand your client, and always to maintain clear communication with them. This is the only way you will be able to create a great design, which is in the best interest for both you and the client.