As a graphic designer, you are in charge of breathing life to the ideas that your clients bring to you. However, it’s hardly ever easy. Why? Because graphic design is not all creative. It has a substantial technical component to it. Everyone can see the creative side of things, while the technical part is reasonably complex for others to appreciate.
This makes it difficult for graphic designers to communicate to their clients the effort required for completing a project.
That being said, effective communication and having realistic timelines are crucial for meeting the expectations of the client. But, that is a whole another challenge of its own. Each client is different. There is a whole spectrum of clients from those who leave even the most significant decisions to you to those who will micromanage to the extent that they might as well have done it themselves. Yet, all of them are vital for your success. As a freelancer, you must create most value out of each client. Therefore, it is imperative that you master the art of dealing with all types of clients to make that happen.
Here are my top tips for graphic designers on how to deal with clients professionally, effectively, and productively.
1- Discuss Expectations
At the inception of the project, it is critical that you discuss the expectations of the client in great detail. Ask them to be as precise as possible in their description of their requirement.
The first step is to understand your limitations. Commit only when you can deliver!
Then, it is time to gauge their expectations. Are they reasonable or unrealistic in their expectations? If they are not reasonable, then it is your job to moderate them and ask the client to change project deadlines or adjust the deliverables. In my experience, it’s always a good practice to have a mutually agreeable project timeline, so that both the client and you have a complete picture of the progress. Moreover, dividing the project timeline into multiple phases, so that you can correct course and bring your design close to the client’s expectations.
Creating such a modular timeline helps you save time. There are no unnecessary to-and-fro calls and lengthy email chains asking for updates on the deadlines and payments. Also, the constant feedback mechanism tells the client that you value their comments. It also saves you the extra work that you will have to put in if the client does not like your final deliverable.
2- Don’t be Quick to Quote a Figure
It is a common practice among freelancers to give instant quotes for job offers before getting a thorough understanding of the tasks at hand. Once you have understood the client’s requirements, make some leeway for contingencies. There are a great many factors that can blow up the cost or timeline of a project after the launch of the project. You must foresee them before you quote a number to the client.
Be clear about the number of revisions you are going to include in the project and the scope of those revisions. If you don’t specify them, then you are opening the door to a barrage of neverending revisions. Difficult clients who like to micromanage may shoot you an email every single day to ask for “minor” correction. Putting an upper limit on the number of changes automatically keeps such clients in check. Defining the scope of the revisions helps you put a cap on investing more time than necessary on one client’s design. You must make them understand that if the complexity of the design increases, so will the cost.
Another factor that adds to the cost of a project is its urgency. It is possible that the client is in a hurry and wants the project in half your turnaround time. This means that you will have to prioritise their tasks over other orders, which again comes with a cost.
Once you are crystal clear about the needs of the project at hand, give the clients an itemised summary of your quote. This will help the client to get a complete picture of what they are being charged and why.
3- Learn to Put Your Foot Down
They say that the customer is always right. Sure, it is their brand communication materials that you are making attractive to their clients. However, you must also consider the fact that you are an expert too. They came to you because you know what they don’t and they need your expertise. So, give them just that.
When they do not like something you absolutely love, give them your humble professional opinion.
Make them understand why something would work and something else won’t. As a professional, it is your call to decide whether you keep working with the client or leave the project.
While some clients may have a shortage of funds, there are others whose working style does not match with yours. Instead of wasting your time and energy on a project that is doomed to fail, it is better for you to express your opinions and explain the reason that you want to leave the project. As a courtesy, give the client time to search for another graphic designer. This will prevent your relationship with them from ending on a sour note. Also, keep the lines of communication open for them to return, in case they change their mind.
It’s Time to Work Smarter
As a graphics designer, you must have met all kinds of clients. Whether they are easy or difficult to deal with, it eventually comes down to how much time and energy you are ready to spend vis-à-vis the money you are being paid. Understand that the time you spend communicating with these clients is the time you are not earning from other projects in hand. Alternatively, a client may take a lot of your time communicating but is a potential gold mine for your business. In such a case, investing time in dealing with the client may bring in huge returns.
Like everything else in life, there is a trade-off involved here. So, make sure that you strike a balance in a way that maximises your earnings from all the clients put together. This is what differentiates a successful designer from the rest.