Dealing with clients is essential to cultivating any business relationship, especially within the creative field. However, client relationships have been known to be extremely taxing, draining, and overall frustrating for many designers and creatives. Many of my peers have shared the horror stories of what they’ve endured with specific clients. I can attest myself that I could share my own as well, but I want to paint another picture from another perspective. I’ve come to find out that contrary to popular opinion client engagements aren’t that bad once you access the situation. Here are some tips I’ve learned that I feel will help you become more comfortable and build better relationships with your clients.
1. Put yourself in their shoes
Many clients have no idea about design, what it entails, and how much it costs(keep “how much it costs” in your head because it will come up again later in this article). For those of you who are lucky enough to have clients that understand this already, I think I speak for many designers when I say “Must be nice.”For those of you that don’t fall into that category you as the designer need to understand this fully, and be aware that it is your job to bring awareness to these things. I’ve come to realize that clients more times than not are willing to learn about our industry; they need someone to teach them. Not every client is some jerk that wants to make your life miserable or some penniless zombie that wants to exploit your talents for little to no money. Just take a step back and try to see things from their perspective.
2. Be approachable. Be helpful
Someone noticed that they had a need in their business and took the time out to look through your work and say to themselves, “I love this person’s work! Let me reach out to give them my money!”. With that being said, the very least you can be is friendly to this person. Clients are people just like you and me, and everyone enjoys someone pleasant to be around. Many creatives can come off as arrogant, or maybe they had a bad experience with a client and have become standoffish. I don’t know many people who will willingly put up with that, so that’s something to consider. Also, being helpful will go a long way for a client because many do see and appreciate what you’re doing for them. For example, there have been many times when I couldn’t work with a client due to a lack of budget, time, etc. and I still have given them referrals to other designers that I feel could be a better fit. Developing a “serving” instead of “selling” mentality will tremendously help you build positive relationships with clients.
3. Be open to their ideas
A lot of conflict between creative and client can stem from not seeing eye to eye on design deliverables. It’s one thing to explain to a client why a particular idea won’t work, and it’s another thing to completely disregard their opinions and ideas because you think yours is just that much better. You both are on the same team looking to achieve the same goal, so it needs to be a collaborative effort to make it happen.
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Ok, so I’ve used the first three tips to talk about the positive side of things and how to build a relationship with clients. These last two tips I want to talk more about the negative and how you should avoid these clients all together to keep your sanity.
4. Know your worth
Remember when I told you in the first tip to keep “how much it costs” in your head because it would come up later? Well, we have arrived at our destination! Somewhere there is a secret society of villainous clients who deviously plot to get your services for little to no money. They don’t care what experience you have, and they don’t care how amazing your portfolio is. Their main goal is to use you for whatever they need at the most convenient cost for them. These types of clients won’t pay what you deserve, and the amount of work you’ll do will probably exceed the insufficient amount of money they are willing to pay. No one wants to be taken advantage so know your worth and politely decline all offers from these types of clients. It may not seem like it at first, but someone that appreciates the hard work you’ve put in will come along and be the type of client you want.
5. Don’t tolerate disrespect
This should go without saying, but I see many creatives that put up with disrespect just because clients are paying them. In no way, shape or form does paying for a service give someone the right to be disrespectful. During the creative process, there will always be disagreements and things a client doesn’t like. It’s a fine line of being offered constructive criticism that will aid in the advancement of the project and flat-out disrespect. Personal attacks on you have nothing to do with the project and don’t help fix any issues. With clients like this, it’s best just to remove yourself and work with those who are looking to build healthy and productive business relationships.