Poor communication and lack of expectations can lead to a less than ideal client/designer relationship that become the horror stories you’ll read about on a certain website. Not every client is going to be someone you’ll want to work with, but it’s on you as the designer to get things off on the right foot. Here are a few of my thoughts on what you should be doing to foster and maintain a productive relationship with your client.
Communicate Your Process
As soon as possible in your interactions with a potential client you should communicate your process. This will give the client a look up front of how you work, and they can decide if they’re willing to work with you under that process. You shouldn’t compromise on your process because that could lead to frustration down the line for both parties. The idea of explaining your process ahead of time to the client will ensure that you both enter the project on the same page in order to keep your sanity, but most importantly to ensure the client has a good experience.
I recommend creating a page on your website that explains your process. You can check my page for some ideas if you’d like. This way a potential client can see your process ahead of time to decide if you are someone they’d like to work with.
Listen to the Client
The client may be paying you for your design expertise but chances are they know more about their business than you do. Take the time to really understand their goals and get a clear picture of what they hope to get from your services. To do this you have to field the right questions, but you also have to listen to the answers to paint a clear picture of the project and deliver a product the client is happy with.
I have a contact form that has a few questions to get things started with a potential client. I use the information I gather from that starting point to dig deeper towards finding what will bring the client the most value.
While it’s important to listen to the client, it’s also important to define your roles. You’re the expert in your field just like the client is an expert in theirs. The client defines the goals and the content, but it’s your job to provide the best final product that meets the clients needs. Roles should be established early on so both you and the client know exactly what’s going on.
Pricing your work isn’t about charging as much as you can get away with, nor is it about charging so little that your work is undervalued. It’s about determining the value of the work you’re providing your client. There are many factors that apply such as time and the value it will provide to your client. However, in order to be able to assess the value of your work you need to have a good understanding of your clients needs, so the previous steps are vital for this stage.
It’s important to be able to explain to your client why you’ve quoted for the amount that you decided on. This will give your client a better understanding of why you’ve priced the way that you have. You don’t have to explain in complete detail but an overview of why you arrived at the cost you did will be appreciated by clients and help them decide if they’d like to work with you.