The Designer’s Guide To

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A guide to help new designers work with and manage clients. Advice provided by international industry professionals, edited and curated by Richard Baird.

Create on-line client areas

Communication is at the heart of what we do. We must strive to include and communicate with our clients at every stage during a project. Creating an extranet or client area for your website will make it easier for you and your clients to communicate better. Files and documents related to the project can be uploaded/downloaded and commented on. Clients can monitor the progress of their project through status reports detailing what tasks/jobs were completed over a given time. Reporting to the client exactly what is going on is only fair. It also shows the client what they are paying for. Aim to provide a first-class experience across all your client touch points.

Provided by @deniscarroll

Manage expectations

The most important thing with clients is to manage their expectations. Don’t over promise. Ever. Be honest and truthful with all your correspondence and let them know at every stage what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you keep them informed along the way and involve them as much as you can then most clients are accommodating and understanding. The problems often lie when you promise the earth and deliver very little.

Provided by @studiodbd

Proposals and contracts

I’m sure this has been said many a time before, but If I had to give one piece of advice/insight on managing clients I would touch on the importance of clarity around the design proposal and its relationship with the design contract. They should go hand in hand, and expectations should be set at this point. The design proposal serves as an estimation of what services and deliverables will be acted upon and a contract serves as the understanding and agreement between client and designer. Bother are very important to any project and can serve to remedy any issues down the line or in my case, can serve as a binding agreement that can save your ass should a suit arise.
Like most people I always new I needed a good contract and a thorough explanation of services & deliverables in the form of a proposal, but I was pretty lazy about it. I learned a lot about my last problematic client and it taught me about the importance and need for both documents.

Provided by @anthonylane

Be open & honest

If you need more time, ask, and be honest as to why. If you’ve made a mistake mention it as soon as possible.

Provided by @richbaird

Be patient

When replying to that first enquiry, sending off your initial concepts or waiting for payments, it’s incredibly important to be patient. Consider appropropriate response times, the holiday periods of different countries if working with international clients and the standard 30 day and occasionally 60 payment terms of bigger companies. If you’re new it’s easy to fall into the trap of following up too promptly and put undue pressure on a client new to the process.

Your new client may well be unfamiliar with the process of design. It’s incredibly important to remain calm, be patient and take the time to explain what your process is, when they can expect results and the costs associated with such a project.

Although clients are known to send frequent requests throughout the day, something that can be incredibly distracting and annoying it is important that you temper your responses. Pick times during the day to reply to e-mails multiple e-mails that address all the issues in a single concise way. If your client wants to have an ongoing dialogue, it might be appropriate to link up using Skype and make sure that they are also paying a daily right to cover the back and forth of a project.

Provided by @designsurvival

Try to be understanding

There are many websites showing ridiculous things clients say*, but try being understanding. Yes, some clients are difficult — but so are some designers. Clients won’t always know the latest trends, but will often understand their product and customers better than you.

*Clients from Hell

Provided by @studiojubilee

Consider when you get in touch

Leave your Friday afternoon requests to Monday morning. Avoid filling your client’s inbox with new e-mails while they sleep. Be conscious of the timezone your client is in and send e-mails or make calls at sensible times. Make sure that when you say good morning, it is actually the morning.

Provided by @richbaird

Get their name right

This is particularly important when dealing with international clients where you may be unfamiliar with pronunciations. It’s also important to address people in the appropriate manner, it’s worth spending sometime looking up the cultural norms of your client and adjust your style but always remain polite and professional.

Provided by @richbaird



If you are a designer and have any advice you would like to add to this article, please submit your contribution as a comment below and remember to include your Twitter ID so I can credit your tip.


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