What makes a great designer? Creativity? Talent? There are so many ingredients to it, but we can’t forget about making connections and taking care of a relationship with the clients.
Graduating from the art university we believe that as designers we have a mission. Mission to change the world. But starting a freelance business can be a painful reality check for many of us. It’s hard to predict how life will look like after we start to interact with real clients. Like in other life situation we are exposed to many different people with complex tempers, characters and expectations. Takes time to actually master the difficult art of juggling between emotions, ambitions and fulfilling customers’ demands.
First step – to understand
As an introvert took me a long time to learn how to get out of my comfort zone and be more confident while interacting with the clients. It took me even longer to know my ideal customer and who I really want to work with.
Now I feel very blessed with people I have a chance to collaborate with and working with them makes the whole process much more enjoyable.
That’s why I like to repeat, that I truly believe that smooth collaboration between designers and clients is possible!⠀
Although, from time to time I have a chance to work with other freelancers or at least observe them and witness their collabs with clients. And I see a few practices that make me kinda understand why for so many business owners working with us might be frustrated and risky.
We are here to serve
Our designer community can seem hermetic, but we should remember that we are here to serve. Good customer service and taking care of our relationship with clients is equally important as our creativity. To design is to help people solve their problems and we should be the best partners in this process.⠀
Internet is full of jokes about designer-client collaboration, stories about hellish micromanagement customers, the ones that stand behind our shoulder, making a logo bigger and not paying invoices on time.
This can be avoided by knowing your ICA (ideal customer avatar) and choosing the right clients who have a similar work ethic and approach to design. You will be able to shape your offer that gets to the people who needs your service and the ones you want to serve.
Reflecting on designers community
Be despite all the stories about bad clients, all the hassle and all the misunderstandings, our community is not without the guild. A key to smoother and more enjoyable collaboration is to reflect on ourselves and make sure we provide the best customer service possible.
Here are my few thoughts on how to take care of the relationship with clients:
1. Your clients have a right not to know… and your job is to explain things to them. Most of our clients don’t have any idea what is a good design and why they should care. It’s nothing bad. As designers, we should have a mission to make more people aware of the importance of having a functional website or consistent brand design. For our customers, contacting us is the first step to be more aware and appreciate the benefits of good graphic design. So have patience and take time to explain principals to them.
2. Respect their time and manage your own tasks. Send the reports, invoices, expertise before your client even asks for it. I believe it’s our job to inform our clients what’s going on with the projects. As a designer, I have a chance to co-collaborate with different people and delegate some tasks that I can’t handle myself. And it happened to me several times, that the assignment was not accomplished on time, just because other person expected me to remind him/her about it or even motivate to actually start the work. Having this experience makes me aware of how frustrating it is. Having your own business means organizing your own tasks and keeping deadlines. Your client is already busy with his own responsibilities and managing his own in-house team. Adding more worries to his agenda won’t help.
3. If you’re not able to deliver something on time, just let the client know. If you base your collab on mutual respect, I’m sure he/she will understand. In this case, it’s easier to be understood and forgiven. Although, don’t overuse the trust.
4. Don’t tell the client that you didn’t finish something on time because you have too many projects going on. It’s our responsibility to know how much work we have. Saying you have other things to do you tell your client ‘you’re not important enough’.
5. Low budget can make us feel unmotivated. In this case, it’s easy to procrastinate. To avoid it – take projects that satisfy you financially.