(This is a guest article from Rachel McPherson)

Dealing with clients is hard. So hard in fact that many of us require special psychological preparation before that dreaded conversation or transcript.

And if you are in the design business, the complexity of the issue just exponentially grew. Creative tasks that designers take upon themselves require a number of revisions and a lot of feedback. In some cases, that can even be counterproductive, especially if a client is unfamiliar with the basics of the design trade. In the long run, this can lead to frustration and, in the worst-case scenario, termination of cooperation.

So, what is the recipe for a healthy client-designer relationship? Well, here are some tips.

  • Trust must be established – Every professional relationship is based on trust that initially must be built.  If this is your first encounter with the client, he may ask you to submit design portfolio before moving on with further negotiations. Keep in mind, however, that the internet is vast and powerful and the chance is that you have already been researched, scouted and yet selected. Therefore, at this point client’s mind is mostly made up and he is just reassuring himself in the validity of his choice. Prove him that he made the right one by providing adequate results.   
  • Make work process and timeline charts – Making a process checklist can give you direction and keep you on track when managing web projects  Also, ask your client to send you a creative brief, to establish a timeline and define milestones. That should allow you to plan timely revisions and take into the account the time needed for receiving feedback. This way, even if the unexpected happens, you will not exceed any deadlines.

Image Source: Pixabay

  • Decline when necessary – Time, energy and manpower are limited resources, so analyze your own capabilities carefully. If you are unable to deliver the design client requires, if deadlines are too unrealistic, or you find that their budget is unfitting for the realization of the project, your “No” is completely justified. Just be polite and remember that declining a project is much better that delivering below par work.
  • Include client in project process and make sure you have timely communication – For any professional relationship to function, two-way communication and transparency are of the utmost importance. While communication via phone and email is still valid for some, real-time insight into project progress is the ultimate trust builder. There are few project management software for designers, that can help you achieve this and, at the same time, track your task completion.


Image source: Pixabay

  • Do not cross role boundaries – At certain times, a client may start micromanaging entire project and that can lead you to feel frustrated and redundant. On the other hand, sometimes you will be asked to take on the design of a poorly made website, and you will feel compelled to give the employer a piece of your mind. If any of these situations occur – do not give in. It may be difficult, but try to adapt to the situation and finish your work in a professional manner.
  • Leave your ego out of it – experience can make you bold and sure of your work. However, the line between confidence and arrogance is thin. No matter what you think of your client, you should always put your ego on hold and try to fully comprehend his or her’s wants and needs. Many potential collaborations have gone under as a result of frustration caused by the clash of inflated egos – do not allow yourself to be caught in this trap.
  • Urge your client to be specific with their requests – there are two types of clients: passively assertive clients and consciously assertive clients. And while the former are ones that allow you to develop your design without much meddling, the latter are ones that make your work easier in the long run – they do require constant progress reports, but they also provide constant feedback. No matter what type of client you are dealing with, make one thing known – clear and specific instructions are the foundation for progress.
  • Encourage your client to give you honest and straightforward feedback, no matter how harsh it might be – while there are quite a few employers that don’t mind harsh words, most clients will try to soften the blow when delivering negative feedback. First and foremost, you are a professional and therefore ready for any form of unkind insight. Remember – every designer-client relationship is more successful when there is total transparency on both sides. This kind of relationship allows you to make better adjustments to the design, all according to your client’s needs.

In building designer-client relations, positive attitude is the key. Utilization of these tips will allow clients to understand your creative process. As a result, their business will benefit and you will be allowed all creative freedom you will ever need.