5 Things That Make You Irresistible to Design Clients

I was 17 when I started out as a freelance graphic designer. I had an artistic background already, so I was confident in my skills. The biggest challenge for me was dealing with people, especially since I’m naturally shy and soft-spoken. There were those awkward pauses…. then I’d over-think, get tongue-tied and end up feeling like a total moron.

Both of my parents were/are entrepreneurs. My dad in particular is the kind of guy that could literally strike up a conversation with tree bark if he wanted to. (ok, maybe not…) But there were so many times where I would sit back and watch them, baffled at their ability to work with customers so flawlessly, and keep them coming back.

Over the years, I lived and I learned. I made some huge mistakes that cost me time and money that I can’t get back. Enough was enough…so I sat down and dissected my history with clients to figure out exactly what the “secret formula” is to a fairy-tale happy ending.

Here are 5 things you can do that can practically GUARANTEE that your design clients will love you, pay you, and come back again and again for more work.

1: Be Thorough

They say if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

How many times have you ridden with someone that insists on going somewhere based on memory/intuition, only to take a couple of wrong turns and get there 10-15 minutes late? Just pull out the GPS!

When dealing with clients, it’s good to ask detailed questions from the start. We’re obviously not mind readers, but asking specific questions can help you get a full glimpse of what they’re looking for. I like to approach it in a way that they’re trying to “sell” me on an idea. I ask questions like: “How do your clients benefit from your product/service? What sets you apart from your competitors?” Then, completely immerse yourself in their field. Include all your research in the project proposal.

Doing all of this will help you have a clearer view of their vision. You’ll work more efficiently and waste less time: ensuring your clients get the product for their investment.

2: Be A Good Listener

Being creative professionals, sometimes we put ourselves on too high of a pedestal. “Hi, I’m [Name]…I’m the best choice to design your website because was in the top 5% of my graduating class at Savant Institute of Art & Design…be amazed at my stunningly perfect portfolio!…Oh no, you can’t use purple for your brand identity, it’s the color of mourning in many cultures!…Choose concept #2 because its’ composition is based on the Golden Ratio and the typeface is my favorite at the moment and it’s kerned to perfection and the leading….”

…SHUT UP!

My mom always said we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Granted, most of our clients aren’t artistic, so they won’t really follow all the technical design jargon that makes so much sense to us. They may request revisions that aren’t necessarily the best in a design sense. But instead of shooting down all their bad ideas, read between the lines to see what they really need.

Ask them questions like: “What is your biggest frustration with [blank]? What are three things you would change about [blank]?” Then LISTEN. Take note of their needs, get their feedback along the way, and use it as a roadmap to craft a final product you’re both happy with.

3: Be A Good Communicator

As artists, we know that it takes time to create greatness. Often times, the bulk of the hours is spent on layouts, planning, etc., and it takes a while before clients actually see something tangible. They should understand that, right?

Don’t let them wonder what the status is on the project. Be proactive…just send a quick email to let them know what’s going on! I normally send an update at each step of the way, especially in the development phase of a project.

Something like this:

“Hey [Name],

Just wanted to send you a quick update. Things are looking great with the project so far! I’m finishing up Phase 1: Research/Brainstorming, and moving forward to Phase 2: Concept Development. I’ll be sketching out some rough ideas, and you can expect to get 3 digital logo concepts to choose from next Friday, the 10th.”

Your clients will be extremely impressed and appreciate that you took a minute to let them know what’s going on.

4: Be Punctual

If you promise deliverables by a certain date, deliver (early if you can). This ESPECIALLY goes for when you’re dealing with corporate clients. If there’s a delay with design, it tends to trickle down to the rest of the process. (I learned this the hard way :-/ ) So if at all possible…under-promise and over-deliver.

Things come up sometimes, but I try to do this from the start. I scheduled a consultation with a client, and said I would call him at a certain time on a certain day (say, Wednesday at 2:00 PM). I literally set an alarm on my phone to notify me at 1:55 PM to prepare myself, and hit “Dial” right on the dot. The first thing he said when he answered? “WOW! You’re punctual!”

It really works! They may not always come out and express it in this way, but trust that clients love when you deliver results on time.

5: Be Yourself!

As a shy teenager, I felt like I needed to prove myself and be bubbly and upbeat all the time to draw business. WRONG. (Turns out people see right through that.)

Don’t be someone you’re not. What makes you, you? Look at your strong personality traits. Talk to your clients like you’d talk to your good friends, in a professional way, of course. If you have a good sense of humor, throw a little of that into the mix. If not, that’s just fine. Be yourself! Your clients will feel comfortable dealing with a genuine person versus a “fake”, put-on facade.

So there it is…the secret formula to happy design clients! I’d like to hear from you…what do you to to keep your design clients happy?

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