What clients can do to make their designers happy and their projects more successful. There is an old saying of “it takes two to tango.” Usually, designing is a two-way interplay that takes place between a client and designer. It isn’t only the designer’s responsibility to make sure the relationship is kept in good standing; the client is also partially responsible for it. Here are some fundamental tips for encouraging better etiquette from clients. But before we go int the details let me point out some basic communication issues that can easily be solve by just making sure we are in communication. Got it?
Do you know what you want?
One of the more frustrating things a client can do to conventional designers is to show up at their initial meeting without really knowing what they want. We frankly don’t see that as such a terrible thing. At Orange Snowman, we welcome clients who do not know what they want, we have a brand attribute and empathy exercises to help us determine what they really stand for and what are the messages they need to create to attract the right audience. If you tell a designer exactly what you want you cheating yourself out using their wit and years of expertise.
Communication is key
Once the project starts, many clients tend to disappear without any warning. Designers do understand you are busy, and they do plan on moving the project forward on their own usually, but it is recommended that you drop by, email or call to find out how your project is moving along, and to provide any additional brainstorming or feedback to help ensure your design reaches its full potential. That of course doesn’t have to mean really frequent visits, meetings or calls, but staying in contact is an excellent way of ensuring that a good relationship is built, that deadlines are met and that great work is done.
- Your email does not have a subject- When your email does not have a subject it can easily be ignored. Remember, designers get dozens of emails daily, it is very hard to follow them all, it is nearly impossible to do it without subject lines.
- Once you give your email a subject, stay on subject- This means that if the subject of the email is “logo design” don’t use that email to talk about “the Facebook page”. If you want to talk about your Facebook page, create a new email with the subject “Facebook page”.
- Limit texting to simple notifications- Hey I sent you the proposal… got… thanks… we still on for Friday…. yes… see you then. that should be the extent of our communications via text.
- Phone calls are intrusive- this one took me a while to recognize, but millennials (my kids) thought me this and they are right. Please leave a message if your designer doesn’t respond. Designers don’t like to be blind-sided by news. Many times clients see a problem, and assume the worst, get very upset and call their designer to give them a piece of their mind. What the client sees as a terrible project maybe easily corrected by the designer, without drama and without the need to damage the client/designer relation.
- Do not call us while you are driving- we don’t wan’t our clients to get killed, not even the bad ones.
- Writing is the best way to communicate- for our purpose, but we can accept recordings and hand written documents.
- If you are sending us an attachment- In your e-mail please say “see attachment”. Emails have many shiny distracting things an attachment’s icon representation can at time be white, or it can have a texture that makes it look like camouflage.
- 48 hr response time- if you are going to take longer please let your designer know.
- Print your changes- Clients who try to describe text changes without command of the terminology used by designers create a great deal of frustration. To a designer some of the changes the client attempts to describe seem to be written in Mayan hieroglyphics. If you have an extensive list of pages, print them all, mark them as clearly as you can with a sharpie (not a pencil). Once you have your hard copy scan, photograph (your cellphone works), or mail us the pages.
After the project is finally complete, that doesn’t mean you never should be in contact with your designer again. The individual who tailored your design to meet your needs and preferences knows them better than anyone. Stay in touch with your designer, even when you aren’t planning to work together again in the near future. You don’t need to stay in touch constantly, but keep them up-to-date on any success your design achieves. If they design something for you that you will be using for a soon to be launched business or website, them them to your grand opening or launch party. If you do end up needing to have additional design work done, then if you have stayed in touch, the designer will be able to hit the ground running.
Don’t feel entitled
At times, clients may start feeling a sense of self-entitlement. This will frequently rub designers the wrong way. The dynamic rarely happens, but substantial damage can be done to a designer/client relationship. Designers are mostly happy to follow the principle behind the saying of “the customer is always right,” but also keep in mind that as the customer you are choosing to hire a talented designer because they can do work for you that you can’t do yourself. That can help to provide you with a better sense of balance in the designer/client relationship. A client can just as easily be fire as a designer can.
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The easiest way that a client can get rid of feelings of entitlement that they are having is to keep in mind that you probably are not the only client that the designer has – unless you hire the designer on a full-time basis – and you shouldn’t expect that you are going to be their number one priority at all times. If you keep that reality in mind, most likely you will get great work at an excellent value as long as you provide some of your own understanding and patience.
Some clients, when they start getting into detail-oriented, difficult design decisions, can start to forget to be considerate. As part of being a service providers, it is important for a designer to maintain an open-mindedness and passivity towards their clients. However, often that approach can be misunderstood as invitation for being overly critical of a designer’s work that isn’t even the final product. That is frequently very counterproductive and may lead to design work that fall short of its potential and is less focused than it could be. Some important recommendations:
- Don’t arbitrarily cancel appointments- Designers are as busy as you are and we often have to decide between what is a “client emergency” and a “real emergency”. When we carve out time to see our clients that is one of the most precious things we can offer you.
- If you see a mistake- give the designer a chance to fix it, making a mistake is a human trait, it does not mean we don’t care. Today maybe the designer made a mistake, tomorrow it will be your turn and when that happens the memory of how you treated the designer will come back to hunt you.
There are several things that a client can do to stay considerate and encourage high levels of communication and productivity. First of all, choose your words carefully and be very thoughtful when providing feedback. I don’t mean that you should pander. I mean how you give your feedback. Feedback can be expressed in a productive, considerate and tactful way, or it may be expressed in an unnecessarily harsh and negative way. So when you are feeling like you need to critique your design, be sure to provide truly constructive criticism. Otherwise, you might not ever get the work you are searching for, you it could be partly your fault.
It is important to be considerate about your designer’s time. Designers might not work during regular business hours at all times, but demanding turnaround time to be nearly-instant is usually not a good idea, particularly if you want to have quality, thought work done. Smart clients will be considerate of a designer’s schedule. You might be surprised at just how easy becoming a favorite client is when you make the effort to accommodate the needs of your designer’s schedule. They will definitely appreciate it.
One really good way of keeping your designer fairly content is to pay them promptly, but it also doesn’t cost much to go above and beyond and delight them. All you really need to do is express some gratitude. Saying thank you is actually an added form of payment, since it shows acknowledgement and appreciation. Nobody likes putting their passion and skills into a project and then giving it to somebody who doesn’t shown any recognition or basic gratitude. You also don’t need to wait to say thank you until the project is completely finished. Thanking your designer after the initial acceptance of the project has been made can be very helpful to show that the relationship will work out.
You as the client have as much power as your designer does in terms of either damaging or improving a collaborative relationship. When you can keep your designer happy it can help to promote quick turnaround, great design work other benefits. Place yourself in your designer’s shoes and think about the way you would like the relationship to be with a client. Good client etiquette definitely can turn you into an ideal client, and it will allow the design work to really shine also.