Like I discussed in detail in a previous blog post, “A happy client is an informed client!”. As a designer, an important part of your job is being able to build relationships with your clients. Like any relationship, it is important to develop trust on both ends and this begins the moment a prospective client contacts you. If you are honest and upfront with your clients, this will develop trust and lead to a more productive (and more profitable!) relationship.
When someone becomes a paying client, they have put their trust in you that you will deliver what you promised. Being entrusted with someone’s website and online presence is a huge responsibility. And building trust leads to increased profits in the long run.
So how is trust built and how is it recovered if it is lost? Below are four different ways designers can build trust with their clients.
1) Teach Your Clients Your Work Process
Designers tend to speak in their own language and sometimes we forget that our clients may not necessary understand the same vision, or understand how something that they’re dreaming off may not necessarily translate effectively when actually designed out in real life. This is where your expertise is needed (and that’s why they’re looking to hire you in the first place!). To fully understand what my clients want so that we can be on the same page when it comes to setting reasonable expectations, I typically start off with a number of lead-off questions, such as:
- What is the goal of your project?
- What does success mean for you in this project?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Do you have any benchmarks?
Not only that, explaining your design process to your clients will show that you understand your field and are the best person for the project. It will also help teach them how to communicate their needs to you.
It’s all about setting good expectations right from the beginning, so that both you and your prospective client start off on the right foot.
2) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
All relationships require time and attention, and all relationships will suffer from a lack of communication; this includes relationships with clients. It is important to continually keep clients updated on the project and let them know what work has been done and what stage the project is at. This will leave your client feeling reassured and will go a long way toward strengthening your relationship. For me, I typically check in with my clients once a week – it helps them feel like they’re being heard!
Don’t go weeks without checking in with your client! After meeting with them, there would also be times when I would send them a follow-up email with a basic summary of what they wanted to confirm our action plan, and give them a chance to clarify if necessary. Extra brownie points, what?
It is also important to keep in touch with clients after the final project is delivered. Continuing to build your relationship will increase the likelihood you will be chosen for future work.
3) Sometimes Feedback Sucks, But They’re a Stepping Stone to Getting Better!
Being critiqued by others can be an uncomfortable process, especially when you put a lot of time into the project and take pride in your work. However, if you want to be given useful feedback you should plan on occasionally be questioned on your ideas.
Resist the urge to become defensive or view a critique as an attack on your ability as a designer. Ultimately, your work is not about you – it is a service for your client. Try not to allow your ego get involved and work to listen to your clients and consider their input and suggestions on how you can improve.
I have had great clients, but also I have had awful clients. Ultimately, I’ve found that I’ve learned the most from the awful clients, because it allows me to self-reflect on what I did “wrong” with the client, and learn to improve both my work and my processes so that I am always getting better.
4) Never Break Deadlines!
Never treat deadlines like they are negotiable. Although it sounds simple, many designers overlook the importance of honouring agreed upon deadlines. Being on time shows that you are focused on the project and that you do what you say you will do.
Of course sometimes unforeseen problems do arise. That is why it is important to always keep your client in the loop on how their project is going. If they are aware of any issues or problems that you have run into, most clients will be okay with pushing back a due date due to an unforeseen issue. Explaining unforeseen problems in advance is much easier than doing it an hour before the project is due.
I hope this article has given you some helpful ideas for improving your relationships with your clients. There are many different strategies to build successful relationships with clients, but starting with these 4 basic principles can help you begin improving your current client relationships. Maintaining and improving these relationships will lead to more referrals and future business and will make the time you spend on projects more enjoyable.
How do you maintain your client-designer relationship? Let me know below!