Marketing

Designers and Clients: How to Build a Healthy Relationship

These seven tips from designer Amanda Louisi will help your professional life as a freelance creative

Throughout our freelance careers, we always hear about difficult clients, but are we designers easy?

During my years as a freelance designer, I've noticed that small actions on my part can significantly improve my relationship with clients and align our goals, which is essential for carrying out high-quality projects.

Here, I will share the main lessons I have learned from these experiences.

Improving relationships with clients is essential for carrying out high-quality projects.
Improving relationships with clients is essential for carrying out high-quality projects.

Take note of these top tips to maintain healthy relationships between designers and clients.

Listen carefully

Listening with genuine interest makes all the difference. Curiosity is a valuable trait for any designer—and not just when looking for inspiration. Be prepared to listen carefully to what your client has to share.

Give them space to express what they consider important, bring in their references, and explain what they want to achieve with the project.

Getting to know the person behind the business well and understanding what is of value to them will help them relate more to the end result and feel more comfortable working with you.

Listen carefully to what your clients has to tell you.
Listen carefully to what your clients has to tell you.

Make it clear what you will deliver

Being very clear about what you will deliver is key. When you hire a service, you want to know exactly what you're paying for, right?

When sending a quote, consider listing everything included in the final project submission, using language that is accessible to people who are not familiar with design.

Keep in mind that a lot of times friction can arise from a lack of clarity during the negotiation stage and what may seem obvious to us as designers may not be evident to our clients. This is normal.

List everything included in the final project submission.
List everything included in the final project submission.

Keep conversations in one place

Keeping all correspondence in the same location helps to keep communication organized and accessible. This will vary from person to person, as each professional decides how best to communicate with the client. For me, however, using email to talk about work works very well.

I find that clients give me more freedom when working and that they feel secure knowing exactly where to expect a response from me. It also helps us to have all our conversations at close hand in case of an eventual query or process review.

Of course, it's nice to talk in person or on the phone, but I always try to confirm everything discussed in an email after each meeting.

Using email exclusively to discuss the projects keeps communication organized and accessible.
Using email exclusively to discuss the projects keeps communication organized and accessible.

Share the plan

We know that a design project can be long-winded, with many steps along the way, which can cause anxiety for your client who probably has deadlines and is eager to get everything ready.

Making a roadmap—as in, a table with all the project stages and updating it as you complete each step—will make your client feel more at ease because they can follow the process and see that the project is moving forward.

Make a roadmap with all the stages of the project and keep updating it.
Make a roadmap with all the stages of the project and keep updating it.

Check-in with your client regularly

Adjustments made at the end of each step help involve the client in the project. Don't wait to present things "when they're ready", because it may not always be a good surprise.

Break the project into small steps with deliverables and use these as an opportunity to make sure everything is ironed out before moving on to the next stage. In addition to increasing the client's confidence in you, this will help avoid any misunderstandings that may creep in.

These opportunities for correction can also provide valuable information. They are a chance to exchange more ideas that will enrich the project.

At the end of each step check whether the client is satisfied before moving on to the next stage.
At the end of each step check whether the client is satisfied before moving on to the next stage.

Create a well-defined work schedule

Having a clear work schedule can help avoid interruptions. Receiving messages from the client at bad times can be very stressful or detrimental to the relationship.

To prevent this from happening, it is your responsibility to clarify your working hours from the beginning of the project. This avoids disruptions and helps the team understand when is the best time to communicate with you.

It can also be great to set aside a specific time of day to read client messages, as you can respond much more thoughtfully at a quiet time.

Make your working hours and availability clear to avoid interruptions.
Make your working hours and availability clear to avoid interruptions.

Write up a good contract

Having a suitable contract in place provides more security for all parties. Contracts are essential for all service providers, so don't be embarrassed to put down on paper the deliverables, values, and responsibilities of each party.

A good contract helps seal a deal and ensure that neither the client nor the designer needs to be overly anxious or cautious during the project.

Everything you commit to (deliverables, values, and deadlines) and everything you expect from the client for the project's progress should be included in the contract so that both parties are clear from the outset.

A good contract is essential for clients and designers not to feel anxious and cautious during the project.
A good contract is essential for clients and designers not to feel anxious and cautious during the project.

In conclusion, a few small actions can smooth out the process and help you get even better results. To understand if you're being an excellent professional, consider how you like to be treated by other service providers.

Try to create an atmosphere of trust and transparency in everyone’s role, and you won't have any friction. The relationship between designer and client is not a competition, but a partnership (and possibly even a friendship!).

This article was written by Amanda Louisi (@amandalouisi), a designer specializing in brand identity and logos. Since 2008 she has collaborated with clients such as Itaú Unibanco, independent creatives, and agencies such as Interbrand and FutureBrand. She was also the organizer of four editions of Behance Portfolio Reviews in São Paulo. She currently works directly with freelancers and independent professionals on empowering their projects and businesses through design. She will soon launch her online course on Domestika.

Be sure to check out more articles related to this topic in the Freelance section of our blog, and browse the Design page to learn more about this creative area.

Illustrations by @maja_dabek ; English version by @acesarato

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