How to Become a Star Client with Your Web Designer
Filed in Advice for Clients
Maintaining a great relationship with your designer has its perks. Large design projects can be a pleasure for both of you to get stuck into, and having someone who already knows your business well for future design projects can give your business a thorough visual continuity which will impress your customers.
I’ve gathered a few tips for becoming a star client with your designer, but to be honest most of them are centred on one key aspect – communication.
Good communication is essential. It removes ambiguity, helps build trust between you and your designer and helps to give the project direction and momentum.
Know what you want
Before you having your first meeting with your designer, make sure you have a good idea of what you want them to do for you, or at least an understanding of the challenges that you want them to help you overcome.
It’s forgivable to think ‘they’re the designer, they can just do what they think is best’ – but then your designer won’t even know where to start to help you. In contrast, by having a clear vision of what you’re looking for from the outset, they can deliver work which everyone’s happy with in the end.
If you’re not sure what you need, your designer can guide you through your options and help you find a solution that works for your business.
Take your time to decide, because you won’t be able to change your mind halfway through the project. You’ll be wasting your designer’s time and your own money if you do.
Define expectations & goals for the project
All good business owners are passionate about what they do, but don’t get carried away with lofty aspirations & hypotheticals.
Agree on specific goals with your designer, including ‘checkpoints’ along the timeline of the project (eg ‘preliminary designs should be delivered to the client and signed off by client by x date’) and a final endpoint (‘finished website will be live and accessible by x date’).
It’s also a good idea to agree on your individual responsibilities for the project at this stage. For example, if your designer is building you a website with a blog, who will upload your posts? You or them?
Stay in touch…
Whether it’s the thumbs-up on preliminary designs, or a request for the content you promised to supply, your designer will be relying on your reply at some point in the project.
Without it, they can’t move forward – and chasing you for a reply takes time out of their day which they should be spending on other clients. Reply as promptly as you can.
(Speaking of emails, they’re great for creating a paper-trail history of the project. If you communicate with your designer via phone at any point, consider emailing a brief ‘minutes’ of the conversation to the client afterwards.)
…but don’t pester
Whatever profession you’re in, you don’t want to be picking up the phone to the same client every 5 minutes.
Agree how often you’ll check in with the designer before the project begins, and try to stick to that schedule – that way, you’re respecting their time and letting them get on with the work you’ve hired them to do.
If you have a question for your client, consider other ways of finding the answer. Googling your query might uncover it more quickly than reaching for the phone.
Trust your designer’s judgement
One thing many clients forget about design work is that it’s created for their customers, not themselves. What they personally like and what will appeal to the people who buy from them can be two wildly different things.
Nevertheless, business owners feel the need to micromanage all aspects of the design process, thinking they know better about design than the person who makes a living from it.
This is especially frustrating if you missed point #1 of this article and told your designer to do what they thought was best. Either you trust them as a professional or you don’t!
Instead of arguing against a particular element of the design, ask them why they made that particular design choice. Listen closely to their explanation and be prepared to change your mind.
If you feel you really need to give feedback on a design, describe your thoughts in tangible specifics. Nobody will know what you mean if you say ‘the logo needs to look more swooshy’.
Whatever you do, never say “I could do that in five minutes”. A seemingly simplistic design can be the final product of hours of market research, concept sketching and medium testing (not to mention years of training in visual communication) to make sure your corporate identity is expressed as well as it can be.
Avoid project creep
Many’s the time when a designer has delivered the final ‘finished’ project to the client, only to hear “Could you just add this in?’ This little addition is often a big feature which wasn’t discussed in the original project brief, and will take considerably more work to create.
Pretty soon, a loop will form where the designers makes the requested revision, only to have another revision request pop up from the client immediately after. Even though the project was ‘finished’ before, it’s now perpetually a work in progress.
This is known as project creep, feature creep or scope creep, and designers hate it. Not only does it eat up their precious time, it can also turn your perfectly-planned product into an unfocused mess.
Make sure there’s a defined scope of work in place at the start of the project (this will likely be in the contract your designer asks you to sign). Agree the terms for revisions with your designer at this stage – some will be happy to make small changes, but will outright refuse any additions outside the original project scope.
Don’t delay on your payments
This last one’s an easy one. Independent freelance designers don’t eat if they don’t get paid. Make sure you pay your invoices on time.
If you can’t pay on time, don’t go silent, and don’t give excuses – explain why you can’t and give a realistic timeframe for when your designer can expect the payment to arrive.
I am good at managing my schedule, so I can usually get projects booked in without much lead time. Let’s get our heads together and get your project done.