Valued Repeat Clients Make Your Business Better
Building Rapport, Trust, Respect, Friendship, Client For Life!
I’m so glad you’re here! - Thanks for sticking with me!
* First off I was sad to hear about the passing of the Legend Milton Glaser who passed away last Saturday at the age of 91 on his birthday.
I have been in talks with him for some time about featuring him in our Designer Interviews and being respectfully patient, unfortunately this will not happen now unfortunately.
I send my condolences to his family #I❤ Milton.
I was talking to a good client of mine the other day, they called me to see how I was doing. I speak and message this client quite often as we work together frequently.
We had a good chat and it got me thinking about how valuable we are to each other and what a close relationship we have developed since we first met.
It’s the best feeling when you know you’re working with a good client, and I don’t just mean the ones who pay on time.
I mean the ones who truly understand and appreciate everything else related to us as designers and problem solvers for their business but also the impact design has on their business and brand and how it helps them grow and move forward.
Clients Come, and Go!
If you're just starting out in design or have been designing for many years as a freelancer or running a small studio, you will understand that the majority of small clients hire us in their times of need, such as their website is old and stale, not giving a true reflection of their business anymore and needs bringing into the modern world.
They have lots of tradeshows and business networking events coming up so they need new business stationery designing to hand out and improve their business communication moving forward etc.
At the beginning of a new client relationship we as design professionals will generally solve the most pressing problems,
Over time, the nature of this work will move towards a more technical end offering, and the overall client positioning and relationship with the client changes.
At some stage during a client relationship we become less of an outside consultant and more like a partner with them, and then supplier for their business design needs,
These are the clients I’m taking about the ones who see you as a partner and supplier to their business.
The ones who really trust you to always be there for them and come through when needed, they will not use anybody else because they trust and respect you as a professional they see you as a specialist partner within their business.
Through this relationship you develop a sense of belief and passion for your clients services and products, you share their passion for the success of the brand, and to really succeed in design I believe this to be an important and essential part of growing your design studio.
I feel proud when I talk to people and explain who I work with and how my skills and designs are helping them grow their brand on a continuous level.
Sure we have all had clients who we have worked with maybe on a logo or business card, website etc and don’t really do much else once it’s done.
I’m not saying anything is wrong with that as some have been really good clients, communication was good, projects ran smoothly and we were both pleased with the final outcome clients like this will always come and go.
Plenty of the not so good clients out there see design as commodity service and product, and any designer can do it if they do it for them at a price they are willing to pay the designer.
This price focused approach is wrong, and it should not be like this, it should boil down to the designer and their work.
Price should not come into play until the client has approached and discussed the project with the designer.
A client should want to work with the individual because of them and their work.
In the early days I used to get a lot of price driven clients contacting me, nowadays I don’t get many of those price driven clients.
The prospective clients I get are mainly ones who are interested in working with me because of me as a person/designer and my portfolio of work.
These clients are either businesses who have looked for me online or referred to me by a previous client.
It’s so much better when dealing with people like this as the question of money is not mentioned by the client it’s normally me who sets expectations clear early on and gets numbers out of the way early which is what I recommend doing.
In most cases the answer will be
“Sure that’s fine” or “I thought it would be more than that”
Which in this case I will remember them saying this and higher it for the next project.
I will also compensate a little on top of that so if they start biting I’m in a position to negotiate but still get as I call it the bottom-line rate (the lowest fee I’m willing to accept which is the fee I’m wanting to do the project for them)
Not many clients bite so this allows me to keep increasing my rates and grow my business and brand.
Don’t be afraid to increase your rates in your business! As long as you have your bottom-line and it’s sustainable for your business you just keep pushing forward.
You have to get out of the mind-set of I have something to lose, you have everything to gain and you’re going to keep working hard and pushing forward to achieve it.
Continuing to do good work for good clients and doing good work is a core part of what makes us successful and drives our studios forward.
Your clients will get better over time, there may be the odd occasion that I work with a client at a loss for my bottom-line as I like to project, and the enthusiasm is flowing.
I know it’s worth investing myself into it and it will pay off later down the line because I can make a real golden outcome from such a project.
I have done this in the past and earnt referrals from it that lead to other projects.
Trust your gut, follow your heart but don’t be soft or push over.
If a client walks away because you’re out of their budget let them and move on!
The only way to do great projects on your terms is to make the process of working with you a valuable experience to prospective clients.
4 Traits of Good Clients
Here are 4 traits of having a good client. If you have them you may have noticed these traits.
1. A good client understands that good design work costs money
For instance, a not so good prospective client will contact you and say
“We want X,Y,Z, and this is what we are willing to pay, can you do this for this price?”
Right off the bat the client is setting rules and boundaries, setting themselves as the sole specialist by self-diagnosing to determine what they need.
They're setting the price and letting it dictate the project's progression without professional and specialist advice and opinion.
All that’s left in their eyes for you to do is become the order taker, push pixels or code away and let them be the creative director until the project is finished.
I see this as a major red flag and normally respond to these requests with
“As we can’t evaluate and diagnose this project to see if its the best way forward for your business and overall brand, also with your proposed budget we don’t seem like the right company for you, and at the moment we are fully booked and not taking on new clients.
This basically says we are not order takers and like to have more involvement in the projects we work on from a strategic standpoint, It also lets them know the budget is way too low for us to consider, and by telling them we are not taking on clients stops any type of follow-up on trying to negotiate with this type of client.
If you specialise in logos you will get this one from time to time.
“I already have an idea for a logo which I have sketched out, so I don’t need any research or ideas just someone to create it as I dont have the software or access to it”
Just get rid of them!
TheY oversley don’t value you as a designer or the design profession.
In their mind they believe they are a logo designer just because they have an idea, it may be a good one, or a good starting point but anyone can get ideas.
The challenge is to make it into a solid working concept that is both appropriate, versatile and unique.
The reason these people don’t have the software, and probably have no clue how to use it, is the simple fact they are not a designer!
They have not trained for years learning design rules, fundamentals, and theory behind design, they don’t have any letters after their name indicating they are specialised in their field, they don’t hold numerous distinction level diplomas that took years of hard work to achieve!
We as professionals have and this is one of the reasons we do what we do.
We as designers devote our time, energy and efforts into our craft on a daily basis, we love what we do because we pour our heart and soul into it, it has meaning beyond getting paid to do it, its our passion because we work so bloody hard for it!
I don’t agree with being clever or sarcastic with people but on a fun up yours! sort of approach you could still be helpful and witty at the same time.
I don’t get this sort of request much nowadays, but had it a few times when first starting out and don’t really give this type of request the time of day, but I have had fun in the early days with my responses.
If you're a designer and adobe affiliate and want to respond in a helpful and witty manner you could send them an affiliate link to illustrator and say something along the lines of.
“I’m sorry to hear you don’t have access to the adobe software to complete your project. I can help you out with this.
Below is an affiliate link to Adobe's creative cloud software. It will cost you “X” amount per month but after you have finished your project you can cancel anytime you like.
We both benefit here as, you will save money in the long run because you have access to the software and don’t need to hire a creative professional.
I have a referral credit for you signing up with our link. Besides software, is there anything else that is now stopping you from completing this project?”
Now i’m older and wiser i’m a big believer in putting your time into things that matter. By the time i took to send this request i could have already written a few hundred words towards an issue of my newsletter/article on the website or sent one of my loyal customers a nice email letting them know how much I value them.
At the end of the day it’s our choice!
The next type of request can be similar but we need to validate this client further.
I am always very weary when I see or hear this.
Don’t write it off just yet!
I have had this type of request and it’s turned out to be a decent client but the majority of requests like this are just looking for the cheapest price.
“This is what we need. What will it cost?”
Now this is slightly trickier as it screams that they don’t trust us to diagnose what they need, and again self-diagnosing etc.
In other cases it’s a decent client who just does not know how to request your assistance for your expert advice and guidance.
Always thinking to validate before walking away!
Firstly I will explain that I will need more information in order to understand their business and brand.
This will enable me to be able to see how I can help and provide an estimate to take on the project further.
This is all part of my validation process, most clients will submit an online brief which lets me know they are not just after a price right off the bat.
The second stage is to validate the information they have submitted to learn more about this client and their expectations.
This will either lead to further emails or a chat to explain what I can offer to solve the client’s design needs. I don’t want to waste my time on the phone with a client who is not suitable for my business.
Validate before you invest your time further!
The below request is normally something I receive from clients who I have previously worked with or have an ongoing relationship with.
“We have a secure budget of £8,000 for the project we recently discussed. In your professional opinion, what do you think you can do for us with that figure? Do we need to hold back a little longer to secure more funds or can we get something moving?”
This sort of transparency indicates that the client trusts you and your judgement, and respects you as a professional and the design industry as a whole.
Either way, I have had clients whose budgets are too high and too low and i have been completely transparent with them and explained both scenarios.
“I think you have more than enough with your proposed budget, and we should be able to save you some of that but lets discuss it further and create a brief to move forward so we have a better idea to progress further with this.”
or it could be the opposite.
“Congratulations on securing your budget so far, I can see you are very serious about going ahead with this and making it happen. I think if we hold back and secure some more funds we will be in a good position to start taking and making plans to take it to the next stage.”
Being transparent with each other is key to a good relationship and trust between both parties. Don’t be afraid to talk about the money we are in business to make money and have fun doing it. Good clients appreciate it! They are doing the same as you!
2. Good Clients Understand Good Design Work Takes Time to Complete
Good clients are very comfortable with the idea of a corporate identity design can’t be completed in a matter of weeks.
They will be eager to take in everything you can give them about your process and then sit back and relax until it starts unfolding.
They are a good client and they trust you (unless you give them a reason not to).
As a good client they are satisfied with communication updates, and information during the process keeping them informed of the project progression.
Good clients don’t expect you to be answering their emails when the studio is closed, or rush a job in a few days just before the start of a bank holiday because they can’t wait an extra day.
Of course you will have to jump through hoops for them from time to time on the odd occasion but more than likely it’s a genuine request and they always express their gratitude for your hard work.
3. Good clients understand there is no guarantee of direct results.
No matter how sharp our creative thinking is around branding and marketing, there are still elements that are just out of our control.
As designers we communicate visually to humans, who show an unusual resilience at escaping the rules we set forth on how they should think behave towards design.
Design is a mixture of art and science wrapped into one good clients understand this.
4. Good clients are behind you and want you to succeed
A good client will introduce you to new potential clients as they are proud of you and not afraid to recommend you to others as the best for the job and works wonders for us sort of introduction.
If you look after your good clients they will look after you and you will receive comments like I do from my good clients which are:
“That’s a really great price thank you, a lot better than I was expecting!”
“Are you sure that’s enough I don’t what you to think I’m taking advantage of you? Neither do I want you to be out of pocket!”
I have a client who sold his business because he was retiring, he stressed to the new owner that I was part of the team and came with the package as I would look after him like I did the previous owner.
The new owner said it’s a deal and I was part of his plans moving forward. This was several years ago I’m still working with them and helped the business rebrand, maintain their website and design promotional designs for them.
How to Treat Good Clients
Always do good work for good clients, always speak openly with transparency? Once you have a good working relationship with them always remain professional but drop the professional lingo and speak to them like their your friend but remember to always remain professional.
Always try to give your clients credit when it’s due, introduce new people to the business either someone who would be a great employee or potential customer for them.
When they ask you to do something that’s not really best for business always try to offer another option or way of doing something this way you become more than their designer and also a problem solver.
If there are slight problems on your clients side and you feel some tension, always give them the benefit of the doubt be professional, ride it out until the truth surfaces.
In most cases it’s nothing to do with you or anything you have done its just business
If you have a great client do what I do and send them a complimentary email from time to time wishing them well. Send them a few useful resources they may find helpful.
Send them Christmas cards, birthday cards, drop some flowers into the reception, or hand them to the owner - A small act of kindness goes along way!
I have several of my good clients on my email list who send me messages thanking me for a great read and what they took away from it,
It is a great feeling knowing I am providing this to them and they took the time to let me know.
And to end off this weeks issue with a message to all my good clients, you are all your superstars, and I love working with each and every one of you, thanks for supporting me, and as always I will continue to support you and your businesses.
As I always say - “Stay curious & enthusiastic, and good things will happen!”
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your support. 😃
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The articles below include setting prices, negotiating, spotting red flags to avoid bad clients, and getting ahead in design.
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