After four years in business, I've worked with a variety of clients – the busy, the newbies, those who are struggling, the overwhelmed, moms, solopreneurs, CEOs, project managers, on and on. And, I think we can all agree that no one enters into a business relationship aiming to be a bad client. You hire a designer because they come highly recommended, they fit your budget, you love their work, etc., and so you enter into the relationship expecting everything to be picture perfect.
But, in business, things aren't always picture perfect – and that might be on the person you hired, or... it might be on you. You're probably thinking, excuse me?! I hired this person because I thought they had their act together, so why is it on me?! Yes, to a certain extent, it is largely the responsibility of the person you hired to have their act together. There are a million and one blogs out there for designers about streamlining our process, contracts, handling projects, etc.
But, it takes two to tango.
It's like that old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Designers can have a system set-up for their clients, but we can't make them respond to emails. So, yes, part of how smooth the project actually does rely on you. Here are four things you can do to be the best client possible when working with a designer.
Show some respect – be responsive.
This is the first on the list because it can be applied to your communication, even before you hire the person. I know many people "shop around" before they decide which designer to work with. But, if you decide to go with someone else – let the other person know. I understand that it's awkward to email someone and say, "Hey... so... I found someone else who can do this cheaper," or "I found someone that I think is a better fit for me." Instead of ignoring emails and leaving the person hanging, let them know, so they can stop wasting their time sending you follow-up emails.
As business owners, we're all busy. We have families and social lives on top of running a business. And, it can be hard to make the re-design of your website a priority, when you're really focused on serving your own clients. Talk to your designer and see what they expect in terms of communication, and what you can expect in return. Don't go dark for three weeks in the middle of a project, if your designer is going to be expecting feedback from you.
In the unlikely event that a family emergency happens, try to communicate with your designer that you will be MIA for awhile. I realize that it might sound selfish of me to say that. But, as someone who has personally gone through a loss, I made sure to email clients before I left to be with family and say, "Hey, this is what's happening..." Even if you don't know when you'll be back at work, just a quick email that lets them know there's a family emergency and you're going to be MIA for x-amount of time.
Hopefully, the designer you are hiring will have a consult call with you, or somehow else collect all the details about you and your business – target audience, color scheme, your ideas, etc. This is when you need to be detailed, be specific, and communicate all of your thoughts and goals. Before a designer starts your project, they'll also most likely require that you send them the text and images that will be used in your project. The earlier you can start gathering these pieces, the better.
For example, if you're re-designing your website, you may just be updating some of the info and images that are already there. But, if you're starting from scratch, there's a lot of pieces you need to think about:
- Pictures of you and/or your team
- Text for your About page, your Services page
- Examples of your work
- Will you have a blog?
- How do you want people to contact you?
Follow basic copyright rules.
Do not come to a designer and say, "I really like Joe's site. I would like mine to look like that." You will probably be able to show examples of design styles you like – many designers request that you create a Pinterest board for style inspiration. But, it's one thing to copy a design, and another to just be inspired by it.
If you are going to be providing photos for your design, know that you cannot just pull photos from Google. Not wanting to pay for premium stock photos is no longer an excuse, because there are countless free stock photo sites out there for you. In fact, many of the free sites out there have really artistic and realistic photos, instead of fake, cliché stock photos many people are used to seeing online.
Have a dialogue.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, give feedback or share your own ideas. The project is for YOUR business, and it needs to accurately reflect you. If you get confused by something the designer said did, or you want to try a different approach – don't be afraid to bring it up. The best feedback is specific feedback.
Having a dialogue before the project begins might even be the best rule of thumb. It's the time when you can talk about expectations for both parties, and know what you're really getting into before you start. Ask questions like, what are you payment terms? What if I need to cancel the project? What if I'm not happy with the end result?
While this blog post is specific to working with a designer, these rules could be applied to any industry. As I said in the beginning, I don't think any of us intend to be a bad client. But, as clients, we sometimes forget how our actions (or lack of actions) affect the person on the other side of the screen.