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5 Ways to Kill Your Client / Designer Relationship

By April 4, 2014 No Comments

Famous actor and voiceover artist Harlen Hogan, made a famous quote: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

And it’s true. You don’t.

But the only problem with this quote is that it implies to some that once you’ve made that first great impression, that you and the client are set for life.

And boy, through years of experience, I can tell ya, you ain’t.

Once you’ve successfully landed your dream client, you need to keep them close to you on a tight leash to keep them happy. Because it only takes one mistake to potentially lose them.

Over the years, I’ve worked on thousands of projects, with thousands of different clients and it’s taught me a lot.

The top 5 ways to annoy clients and risk your good relationships.

I find it useful to always keep this in the back of your mind with every conversation you have.

#1 Using ‘big I am’ words.

When I say ‘big I am’ words, I’m talking about using big and impressive words which can easily be conveyed using standard normal length words.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you not to use your intellect, but when you refer to a ‘website’ as a “online platform communication channel” you might need to give yourself a pep-talk.

The reality is that when you try and sound smarter by padding out your words, you end up looking foolish in the eyes of your client. They know what you’re doing, and more often than not, are wondering why you just didn’t say “website” in the first place.

So take it from me, don’t try and “pad out” what your saying, just deliver what you need to say with clarity.

#2 Posing your ideas as questions.

This was brought up by a friend of mine who was driven bonkers by their designer who would constantly turn any suggestions or recommendations into questions. So instead of saying “My suggestion is that you include a form on your homepage”, they would say “I guess you could put a form on the homepage, what do you think?”

Ultimately, if you phrase your ideas as a question, it just makes your advice uncertain and questionable. And when a client thinks you’re not confident in your own abilities, it won’t take much for the next designer to convince them that he or she is the answer to their prayers instead.

What I’m trying to say is that clients LOVE confidence. They want a designer to TELL them what they should be doing. They want a leader, they want to be lead… so lead!

When you make a suggestion or idea to your client, be bold! Don’t doubt yourself. Instead of asking your client if your idea is good enough…. tell them it’s good enough!

They’re paying you for your expertise, so be brave and remember that YOU are the expert.

#3 Not taking responsibility for your mistakes.

Every designer makes mistakes. Or at least every designer will eventually work with a client who thinks the designer made a mistake. 😉

I had one of my designers once spell ‘Christmas’ wrong on a Christmas card when the only two words on the front of the card were… you guessed it… ‘Merry Christmas’. *face palm*

It’s important to take responsibility when (a) the client doesn’t like the work you’ve done or (b) if you’ve made a genuine mistake.

In that case, even though the client had signed off, it was our mistake and I reprinted his 3,000 Christmas cards at my expense.

Don’t make excuses or pass the buck, because all you will do is annoy your client and risk the relationship. From my experience, I’d rather have an office full of people who say “no you’re right, I’m sorry. This is how I’m going to fix it”, over an office full of people who pass the buck.

By accepting responsibility and offering a solution quickly, you will more likely earn your client’s respect and move on more quickly to a successful resolution.

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#4 Being fluent in jargonese.

You’ve probably heard me talk about this a lot on my blog and also over on my Reseller program. But if there’s one thing I hate, it’s jargon.

It’s very similar to my earlier point about using ‘big I am’ words. Jargon are words, terms and abbreviations that are familiar to us designers (e.g. CMS, JPEG, Web2.0, brand alignment, above the fold) but may seem like another language to our clients.

I will admit, there is a balance to make. Different clients have different levels of understanding. But do yourself a favour; if you come across a client who doesn’t understand terms that you are familiar with, DO NOT run the risk of making them feel stupid. Simplify what you are saying instead.

Always be conscientious and focus on being an approachable designers who’s easy to understand language makes clients feel confident in themselves, and in YOUR abilities.

#5 Spurting facts at 80 miles an hour.

Seems kind of apt to use a speed analogy when describing a habit typically employed by dodgy car salesman but one thing some designers like to do is baffle their clients by talking really quickly and throwing random facts at their clients, without giving the client chance to respond:

“Did you know that 87% of your customers would rather use Facebook to read your content? In fact all of my clients have used my services to design their Facebook pages, and have seen an increase of sales by around 60% as a result. So I’ll throw that into the cost of my work… moving on….”  

Is their aim to educate and encourage the client? No. The aim is to baffle them to the point that they are almost bullied into making a decision quickly and with minimum fuss.

It’s so 2001 to do business this way, and frankly, the majority of clients I know are wise to it. We’re in an age now where clear and concise information rules, and if a client feels baffled by your attempts to hassle them into an early decision, chances are they’re going to start the search for another designer.

Are there any bad habits you’re guilty of in the past? Have you learn’t any crucial lessons about how to handle your clients? Sound off in the comment section below and let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What do you think? Share your comments below.


Author Bianca Board

After 20 years inspiring more than 10,000 designers and small business owners to take control of their business, Bianca is now spearheading Foxley, a brand spanking new SaaS platform for designers. She is deeply passionate about helping distil the complexities of running a web design business - to make it easier for all designers to make the leap from designer to design entrepreneur. She’s a translator of web jargon, a lead generation master, a champion for small businesses and you can Google her brain for endless strategies on how to transform your business.

More posts by Bianca Board

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