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Your Design Client’s Top 5 Complaints & How to Avoid Them

By July 2, 2014 8 Comments

It really is the little things that keep us happy.

Having a great hair day. Getting some praise from a client. Throwing a top on that doesn’t need ironing. Winning!

There’s nothing I love more than sitting down in front of my lappy when I get out bed (whatever time that may be), sipping my first cuppa for the day and reading the latest articles from my favourite blogs.

One article that got me wired the other day (more than my usual morning caffeine hit) was one about the top 5 complaints that design clients have about the designers who work on their websites.

It was such a good read, I really wanted to share what I learnt with you and give you my take on it. Here goes…

So what are the top 5 complaints?

1) “I want a designer who’s a little more forward.”

When questioned, many clients felt that the designers and design companies they’d used didn’t take the lead enough. Clients commented that they felt it was always themselves who scheduled meetings, managed budgets, and chased the designer for updates.
I discovered years ago that when you take the lead with clients, be confident in your ideas and suggestions and never let the ball fall into their court, your relationship with them really prospers. I drum this into my ProPartners in almost every video in my training program.

The smarter you get, the more confidence you’ll have, and the more respect you’ll gain from your clients. It also makes your job easier when you need to say “no” to unrealistic design turnarounds or absurd changes.

This report confirms my thoughts and personal experiences in that clients want you to guide them, they want to follow a leader. Essentially, the majority of people are followers and this includes our clients.

So that said, do you think you are too relaxed with clients? Is there an opportunity for you to take more of lead in your client relationships and in return ensure they stay on your books for years to come?

2) “They don’t challenge me and my business enough!”

I can actually understand where this one is coming from. Sometimes it’s really easy to coast on by… take the work that’s offered, complete it, thank them for their business then wait for the next job.

What if we actually CHALLENGED our clients?

It’s a great way to fish for more work. By suggesting ideas that require design solutions and your expertise, you’re becoming more than “just another designer.” You’re becoming someone they can trust to help them take their business and website to the next level.

3) “I don’t know anything about my designers…. : ( ”

The times they are a changin! It’s not enough to just supply your design services and send the invoice. In fact more and more industries are starting to see attitudes between customers and suppliers start to become more relaxed. Gone are the stuffy suits and keeping your clients at a distance, and now it’s all about becoming besties in the name of good business.

Rapport is the key. Get to know your clients better and naturally they’ll take an interest in you and the law of reciprocity then kicks in.

You may think it will make things awkward when it comes to payment, but you couldn’t be more wrong. People don’t want to just “use you”, they want to collaborate with you. Studies show that clients prefer to work with an agency that is buzzy, dynamic and who oooooooze success, and it’s important to show your personality; both on your website and when you communicate with them.

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4) “They could be more proactive…”

This is very similar to points 1 and 2. Why should the client be the one to keep the client / designer relationship ticking? Just because that was how “it was always done?” It’s time to get with the times!

Things listed in the study including “flagging up budget issue”, “spotting potential problems early” and “challenging the brief.” Ultimately I recommend that when you get your client brief, don’t *just* accept it… read it and come up with your own ideas too. Act as if it’s YOUR brief too!

Be brave and suggest ways to improve on it. Trust me… they will see you as someone who cares about their business and who wants them to succeed.

5) “They’ve become a bit too comfortable.”

I appreciate that as time goes by some clients can really drag. We’ve all had those clients that when they call you say to yourself “oh no, not you again…”

Well that is the WRONG attitude my friend! They are your client and you should be glad to have them on board. Enthusiasm, proactively and commitment are key ways to keep your client excited about you and their own business.

Because if you won’t show enthusiasm for the working relationship… there are always younger and hungrier designers out there ready to swoop your client from under your nose.

So there you go. The top 5 complaints…

What are your thoughts? Have you had any personal experiences similar to these complaints? Sound off with all your juicy goss below! The more we know the better. 🙂

Credit: Thanks to ‘Up to the Light’ for releasing this report. You can check out the full report for yourself by clicking here

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
  • It seems to me that there must be a heck of a lot of designers out there with no common sense. . . .
    Pretty much EVERY SINGLE BLOG I read with advice like this – I AM ALREADY DOING. It just seems so logical to me really – like hey of course you should be doing this. Its nothing new or special. This is just what I do without even thinking I am doing anything.
    Maybe after 20+ years working in design, ( only 7 freelance) and generally treating people the way I expect to be treated, and being a great organiser (and maybe a bit of a control freak) and not afraid to say what I think – I know more than I realise.
    What no-one ever tells you is the best way to get new clients.
    Seems to me no-one ever really values the need ( or cost ) for a designer – they all think they can do it themselves.

  • A really good read indeed! I’ve only just started out on my own and reading this makes me happy. Tells me exactly the pitfalls I should avoid. And I just love the way you’ve written this article! Thanks!

  • Thanks for these! As it happens, I’m having my morning cuppa and reading my fave blogs – this was an excellent idea and read indeed! I’ve noticed that it’s really important to send regular updates to clients, even if you haven’t had a chance to work on their project in a few days, it doesn’t hurt to just say ‘Hi, I haven’t forgotten about you, expect to have your thing finished by this weekend.” I actually suck at doing this and am trying to make a better effort… I’ve had clients contact me worried that I’m upset with them and about to fire them just because I was so busy I forgot to tell them I am working on their stuff, it’s just taking longer than I thought. A little email goes a long way!

    • Well double weirdly Bhakti I’ve just settle down with my morning cuppa to reply to you! 🙂 I think the one thing we can take away from ALL of the 5 points is that ‘bold communication’ is paramount. I’ve always heard the cliche that clients just want a “yes” person as their designer, but I’ve found the majority actually want a designer who’s bold enough to come up with their own ideas and push for things. Plus, as you say, a quick email to update your client goes a long long way. It’s all about building a relationship that lasts with the client… this is why I try to treat all my clients as I would my friends… it makes for a much better working relationship.

  • thewatusi

    Hi Bianca… As always a great post. I agree, one needs to present ideas to clients on a expert basis. They want your ideas, they NEED your ideas, and I encourage them to challenge me as well. I love that part. I really do. Perhaps, where I have a small issue is point #3… “becoming besties with clients”. Today, I don’t see it as much as say perhaps 10 or 15 years ago. I wish I did. Yes… Do everything you can to be social. Why not try. Advance that ball and it does work wonders. But don’t worry if it is not what it appears to be. Smile, be positive and do great work. Clients still love that even if they are not interested in your kid.

    • Thanks for the kind words Kurt, great to hear from you again!

      I’m glad to see that you too actually work WITH your clients as opposed to just blindly doing what they want. If you have key experiences that can help improve your client’s website / design / project / etc, then I think it’s our duty to challenge our clients and say “heya…. why don’t you do this, it will help your business in XYZ ways etc?”

      And that works both ways too. I’ve had some great clients who make suggestions and in turn help build up my experience too like you mentioned. After all… many of them (not all) understand their respective industry better than we ever will, so it’s always a good idea to listen to them an open mind.

      I think once you become a designer that does something purely because “the client told me to” that is the day you have lost the passion for your work. And that is a sad day for all. 🙁

      As for the “bestie” comment, I guess it’s easy for us to say this as Web123 is a company that aims to work with small business owners, and as a result I have a lot in common with them as a entrepreneur who is clawing and scratching away to make their business a success. For us that rapport is the perfect way to make them raving fans of our services, and in turn, recommend their other friends to Web123 because “my mate Bianca should be able to help you out, she’s awesome!”

      Chat again soon mate, cheers!

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