A lot of people have been complaining about their clients. We all have these hilarious stories about our clients that infuriate and, much later, make us laugh in the company of others. We get so ticked off clients don’t trust our decisions and make terrible design choices that we can’t convince them out of. Is it our client’s fault for making all these decisions and changes? What can we do?
Think about it like this: Your client has chosen you either out of a pile of applicants or (if you’re lucky) by referral. They know of your work from your portfolio, but they don’t know what the product is going to look like. It’s a little scary if you ask me. Making them feel comfortable is pretty important, and having them trust you is even more.
If you help clients feel comfortable with leaving the job’s decisions up to you and your professional judgement, then your job will be that much easier. Imagine: no more complaining about having a background color that’s not white enough.
Many of us may be strictly designers or developers, not having to deal with any of the project management-related tasks in your agency. (Some may call you lucky.) Still, these tips will help you when dealing with the project manager at your workplace, and may help you for those little side projects you take for friends and family. Hey – while we have your attention, why not join us over on Twitter and grab our feed?
How to Get Your Clients to Trust You
We’re talking about trusting in our clients and having them trust in us as well. Still – that doesn’t mean you ignore the important of contracts and agreements. Here are a few musts for dealing with clients:
- A contract for your terms, a proposal, and/or an invoice – signed!
- Re-read your e-mails before sending them out
- After any phone call, make sure you e-mail the client to follow-up stating what was said in the phone call, and what the next steps are (and, for godssake, pay attention when you’re writing e-mails and don’t do it after getting home from the pub).
CREATE A LINE OF COMMUNICATION
Note: singular. On all proposals Phuse sends out, we ask for the person we will be in touch with regarding the project. While on both ends there is generally a team working on the project, having too many people in conversations is difficult. Make sure both sides have a project manager that will bridge the communications between you and the client, and make sure you treat this person well!
Not only does this save you from sending out an e-mail with ten people CC’d, but you can also create a stronger relationship with this one person. In some cases, they may not be making the final decisions; but if you treat them with respect, they’ll fight for your decisions in their meetings.
Another good idea when dealing with this project manager is finding out how often they want to be updated. Some project managers want a daily break down of what happened as well as weekly milestones – some are more lax. Having a project management system (we use Basecamp) is always nice to have set up so they can see what’s going on at their convenience. Showing progress is always a nice feeling on both ends.
MAKE IT A LEARNING PROCESS
We all preach about how nice usability and typography is important, but unless we actually do something with it our words are useless. Make sure that while you’re bringing your client through your process, that you teach them the importance of each step. Even a simple explanation of each step in a “welcome package” of what they should expect, goes a long way!
When a client wants to make a change you don’t agree with, don’t only tell them it’s a bad idea, but explain why. The more understanding there is, the easier it is to make them trust your decisions.
HAVE (CONSISTENTLY) GOOD WORK
Having a wicked portfolio always helps. By showing you have experience and have done this before, clients will be more liable to accept your decisions.
NEVER LET THEM DOWN
You have put down deadlines and milestones for a reason – make sure you meet them and let the client know that you are doing so. If you’re not going to be able to make a milestone, send an e-mail ahead of time to a client and explain why.
Everyone likes to be congratulated when they do things (right). When you’ve taught your client how to work within the CMS you’ve set up and they’ve started posting, congratulate them and always make suggestions on how they can make the solution work better for them.
EXTRA: THROW SOMETHING SPECIAL IN THERE
Sometimes throwing something in for free will help clients show you’re not just about the business and making money all the time. I’m not talking about throwing in an entire CMS for free, here – but if they ask you to design a logo, why not throw it on a couple of business card and letterhead comps? Tell them that you’re throwing it in for free because you appreciate their work. At this point, remember to teach your client – business cards and letterheads are important, and you usually charge $XX for them.
The more special you make your client feel, the better.
Case and Point
About a year ago now, I started working on a new (and quite exciting) project. I was asked to create a website for a new pilot project in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. I’d been working on it with the team for a few months, and was nearing the project’s deadline.
I had the site completed and the client was already playing around in it. They thought the design was wicked, but I didn’t feel it was right for the students who would be accessing it. Four days before the deadline I called the client and expressed my concerns. They still thought the design that we had created was awesome, but they understood and trusted our decision.
We quickly spent the next four days strictly on this project and personally launched it and presented it to their team.
HOW’D I PULL THAT OFF?
Besides the extremely tight situation I put myself in by redoing all the work I had already done, I helped my client build trust in me from the beginning.
My client loved my portfolio and what I’d done for some other clients. They loved my excitement towards the project. Whenever they wanted to meet or speak to me, I always made myself available (even if it meant a two hour bus ride), and was very honest with them at all times (even if it meant making myself look stupid). I’d also met the other milestones on time, and was always courteous.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
The client is still working with The Phuse on their project and on some other projects that will be released over the next year. They do that because they trust our decisions. We continually meet and beat their expectations. While my case may be a little extreme and may not be the case for larger projects, it just goes to show that if you help your clients build trust in you, you’ll be able to sway them much easier on decisions.
What experiences have you had with clients and trust? Do you agree with what I’m saying, so do you think it’s a bunch of hogwash? Share your thoughts below!