Building Relationships with Challenging Clients

How are your relationships with clients?


As a freelance designer, it is important to establish a strong relationship with the people you work with. The better your relationship, the better your communication. Good communication helps the designer better understand the client’s vision upfront and avoid wasting time creating design that doesn’t fit the client’s needs.


So how do you establish such a relationship? Especially with clients who might be difficult or have never worked with a designer before? Below are situations designers can face with clients and solutions that can help improve these relationships.


Building Relationships With Challenging Clients


Situation One: The client doesn’t trust you
Unfortunately this happens often in the graphic design field. Clients come to you because you’re the expert, yet they still think they have to come up with all the elements of the design, such as fonts, colors, positioning, etc. For clients with an established branding system, this isn’t too much of an issue. But for other clients, trying to develop a brand system on their own can be time consuming and end up affecting the overall design (especially if they aren’t familiar with design principles).


Solution: Use your skills to build trust with the client
Remind your client why they came to you in the first place: use your portfolio as credentials and, for extremely specific clients, design multiple options. For example, I like to send my clients three options during the design process: one that is exactly what they asked for, another that I design to my liking, and lastly one that combines the two. Typically, the client goes with one of the latter two and eventually begans to trust that I might actually know what I’m doing 🙂 It’s a win for everyone.


Building Relationships With Challenging Clients


Situation Two: The client thinks you charge too much
As a designer, it can be challenging deciding just how much to charge for your work. As a client, it can be challenging understanding just how much time and skill goes into creating quality design. What a client may think is “a quick fix”, could in reality, take two or three days and for a freelancer juggling different clients and multiple projects, this could also mean losing money.


Solution: Breakdown your pricing on their terms
Explain to the client how the your design is going to impact their business in the future. For example, a well designed logo will catch people’s attention, and ultimately bring in more money for the business. Quality design is an investment, which can be costly at first, but well worth it in the long run. Additionally, keep a record of your design time so you can show your clients exactly how much time you’ve put into stages of a project. is a great tool for tracking project time.


Building Relationships With Challenging Clients


Situation Three: The client doesn’t know how to communicate what they want
When clients have an idea of what they want, but don’t know what it is that they want…it cant be pretty frustrating trying to understand what they’re envisioning. They might tell you exactly what they want to see, and then ask for revisions to see what they think they really wanted to see, only to want to change it again, and again, and sometimes, again.This cycle of revisions can turn any quick task into an extended project and leave you just as confused as the client.


Solution: Talk your client’s language
It is important to communicate with indecisive clients in a way that is most comfortable for them. For example, I have asked clients to tell me what they want their design to say as oppose to having them describe to me what they want to see. This takes the pressure off of them to translate their abstract thoughts into visual elements and allows the designer to figure out a creative solution for the client. And be sure to clearly communicate all your terms and fees for revisions prior to beginning a project.


Building Relationships With Challenging Clients


Situation Four: The client gives you too much feedback…or none at all
Opening a four-page email with feedback from a client can be a tad overwhelming…but then again, opening an email with only four words could possibly have the same effect. When a client analyzes every single element of a project, they can end up changing the design so much that it looks just as confusing as the revisions. Or a client could have little to no revisions, they “just don’t like it” leaving it hard to know which direction you should take because you don’t know where to start.


Solution: Explain your design decisions
Instead of just sending the final product to your client, try presenting it. Explain your reasoning and tell them why you decided to use the elements you used and how it works best for their project. For example, if you use the color blue color on their website, tell them why you chose that color and how it relates to their business. Lastly, you want to make sure the client feels  like you’re listening to them, so again, give multiple options: a revision exactly as they requested, and another that you think clearly communicates what the client is really asking for.


Good communication builds better relationships with clients, especially the challenging ones!… Click To Tweet


Ariana Nicole
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