5 Things to Never Say to Clients

Pitching to a new client can be challenging for a variety of reasons. Designers must walk a fine line that entails winning the client without compromising their own needs and values. The willingness to do whatever it takes to make the potential client happy seems like a great attitude and a noble, prudent approach, but it doesn’t always have a fairy tale ending. The problem is, if we don’t watch what we say, we can end up making our new project an absolute nightmare. There are some things that we should simply never say to our clients in order to avoid headaches further down the road.

5-Things-to-Never-Say-to-Clients

“We’ll Sign the Contract Later”

This friendly, seemingly-innocuous gesture can potentially cause massive headaches down the road. A binding contract is the first thing that you want to get from your clients once you have agreed on terms. Not signing a contract immediately leaves room for less scrupulous clients to (re)negotiate terms in their favor, because you are already committed to the project. They may complain about the price, or that they want more features, or just more for their money in general. You never want to leave an opening for clients to reconsider midway through the project. Signing a contract is good for both sides, because you and the client agree to the same set of clear, specific terms. It is all in writing, so neither party can come back after the fact and make false claims. It is tough to dispute something in writing that has your signature on it.

“Infinite Revisions”

This is a huge mistake that a lot of new designers make. You agree on a price and you agree to the work, and then you agreed to make changes to the design until they are happy. It sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, this usually ends up being a nightmare for the designer. The reason is that your clients will consider it an open invitation to make indefinite “minor changes” or to alter the content in some way. They may ask to change a color or to use a different picture, or they may try to get you to scrap the design and start all over again under the pretense of “revisions,” and they will expect it for the same price that you originally quoted them.

Personally, I will always give them a written estimate, but when I do, I place a written clause on the estimate that says the final price doesn’t reflect revisions. They receive a specific number of revisions, and if they end up changing the design too much, then the price will go up. This protects me, because I don’t end up spending 10 hours doing a $150 flyer.

“We’ll Design Whatever You Want”

I am all for delivering what the client wants in terms of vision and goals. However, It is a good idea not to tell them that you will give them whatever they want, because that puts all of the design decision making in their hands, which is bad for both parties. Clients may come up with very questionable design decisions, and they may reject some very thoughtful, pragmatic design work that you’ve already completed. You are the designer, so creating the look and feel of the design is up to you. A good alternative is to say something like “I can create your design in whatever style that you want.” The reason that I say that this is better is because it they can show you examples of styles that they have in mind, but the specific design decisions are left up to you to make. Otherwise, they’ll feel like they are in control, or they’ll start to wonder if your passive, tell-me-what-to-do approach is worth the cost. Your clients usually don’t know how to design, that is why they came to you.

“How About A Temporary Discount?”

This only ends up hurting you in the long run. You never want to offer clients a discount, even a temporary one, because most of them will want a discount every time. Then, you begin the never-ending battle against the precedents and expectations that stem from a single one-time gesture. When you don’t give those same clients a discount later, they end up angry, and you may lose that client. Offering discounts for your work devalues the work itself, and it makes it sound like you overcharged to begin with.

“What Was Your Last Designer Thinking!?”

This can be very tempting, especially when you see what some people come up with as a design solution. The problem with this is that it is a double-edged sword, and your negativity will only come back to haunt you. You want to establish your authority and expertise as a designer, but doing it at the expense of another design only makes you look unprofessional. Also, you don’t know who made the previous design. Sometimes business owners try to do things themselves, or they might hire a relative or a friend of theirs to do it. When you make remarks about their work, you actually may be insulting the business owner or one of their colleagues. The best course of action would just be to offer a better solution and prove your expertise through the design that you present to them. The improvements will be obvious, and nobody’s feathers will get ruffled from unnecessary criticism.

Conclusion

Even in the design industry, your conduct makes a big difference, and poised, professional conduct is an excellent (and underutilized) way to stand apart from your industry peers. Avoiding the statements above will ensure that you remain a top-notch professional in the eyes of your clients. You will also avoid a mountain of headaches in the long run. The best part is that you won’t end up wasting a lot of your valuable time making changes and redesigning projects that aren’t worthwhile.

Have you ever said anything to a client that you wish that you hadn’t? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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  • Remco

    Did you really mean to write ‘fairly tail ending’ ?

    • http://www.designfestival.com Peter North

      Thank you for reading so closely, Remco. I’ve corrected the typo you pointed out. Cheers.

  • Trey Mitchell

    Typo in your first paragraph (fairly tale). Just thought you might want to know.

    • Robert

      I thought the article was fairy well written myself.

    • http://www.designfestival.com Peter North

      Thank you for pointing that out, Trey. I’ve made the correction. Much appreciated.

  • http://www.quinnsrapidrecharger.com Stan

    I have had one customer for years. He still remembers the price from a first time coupon years ago. He always asks for that price. Another customer always asked for a discount on delivery. In that case I increased the price just for that customer. If they asked for a discount I could bring them down to the regular price.

  • Don Sykes

    James – that’s some really good advice. I wish someone had shared some of those tips with me when I was just starting out!

  • http://www.biggianthead.co Larry

    James,
    Thanks for the insightful tips. I am a week away from meeting with prospective clients and your tips will certainly come in handy, as long as I remember them. I don’t think I have violated any of them in the past, but you never know when that slippery thing in your mouth gets ahead of your grey matter.

    Thanks and happy designing,
    Larry

  • http://www.charcoallogo.com Michael

    Totally agree on “Infinite Revisions” – you can easily come unstuck on small jobs that drag on and on…losing any profit whatsoever.

  • http://violacase.nl violacase

    Quote: ‘The best course of action would just be to offer a better solution’

    Never offer a ‘better’ solution I think. Offer an ‘other’ solution. Promise YOURSELF it will be better.

  • http://bdweblink.com Md. Raihanul Ihsan

    Good suggestion, I’ll apply this in my work place.

  • http://www.creativepixelmedia.com Martin Dalziel

    Excellent tips on how to keep control of your clients and not to over complicate things for yourself.