We all hear horror stories of nightmare clients that tread well outside the boundaries of written agreements, delay or refuse to pay for completed work, or worse. Assertive, unscrupulous, and disagreeable clients can ask the world of us for a price that is a fraction of what the work is worth. We hear of clients wanting unlimited revisions, and some even think they know more about design than we do. What if it were different? What if we could identify, pursue, and win our dream clients and fill our schedule with the right kind of work? It varies from person to person, but in a perfect world, my clients would have the following characteristics.
My Dream Client Respects a Fair Price
In a perfect world, dream clients would know a fair price for our services, and when we offer a thorough, diligent estimate, there would be no arguments. They would understand that our work has a great deal of value, and that our services are well worth what we are asking. Clients would know a fair price when they see it, and resist the temptation to negotiate, ask for a deal or propose a cheaper price. They would accept your detailed estimate as your best offer in good faith.
My Dream Client Offers Constructive Input That Actually Helps
I’ve had the pleasure of working with clients that have a precise idea of what they want that stems from their own careful research on different looks and styles. They know what they want; they just needed a skilled designer to deliver it. A dream client can offer educated, experience-based insight during the design process. Instead of vaguely saying that they don’t like something, they provide careful reasoning to articulate exactly why they don’t like something. Constructive criticism is extremely helpful from a client and makes it so much easier to deliver the design that he or she hopes for.
My Dream Client Allows Plenty of Time to Complete a Project
How many times have you received a huge project that ended up being a rush job? Sometimes a client’s expectation for when a project can be completed is well beyond reasonable. It is extremely unpleasant when you are working on a project for a client that has a tight deadline, and they wait until the last possible moment to hand in all of the materials. A dream client would understand that when you are designing something, such as a 50-page annual report, that you need all of the information so that you can compile the report much easier. It is tough to have to rearrange the layout at the last minute because you had to insert a surprise addition. My nightmare client’s lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for me, and my dream client would deliver all information at the outset, giving you ample time to do great work.
My Dream Client Would Pay Promptly
It can be frustrating when you complete a project for a client and it takes them a month or longer to send in their payment. They were sure in a hurry when they wanted their project done in two weeks! A dream client would pay their invoice as soon as they received it in the mail or via email. An even better client would be willing to pay an invoice via PayPal or other instant online payment processes. Imagine receiving a payment immediately after sending your invoice! Should that really be a designer’s fantasy?
So, Where Do You Find These Clients?
Some might argue that these so-called “dream clients” don’t exist – that they’re a myth, a fantasy, or at least an endangered species. While it may be true that most clients don’t understand our business and all of the work that we put into every project, there truly are clients out there that appreciate what we do and understand the effort that goes into every project. These clients do exist, and finding them all depends on you and your business.
Sometimes, it isn’t necessarily our clients’ faults that they act the way they do. For example, perhaps you could make it easier for your clients to pay. Instead of accepting only checks as payments, you could set up a section on your website to make payments. You could also accept mobile payments via services like Paypal Mobile or Square, where clients can swipe their card to pay via debit or credit card.
Another reason you might have difficulties with clients is lack of confidence. If clients are trying to get you to constantly lower the price of your work, maybe it is due to the fact that you don’t have a set pricing structure that is fair, defensible, and justified.
For clients that can’t seem to provide meaningful, descriptive feedback, perhaps you’re not asking the right questions. Determine the specific problems to be solved, so that your discussion is contextualized around very specific design matters. I am not saying that you aren’t already doing these things, but if most of your clients seem difficult to work with, you might want to look at yourself and your process before placing the blame on them as a group. They may be counting on your for this kind of guidance and a carefully-honed business process.
Being fast, flexible, and providing a high level of service will likely draw higher end clients your way. Clients who want the very best will end up finding you through word of mouth, and your reputation will precede you. Clients will trust you and think highly of you from the first meeting because you have a sterling record and proved your worth through the work that you have done for their colleagues. Delivering the best services available, combined with running your business the right way can eliminate a lot of your client relations problems.
What does your dream client look like? Do you have a detailed idea of your ideal client, or would you rather simply make each new client better than the last?