We’ve all heard it before. The inevitable request from a client to revise a design to make it more… something. The client isn’t sure exactly what it is, but he knows that whatever he is seeing on the screen isn’t “there” yet.
Sometimes they even completely confuse you with a vague or meaningless request, like “make the black blacker,” Prayed “it just isn’t poppy enough.“
These kinds of dumb directives have become so legendary in freelancing culture that every time they’re mentioned out of context, any freelancer listening won’t be able to help roll their eyes or shake their heads.
There are even entire blogs and other creative efforts focused on the weird things our clients sometimes ask us for; I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one.
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Did I have enough?
As freelancers, we all want to please our clients and make sure we maintain a good relationship with them. We want remain in good standing to gain referrals and repeat business and bolster our reputation. But sometimes, some clients can really test the patience of even the holiest of designers.
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Fortunately, there is a simple solution often overlooked by many designers that can alleviate or even completely eliminate these minor professional roadblocks. Is named say no.
Let’s go over some of the different situations in which a designer can respectfully and courteously use this powerful tool while remaining adamant about maintaining their sanity.
don’t let your guard down
It sounds horrible, but the hard truth is that many people Will be as naughty as you let them be. They will take the opportunity to rip you off or treat you poorly, to justify paying you less or even not paying you at all, if they think they can.
Not everyone is like that, of course, but you can usually tell pretty quickly if someone is trying to scam you out of valuable services.
Putting your foot down by saying no at the first signs of disrespect or insanity will set a precedent for the entire duration of your interaction with your customer. Initial impressions are hard to change, so it’s important to make them count.
The wonders of “No”
The power of this word “no” is quite remarkable. I think every designer should add it to their vocabulary if it’s not already there. Practice just saying no to requests you find strange, incomprehensible, or just plain silly, and see what happens. You can try it out first on a client you know has ‘thick skin’.
Later, you can move on to establishing what you will and will not tolerate. from the first meeting with any new client. In my experience, many clients are really just trying to get a sense of your communication style when they make an impromptu, impromptu request. They may be testing it to see how much it will let them get away with.
don’t blur it
First things first: When I say that designers should start saying no, I don’t literally mean that you should respond to your clients’ requests with an outright no.
Say no to a paying customer requires a bit of finesse to keep the working relationship in a healthy place. I recommend writing down some answers that you can use for reference in a future situation.
Something like”I’m sorry, but I’m going to need a more specific answer before I can give you what you want.” usually works fine, and you don’t actually have to yell “noooo!” like a two-year-old (or Darth Vader).
Rehearse a reasoned and courteous response to an insane request It helps you stay calm and also keeps you on track to achieve your main goal, which is to solve your customer’s problem.
he is not a therapist
Clients can be a wacko bunch, but it’s really not your job to treat them like a personal therapist. You can go ahead and let them go as crazy as they want. as long as it is clear to you what you need and how you can provide it to them. And as long as they pay you in a reasonable amount of time, of course.
How much rope should you give?
It’s up to you to decide how far to go with your client’s accommodation, regardless of any unclear requests he or she thinks of. Sometimes it makes more sense simply refuse to proceed with the project until you receive a request you can work withsince you’d just be guessing what the customer wants anyway.
Also, because there has been so much lack of clarity, they may be even more upset if you don’t deliver what they want, whatever it is. Not only will you have wasted your time, but depending on your prior negotiation, you may even have a breach of contract on your hands.
make an effort to communicate
Alternatively, you could take a more “onion peeling” approach, try and rephrase different questions until you and the client come to a pattern of communication that gives each of you the information you need to move forward.
This method is certainly more time consuming, and it’s not uncommon for designers to add an additional amount to your review fee (interrogation tax?) if it starts to take too long to achieve clarity.
It’s not always the customer’s fault
That’s right, I said it. Sometimes a client gives you a vague answer… because you asked them a vague question. It really helps to learn the right ways to ask a question so you get the answer you’re looking for.
Specifically, what I’ve found most helpful in achieving clarity is asking the client to give me a clear example of what they need.
This may take a few tries; For example, if a client wants a “prettier” typeface for their website but can’t articulate exactly what they mean by “prettier,” you might ask them to browse through a selection of fonts until they find something that’s “prettier” nice” for its taste
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This is an example of what I call controlling fluctuation. I don’t know about you, but I like to have as few surprises or brick walls (as possible) when dealing with clients.
Learning to ask the right questions is crucial to getting past those unnecessary barriers and getting to the big stuff.
Designers speak a cryptic language of their own and sometimes it can be difficult bridge the gap between what you want to say to a customer and how the customer will interpret it.
As a professional providing the creative service, it is your job to make sure there is clarity in everything. Your customer is paying you to solve their problem, and you can’t do that unless you first establish exactly what the problem is.
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