So often, we like to discuss the worst in people. And it certainly makes sense that, as a freelance designer, you’re sure to deal with any number of clients from hell. In its own way, these stories tend to bring us together as a community. We can swap tales of disaster and have a laugh about them after all is said and done.
But, in my 20+ years in the industry, I’ve dealt with far more good clients than bad. And, just like those devilish ones have their own traits, so do the best. So today, instead of providing you with a list of things to avoid, let’s have a look at some things that make for a great web design client.
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1. They’re Willing to Listen
When someone hires you on to build and/or maintain their website, it’s nice to know that they have a firm trust in your expertise. A designer is more than just someone who takes direction. Part of your role should be advisory in order to make the most out of a project. After all, you know what works and what doesn’t. You have experience with different tools and techniques that could be of great benefit to a client.
The best clients tend to seek out your professional opinion and, at the very least, seriously consider what you have to say. It doesn’t mean that they’ll always do things your way, but your voice should be included in the discussion.
2. They Have Tangible Goals
Some of the most difficult projects are ones that don’t have a clear goal. That often seems to be the result of a client who isn’t really sure what they want – they just know that they need a website. For designers, the result is that you’re forced to put together whatever pieces of the puzzle are provided while being left to fill in the gaps.
On the other hand, a client who has specific, tangible goals for what they want their website to accomplish brings clarity to the process. When you know what someone’s needs and expectations are, you can create a plan of action to make it happen. Here’s to no more guessing games!
It’s also worth noting that, even if a client isn’t quite sure of what they want, you do have the opportunity to help guide them in the right direction. Therefore, don’t be too discouraged by a slow start. There’s still time to develop those goals.
3. They’re Willing to Spend for Quality (Within Reason)
Even the biggest projects have at least some budgetary restrictions – it’s something we all have to deal with. But there are circumstances where a project’s expectations have simply outgrown the amount of money that’s been allotted to it. While the available free solutions are often hyped, they aren’t necessarily going to be the best tool for the task at hand. Without an investment in quality, the end product is going to suffer.
You’ll gain an appreciation for those clients who understand that there are certain times when money has to be spent in order to do things the right way. This is especially true when it comes to eCommerce, as a little extra spent early on can save a lot of extra costs (and headaches) down the road.
This also goes hand-in-hand with clients who are good listeners, as noted above. Part of our advisory role is to provide the best information possible when it comes to recommending tools and services that help to ensure everything works the way it should. The hope is that your client will take your advice to heart and make the best decision for their business.
4. They Value You and Your Time
When someone looks at you as just hired help, you don’t feel much like a valued member of a team. It shows up in the form of your ideas being dismissed and your concerns tossed aside. You may even find yourself completely out of the loop when big decisions regarding the project are made. Why’d they even bother to bring you in if they don’t need you?
On the other hand, it’s a wonderful feeling when a client treats you as part of the family. They understand that you’re busy and don’t take up your time unnecessarily. And when something happens in your life (good or bad), they offer words of encouragement.
In my own experience, I’ve witnessed both the birth of my daughter and the passing of my mother. In both instances, it was truly wonderful that several clients took time out for either congratulations or condolences. It makes for a stronger relationship – one where everyone feels like they matter.
And, of course, it helps when clients routinely make a good faith effort to pay your invoices. Doing so is another sign that they both value and respect you.
5. They Tell Their Friends About You
One of the biggest compliments you can receive as a freelance designer is a client referral. It says that someone enjoyed working with you and are happy with the results you helped to provide. More than that, you get the sense that your client genuinely wants to see you succeed in the future.
This one certainly has to be earned, though. Hard work, honesty and a job well-done are what can get you there. But it takes a special person to both recognize what you did and take some extra time to put in a good word or two with someone else. Even if that referral ultimately doesn’t work out, it’s still the thought that counts.
A Great Client is a Gift
We all have our own idea of a “dream” client. Maybe it’s one that pays well and asks for little in return. Or it could be someone who provides you with a lot of creative freedom. Maybe they drive a Ferrari and let you take test drives.
Fantasies aside, it’s important to recognize those who value what we do. Because, the greatest clients are the ones who enable us to work for ourselves as freelancers. Without their trust in us, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.
So, let’s raise a glass to our best clients and say thanks for being part of our journey!