10 Realities of Designing Websites for Clients

As a designer, working for clients is much different than designing a site for yourself. There are obviously pros and cons, but here are ten things that I have found to be true.

1. No Two Clients are the Same

Some clients will know exactly what they want and they will expect you to create it precisely in that manner. Others will have no clue what they want and they’ll leave most decisions up to you. Some clients will be a pleasure to work with, others will make you want to pursue a different career. Each client will be unique and will present new challenges and present new opportunities.

2. Communication is Always Critical

Regardless of what type of client you are dealing with, communication is important. Effective communication will keep the project moving in the right direction and it will prevent unnecessary work to fix mistakes that could have been avoided. Knowing what the client wants and expects can be difficult in some situations. In these cases, effective communication involves asking the right questions to get to the point where everyone is on the same page.

3. They Don’t Always Know What’s Best

Some clients will be very knowledgeable about design and others simply won’t. From time-to-time you’ll get clients that want something a specific way, even if you advise them against it. Those clients that aren’t knowledgeable will usually trust your judgment, but sometimes this won’t apply.

4. Their Opinion is Ultimately the Most Important

At the end of the day, the client is paying for the service that you are providing. Satisfying the client is important, even if it means using a design element that you think is a mistake. The best you can do is state your opinion and back it up. If they still want things a specific way, you’re usually best to give them what they want.

5. Happy Clients Lead to Referrals

Clients who are truly pleased with the service that they have received will be willing to tell others about you when the situation arises. Referrals are often the best customers because they trust the judgment of their friend that told them about you. Referral business also helps to save you the time of seeking out new business and it can save advertising expenses.

6. You’re Not Your Own Boss

Whether you are working for a design firm or freelancing, you’re really not your own boss if you are designing for clients. Freelancing is appealing to a lot of designers because it involves the word “free” and it’s associated with independence and being your own boss. While you do have more freedom in decisions that involve how you run your business, the client still fills the role of your boss in many ways.

7. It’s a Learning Experience

Each project will present opportunities for learning and for improving your skills. If you can look at each situation as a learning experience that will make you a better designer, you’ll develop new abilities and advance your skills quickly.

8. You Must Respect Your Own Time

As a service provider, your time is very valuable. Don’t sell yourself short. Respecting your time will usually involve collecting a portion of the fee up front before you doing any of the real work. This may turn off some clients, but those clients that also respect your time will usually not have a problem committing to you by paying part up front. This can save you from wasting time on clients that don’t pan out.

9. Some Jobs Just Aren’t Worth It

Not every paying job is a good fit. Some may take more time and produce less money than your time is worth. Some may prevent you from being able to take on a better project. Knowing when to say “no” is important, and it’s something that most will learn quickly after a few mistakes.

10. Organization and Prioritizing are Keys

Regardless of whether you are working on one big project or several smaller ones, organization and time management are important. Because your time is both limited and valuable, organization will lead to getting more accomplished and bringing in more money. Sometimes you will need to prioritize one job over another. Opportunity cost is a real issue, especially for freelancers. If you take a job, what other opportunities will you be missing out on as a result?

What’s Your Opinion?

What other things have you learned from your experiences? Are there items discussed here that you disagree with? Please share your thoughts.

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18 Responses

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  • Bob Liddle, March 9, 2008

    This is article is worth reading it and it shows present scenario of the customer and dealer relationship to make a great deal.

  • Megan, February 2, 2008

    I love this article because all of it is so true. I think that when you are creating a site we always need to communicate with the customer and understand that we are creating for them. I have had situations where a clients says this is what I want, and I disagree with their tactics. After arguing my case some will agree to what I am saying when others will stick to their plan. I have had to take a deep breath and say I am creating for them not me. Its hard to do that, but in the end the customer is always right…or are they!

    Keep up the good work, many that are setting out to earn money online and need a website will read this and understand what they need in a website designers. So it will assit them in finding the right website creator, while giving webdesigners tips to learn to creating better websites.


  • Web Design Goldmine, February 1, 2008

    I really wish I had read through some lists like this a year or so ago as I think I would have dealt with certain clients a lot better. One major lesson I’ve learned is that providing hosting is a big no no unless your charging a serious amount of money per month. The lure of residual income is a false economy as the sheer amount of support calls you end up receiving takes away so much of your already valuable time.

    Keep up the great advice!

  • Vandelay Design, January 31, 2008

    Thanks for sharing your experience, that’s a great example. And thanks for sticking up for me and my grammatical mistakes.

    It has been changed.

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad it helped.

    Yeah, there’s definitely good and bad that comes along with working for clients, just like anything else in life.

    Website Mag,
    Good point. Different forms of communication will probably be appropriate for different clients.

  • Website Magazine, January 31, 2008

    All really good advice. I think the method of communication is as important – email for some, in person visits for others.

  • Weight Loss Wand, January 31, 2008

    i will surely agree with you. according to me you hav presented well balanced views fr building a better relationship with the client……

  • Matthew Griffin, January 31, 2008

    I think you have a very well-rounded list here, Steven. Your suggestions are a perfect balance of respect for the client and commitment to excellence. I agree with you 100%.

  • Tyler Jefford, January 31, 2008

    Hey, i was hoping you’d post something like this. ive been trying to get as much info on how to deal with clients. Thanks for the read.

  • David Bradley, January 31, 2008

    It’s very easy, while typing fast to write they’re rather than their and vice versa, it’s usually not a flaw in a person’s intrinsic grammatical prowess, usually it’s just an issue with fingers typing faster than the brain thinks.


  • Marieke, January 31, 2008

    THEY’RE opinion?? Please encourage the use of correct grammar in design and change that to THEIR :-)

    Otherwise, good advice!

  • David Bradley, January 31, 2008

    Item 9 rings so very true for me. I used to get calls from this one client at 6 or 7 in the morning telling me his email server was down. Ironically, I only built his website, I didn’t do the hosting and certainly didn’t handle his email. Invariably, it was down to the dialup ISP he was using to handle his Googlemail that was the issue.

    (In the end, I forced myself to send him a bill for out of hours work, he soon stopped calling)