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.