Clients. Who needs ’em?

clientsWell, here’s the thing, you do. Unlike a design agency, you can’t choose your clients and you can’t fire them either. Let’s face it. You’re stuck with them. They came with the place and aren’t going anywhere. And because your stakeholders are only an elevator ride or maybe a cubicle away, there are a variety of challenges that will impact you and your team, especially the demand for faster turnaround.

Over your tenure you will be both blessed with good clients and cursed with clients from hell. You know who they are. The helicopter clients that hover over your shoulder and like to play art director. The clients who proof their work AFTER it’s printed, who never have time to complete a requisition or meet with you to discuss their project, yet demand an unrealistic turnaround despite the fact that they haven’t provided you with any design brief, documentation or direction. The clients who like to design by committee, and always, always want the logo bigger. I could go on and on.

The most effective way to handle those “challenging” clients is to maintain your professionalism at all times. People come to you for your experience, skills, talent and knowledge. So be confident and self-assured, and be prepared to justify your design choices with conviction.

Use corporate and product branding guidelines when possible to justify your design decisions. This strategy moves the conversation from a subjective one to an objective level focusing on design standards and compliance. Remember, design is a problem solving discipline, and it’s important to show how your visual solutions will succeed in meeting your client’s business objectives. By taking a proactive stance and showing your clients that you’re “the expert,” they will begin to value your judgment and respect your choices.

Here’s another tip. When presenting ideas show 3 options. Focus on selling your BEST ideas. If you give too many choices, you’ll become an enabler literally begging your client to borrow from one and add to the other creating a Frankenstein design.

When Steve Jobs asked Paul Rand to design the NeXT logo, he asked for a few options. Paul Rand’s response was, “I don’t do options. I will show you one design, and you will pay me $100,000 whether you like it or not.” Hmmmm. I don’t recommend taking this approach with your in-house clients. It may land you a good spot on the unemployment line. So, give ’em a few more options to review and let the seduction begin.

Schmooze, persuade, captivate, cajole, and enchant them with your charm and expertise. This is the dance we must do with our clients everyday, not as “order takers”, but as strategic partners.


Additional Resource
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