As a designer, I am also sometimes a client. I utilize outside resources at times for extra programming or things I don’t always have the time to do myself (never graphics of course, everything is hand-designed by me!). But for coding issues, I at times become a client myself. So I was so happy when I recently received the above feedback from a contractor: “Best client!”. I’m probably a good client because I have clients myself, so I know how I want clients to behave and I try to do the same, and I thought I would write up a little post on my own personal tips on being a good design client. This applies for graphic design, interior design, really anywhere!
- Have everything in order up front. If you don’t know what your hosting login is, or you don’t have the correct WordPress password, it makes the designer’s job harder. So double check all of your credentials at the start.
- Have some basic idea of what you want. We have an inspiration form with prompts, so give a little bit of thought to what you like, color and style-wise. I am totally grossed out by the term “let your creative juices flow” (it makes me nauseous lol!) so don’t say that! A designer is a designer but we have to have some basis of your taste and style in order to make you happy.
- But on that note, give your designer some leeway. Especially with things like fonts, for example, you might really want a script font for your blog header, but honestly, script is really sensitive to word length, etc. So of course while I always try to design around a client’s wishes, I also want to do what will look best because, after all, you’re hiring a trained designer! It would be like taking your car to the mechanic and then standing over them and telling them which hose to fix, so don’t micro-manage.
- Be timely in your responses. Most designers, including myself, run a volume business and they usually set aside a block of time to work specifically on your project, so plan to be available via email during that time. Sure things come up, but don’t disappear for days at a time with no explanation. Time is money for a designer!
- Be clear in your communication. I limit communication with clients to email because (a) I hate talking on the phone, even to my husband, and it’s my business I can do what I want lol! But also, (b) email makes it really easy to have a paper trail of notes and references that is quick and simple to refer back to when double-checking a client’s wants. So be clear and concise in your emails, links and photos are always appreciated, but take a moment to read over your email and think “Is this clear?” This is actually a great rule for all business communication of course but for example, instead of saying “I like pink”, google “pink colors” and maybe screenshot a few shades that you like. This will help the project to go faster.
- Manage your expectations. This is my number one rule for life in general that I just can’t emphasize enough! What is resentment and disappointment but unmet expectations? You expect your company is going to pay you, on Friday your paycheck isn’t deposited, you’re angry! Of course! Because you expect it. So the biggest thing I do as a designer is try to be super clear on my site about what we offer, with descriptions and examples. I do as much as I can to let the client know, at the front end, what they can expect. I recently had a client tell me that I “underpromise and overdeliver.” That’s fantastic! I was so flattered because that is exactly what I aim to do. But clearly this client had taken the time to read though my site and understand the limitations of what I offer, so she was pleasantly surprised that it was more than she even expected.
Blogs and websites can run well into the thousands and even tens of thousands. The “big girl” bloggers often have sites that are probably well over $10k. This is not what we offer. So take a moment and think rationally. If Jane X’s blog costs $10k, what can I possibly expect for $500? One of my favorite analogies is this: “You can’t get Prada at Target.” So you wouldn’t go to Target expecting to buy Prada, right? Of course not. The same applies to design, your local interior designer is awesome, but she’s not Kelly Wearstler. Get it? It’s fine to send inspiration but when a designer tells you no, graciously accept that your request is outside their parameters.
- Be nice. It’s sad to have to even point this out, but some people aren’t nice! They’re demanding, imperious, and probably the kind of people who also yell at waiters lol! A designer (or, quite frankly, the cashier at Whole Foods or the Starbucks barista) is not your personal b*tch lol! One of the nicest things that ever happened to me was when the cashier at Winn Dixie said I was her favorite customer, this meant as much to me as the above review did, it was awesome! I try to treat everyone kindly and with respect, but for some reason sometimes when people buy something, they think it gives them the right to issue orders and be a general jerk. I reserve the right to release any client at any time, which I rarely do but if I do this is often the reason. Ain’t nobody got time for that! It really should go without saying, but your servicepeople are just that, people too. So mind ya manners!
I’ve had a rash of wonderful clients lately and I’m so grateful! But my own personal client review made me reflect on ways I can be a better client myself. So many clients that I love who are understanding and respectful of my time, who don’t make assumptions, who realize they are ordering a professional service and they don’t need to micromanage it. So whomever you’re hiring: an interior designer, a personal shopper, a real estate agent, these are just great tips to keep in mind in this crazy world! Much love to all of you, I so appreciate everyone’s business and if you have any tips or pet peeves of your own, I would so love to hear them, leave a comment below!