There are many key elements to starting your own design shop or striking out on your own as a freelancer. Projects can be abundant one moment and then lean the next, so protecting your craft as not only a designer but as a businessperson is essential.
Many small outfits don’t have the resources to advertise, so word of mouth and referrals are going to be a huge part of a small business or freelancer’s success. Follow these five simple rules when working with clients and ensure that they leave feeling satisfied with the finished product, so satisfied that they will tell all of their friends about you.
1. Learn some business etiquette: This step might seem like it should be intuitive, however many designers and small business owners in general drop the ball when it comes to prompt and professional service. Often times creative’s are leaving a company that had an infrastructure in place to make sure these things like basic communication doesn’t fall through the cracks, however as a freelancers or business owner you will be solely responsible for returning emails and phone calls in a timely manner. Make sure it happens, download apps or scribble notes all over your most colorful Post-its, but don’t wait until Friday to return a voicemail or email from Monday.
2. Be a good listener: You don’t need to be your clients therapist, but you better be prepared to listen to them. Customer service is important and a client wants to feel like they are being heard. This will not only assure that your client feels like they are being cared for, but also assist you in making a killer product for them, which brings us to our next step.
3. Don’t design something your client didn’t ask for: We know you were the hottest designer in your small town art school, but don’t deliver a product that your client doesn’t want. As creative’s we can sometimes let our ego lead the charge when setting out on design projects, this can be extremely detrimental when presenting to a client, not only will they feel like you ignored their objectives, but it will cost you money and time when going back for large revisions.
4. Manage client expectations: It can sometimes be really terrifying to say no to clients, especially when money is one the line. However it’s better to tell a client something isn’t possible than it is to over promise and under deliver. Honesty is key when it comes to happy clients, if the scope of a project makes you nervous speak candidly with the client about it, even if you have to turn the project away, the client will respect your professionalism and be willing to refer you to their network of peers.
5. Don’t take clients for granted: Don’t hate your clients; no one likes a bitter designer. When you can take a moment and reflect on the fact that you get paid to do something you love it will reflect not only on the quality of your work, but also in how your clients perceive you. As cheesy as it sounds gratitude and good attitude go a long way. People don’t want to work with people they dislike, even if they’re talented. There have been many talented designers and creative’s who have fizzled out because they didn’t have the ability to love their work and appreciate their clients.