Work-free is how I try to keep my weekends.
And by that I mean taking a break from Geeky Dreamer. It consumes me between 13 to 15 hours a day, Monday through Friday.
Getting to spend 2 days on other passion projects or marathoning The Office or Frankie and Grace on Netflix is usually the way to go for me. But sometimes I can’t help dabbling in client work because the projects are amazing—and so are the clients!
So I got to thinking: What makes me give up weekend leisure time to work on projects? After awhile I figured it out: my clients have won me over. They’re amazing. Their stories are incredible. And I can’t help being pulled in time and again to use my gifts to help them succeed. When I got down to it, I came to 3 defining qualities of these types of clients.
1) They Come Prepared
Who’s your target audience? Why are you moving forward with this project now? Why are you doing what you do? These are questions they’re able to answer immediately. They know their business, their industry, and we can hold a conversation over those things for a few days.
They also know what they’re coming to me for. This sets the tone for the entire project. They know what they want the design solution to accomplish and set goals. And their answers to my questions get me even more excited to continue investing time into the project. And I ask a lot of questions:
2) They’re Open to Suggestions
A good designer will take your request and do exactly as you say. No questions asked. A great designer will inform you of a better way of doing something or just flat out tell you something won’t work.
I’m right in the middle of email exchanges with a client.
One of the bigger goals was to be able to sell his goods online, but in the earlier discussions a few platforms such as Etsy were mentioned.
Now there’s nothing wrong with Etsy, but I suggested the idea of keeping the e-commerce on his own site where he could control and define how his platform worked. Again, shops like Etsy are great, but you’re only given so much space within the confines of their platform to allow your brand to grow. When you own your platform you’re free to do as you wish. No rules. No restrictions. We also talked about the potential disconnect in brand immersion and experience when sending customers to a third-party store, so I suggested keeping it all on the same site from entry to completed sale. That would also reduce the amount of clicks, sign-ups, log ins, and redirects.
And as it turns out, we’ll be developing a platform he can own and control.
This is not to say that all suggestions your designer gives you should be taken. I’ve had a few who turned them down, but they were respectful about it and appreciated the feedback. And that’s also a tip for designers. We can’t force our suggestions. If they’re declined, continue on with the project respectfully. Mutual respect is a two-way street here and continues to build a great relationship.
3) They Let Me Design
This is key.
Please let your designer design.
You let your mechanic repair your car. And you don’t stand over the shoulder of a surgeon while he’s operating telling him you think that incision should be a little bigger, right? That same respect should be afforded to your designer.
But let’s be clear: trust is a huge factor that plays into these kinds of relationships.
My clients trust me in handling their projects, so there’s no micromanaging, crazy expectations, or asking for multiple concepts to chose from. They know that I’ve got their back and I’m here to help them win.
No matter the budget, freelancer or design studio you chose, projects tend to start going south the moment this isn’t the case. “Why is this red? Can you make it blue? And can you use this font instead? Also, can you add this image of a trumpet to it. We think that communicates fanfare a lot more than what you’ve given us,” is when a designer becomes a technician or pixel-pusher on demand and is no longer designing. You’ve trumped their expertise and skill and traded it to meet your own personal taste and aesthetic. In the end it might be appealing to you, but runs the risk of missing the project goals and target audience completely.
The clients I’ve taken on recognize and embrace the value that I bring to their business and dreams. They didn’t walk in with this knowledge, but they discovered it and the relationship only got better over the course of the project. I’ve got their back.
When it comes down to it a trusting relationship with mutual respect is the key to not just a good project, but an experience. And these are the qualities I now look for in a client. I’ve had some where they’ll represent two but lack on the third, or represent just one and the other two don’t exist. Those weren’t my best projects and there’s a reason why they aren’t featured on my portfolio site.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins
- Really prepare your creative brief, questionnaire response, or inquiry. Give the designer or design team something to marinate on. “We’re looking for a new logo. We’re currently undergoing a rebrand process and wanted to attract a teenage girl demographic between the ages of 13-16. We’re for the Tomboy who’s got a little more fashion sense and flair. We will attach our old logo and some marketing pieces below for review,” is something we can have a conversation around. “We’re looking for a new logo for our clothing line,” is going to start the project with pulling teeth.
- Don’t skimp on the details.
- Define your project goals and your problem thoroughly.
- Your designer should be a person (or persons) who’ve got your back and are on your team. If they suggest something don’t give it an automatic no. Let it marinate. Sleep on it. And if its a suggestion you don’t take to, respectfully decline it.
- If you trust your designer before the project starts, let your designer design. Micromanaging the project will make it go south.