You better believe it! New clients are scary!
- What if they are flaky about communicating?
- What if they are too demanding?
- What if they don’t pay me?
- What if they hate my designs?
- What if they drag their feet and miss their deadlines?
- What if they are NEVER satisfied?
In short, what if they are the client from he!!?
But, if I gave in to the fear, I’d never get new clients, and I’d have no business to run. And really, none of these fears need to be a deal breaker. There are ways to overcome them.
Communication, what’s that?
Right from the start, I try to be a good example of clear communication. I reply to clients in a reasonable amount of time depending on the message, usually the same day. If it’s critical, I respond right away. Of course, I’m not always at my computer, I have meetings, travel, and a life (obviously). If a critical response requires files, and I’m away from my computer, I reply quickly and let clients know when they can expect to hear back from me.
On the flip side, sometimes I need a quick response from the client. Email is a passive tool, allowing people to respond at their convenience, which is great for time management. But if I can’t wait, I call. People generally answer their phones, and if not, at least I can convey urgency with my tone of voice in a message.
Oh So Demanding
Clients are just regular people, some are passive, some aggressive, and lots in between. A demanding client knows what they want and ask for it. For large involved projects, I write a creative project brief after the first meeting. The brief documents all details, and expectations from both sides – it needs to be read, accepted and signed by both sides. If client demands begin changing the project, then we discuss modifying the brief, and the price. A brief is a tool to remind clients of what they agreed to, and my backup for asking what they want to change and approve before moving forward.
Disappear and Don’t Pay
I’ve got first hand experience with this! And I never saw it coming. A good client, a repeat client, with a history of paying in advance and/or on time, disappeared on the last project they hired me for. I spent hours getting it right. I even got photos of the final installation from a happy client. That was months ago, and I never got paid. I sent invoices, statements, emails, voice mails, and registered mail. No response. I even hired a collection agency – NOTHING.
Since then I hired an attorney to write terms of agreement that I send to every new client. They are required to sign and return the terms with a 50% deposit before I will begin work. It’s not a guarantee of payment, but I have to believe people are honest and pay their bills, otherwise I wouldn’t be in business.
They Dislike My Designs?!
Been there, done that. It happens. Hopefully my portfolio shows my design style, and clients like what they see before hiring me. But sometimes clients have a hard time explaining what they want, or don’t know what they want. I find it helps when I ask clients to send me examples of pieces they like. Graphic design is all visual, so words aren’t always enough. Examples go a long way towards bridging a communication gap.
There are different kinds of deadlines, from self-imposed to set-in-stone. I get deadline info up front, before beginning work, and include it in the brief. If a delayed client response could affect a deadline, I say so immediately. Usually clients are aware they are causing delays, and accept extended deadlines. They are not trying to sabotage their own project, they are just reacting to all the other things demanding their attention. I keep communication clear and open, so no one is surprised if a project is late.
Are They Never Satisfied?
Often this situation is directly related to communication breakdown (not being able to read minds). If a client is not happy, I try to find out why, and I often discover the client just can’t accurately describe what they are visualizing. I return to getting samples of designs they like, and we go back to the drawing board until we get it right.
Client From He!!
Clients don’t set out to make things difficult (and if they do, that’s just sad). If any of the scary issues I’ve mentioned prove to be too much, as a last resort I can always fire the client. See, I’m in business to help people. I love to help people and their businesses look GREAT. If a client proves to be so difficult to work with that it’s no longer enjoyable, then it’s time to part ways and say goodbye, good luck. No hard feelings, no bad reviews or comments, it just wasn’t a good fit.
Every situation, project, and client is different. Being flexible, open, supportive, and creative enhances my clients’ experiences and results. Addressing my own fears up front allows me to better serve my clients and meet their design needs. There will always be challenges, and there will be many, many successes, also.
I hope this post has given you a little bit of insight on how I work through new client fears. Maybe you can relate to one or more in your own business. If you know someone who would enjoy this post, please share.
Do you have a graphic design project you’d like to discuss? Get in touch! First consultation is always FREE. (And the new client fear only lasts until we get to know each other.) I’d love to learn about your project and business.
‘till next time,