Whether you’re fresh from art school or a master designer, working with a new client offers some exciting challenges. Here are six ways you can make your design experience an absolute delight!
Colored Pencils by clearimages

The Basics

For anyone new to designing for clients, the place to start is on paper. Draft a contract, or general agreement, for the project that your client is requesting. Be sure to include what the project will be, the estimated time table for completing the project, and your payment (and payment method). If you’re still a beginner, include a mid-point check-in for your client to see how it’s coming. If you and your client can agree on everything, get each other’s signatures and copy that contract.

Your contract will be your lifesaver in some situations. If there’s ever confusion over money or what the finished product will be, both parties can refer to their materials. And remember, a contract works both ways–don’t agree to any project that you can’t deliver on!

Laptop with Notebook by ouh_desire

Like This, Like That

If someone asked you why you like your favorite band, could you tell them? It’s easy to just generally like something. It’s another thing to pinpoint the exact details that make you say, “This is my favorite.”

So if a client comes to you with a design from somewhere else and says, “I like this,” be sure to ask some questions. Do they like the layout, the font, the characters, the general feeling? Find out what attracted the client to this design. If the client knows exactly what they like, your job will be even easier.

Brushes and Paints on Shelf by S-BELOV

Bigger, Brighter, Bolder

Certain requests are sure to pop up. “Can the logo be bigger?” “Can the color be brighter?” “Can you change the font?” You can, of course, do all of these things. It’s just a matter of whether you’ll be happy with your work after.

In most situations, it’s better to make your client happy than insist that your current design is flawless. They are, after all, paying you for a design they requested. Save your fights for designs you’re particularly proud of, or concerns that you know are in the client’s best interest. Making the logo bigger may take some extra time, but you’ll have one happy client in the end.

Clipboard by optimarc

Use Your Imagination

Creatives can usually see the big picture. If you tell us the design will have a flying eagle above the logo, we’ll see a flying eagle above the logo. For non-creatives, that may be a bit harder.

When you’re showing off an incomplete design, walk your client through it. Acknowledge that you know elements are missing, but you’re planning on adding those later. Be open with your client. They need to know you’re confident of the finished product, especially if the design doesn’t look done yet.

Oil Paints and Brushes by kvasilev

It’s OK to Be Scared

Whether you’re showing off your initial plans or your final draft, your client may be nervous. Don’t worry. That can be good. Or very, very bad.

The good: your client has their own vision of the design in their head. Seeing your design, with your own style elements thrown in, might be a shock from the cozy, familiar idea they’ve been holding on to. Take this moment to talk about your plan for the design and how it’s reflecting your original discussion. Suggest they take some time to check out the design, and offer to make some tweaks. After the initial surprise, they’ll probably like it. Hey, even love it.

The bad: they might actually hate it, and it might be your fault. Get your client’s feedback–what are they not liking, what isn’t working, and so on. Then refer back to your contract. Did you hold up your end of the agreement? If not, talk about how you can fix it and what the client wants to keep from the current design. Salvage what you can, and try again!

Open Book by robert_s

And One More Thing…

Ever have the project that simply wouldn’t end? Whether it’s due to constant requests that continued to filter in, or an unending stream of edits after completion, you can take control.

If too many requests keep pouring in mid-project, it’s time for a meeting with your client. Make sure your client is comfortable with the current project and design–if they’re making changes halfway through, it’s a sign you need to give more communication. Discuss what these changes will mean to your current deadline and payment, and review your contract together. If your clients wants these changes included, there may have to compromise on your former deal.

If the edits are coming after the work is finished, give yourself a cut-off point. If you’re doing a third revision to your design, let your client know that this is going beyond your agreed contract. Offer to make one more set of changes and then be finished, or suggest you both discuss changing payment to accommodate the extra work. While you don’t want to leave a client unhappy, you also need to look out for your own best interests.