Educated clients equal more clients

Often I get emails saying something on the lines of “Why do you just give your information and insights away?” or “How does a design blog attract clients?”

Easy answer: Educated clients equal happy clients, and when clients are happy your business is even happier. There are two reasons that I started The Design Cubicle: first to help and inspire other designers and, second, to spread design education and awareness to those looking to hire design professionals.

The question now is: How can we educate clients to help them better understand what we do as graphic designers. Someone is not going to fork over thousands of dollars to something they don’t see just because — you have to educate them from start to finish. Here’s how:

Start a blog

Sure everyone tells you to start a blog, but no one knows why. Stop posting “5,000 websites with the color yellow” and starting sharing personal insights and information into how YOU work. Sure, it’s fine to post some inspiration resources here and there, but mix it up a bit. A blog is supposed to be personal, so bring back the personality.

Clients that haven’t worked with you want to know how you work, so a blog is a great start to providing some insight into your processes.

Set the tone

Clients that come in contact with my website usually start by filling out one of my online project worksheet questionnaires. After reading through their responses I follow up with a phone call that usually last about an hour.

Use this time to not only learn about them and their project, but share information about yourself as well. Tell them how you work and, more importantly, why you do the things you do. Don’t be afraid to say “listen, I know you want your logo to convey that you are a Fortune 500 company that sells electronics to children between the ages of 1–10 years of age, but that doesn’t mean showing all of that in an icon is necessary” or “that we don’t need to have an icon/mark to suite your brand identity.”

Be clear in the proposal/contract

First off, if you are not using any sort of signed agreement then you should. If you already are, make sure you detail exactly what they are receiving (deliverables), when they are receiving it, and what they are getting from your services and time put forth. Be specific and through.

Also if it’s a large project breaking down costs also helps them to see what they money is being invested into.

Get them to be apart of the work

When showing initial compositions to clients, talk to them on the phone while discussing them, don’t just email them and ask “So what do you think?” Get them to see your reasoning for doing the work you did. Explain to them why you did what you did and how this will benefit their clients. Be the teacher and the designer.

Use words they understand

Save the design talk for your designer friends. Clients want to know exactly the things you are doing and how it will benefit them. Don’t say things like, “we are building your site on a CMS“. Rather, “We are building your website to be easily updatable so you are able to make changes and updates yourself — referred to as a Content Management System.”

Show visuals when appropriate

As designers we are used to seeing things or used to visualizing them in our heads, but not everyone (including designers) is. Show examples or other visuals when you can.

For example if you are discussing a hover effect with a client, show them a website the already has something similar so they can see what you are doing.

Teach the benefits

Clients don’t (typically) want to hear about the mesmerizing curves of ampersands, they want to know how what you are doing will benefit them. Tell them the benefits and importance of making a logo flexible or why focusing on usability is important for their website and its visitors. As designers we often showcase our work for the sake of “looking pretty”, while client’s showcase our work as a means to grab results.

Finish the job right

Don’t just package up your deliverables and email them on over to your clients. Create a document or well-organized folders that tell your clients when they should be using each file type.

Remember, being an independent graphic designer means you have to do all the work. Educating your clients is one of the many tasks of running your own business. When you help to educate clients not only are you helping the design community out, but building trust for a long lasting relationship. When it’s time for a client to choose a designer who do you think they will go to first?

Discussion and Comments

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  1. Kim Røen says:

    Wow, loved this post. Great advice, and a MUST READ for every freelancer.

  2. Leon says:

    Great post. Really love how you stress the need of being personal in your blog. I’m gonna try to put it to use.

  3. Interesting post Brian. Starting a design blog is a great way for a designer to be more transparent and more personal with his clients. It’s also a great marketing tool when clients see that you are a voice in the design community. (which you are, obviously)

    I do agree with educating your clients. Personally, I have had clients who have come back to me time and time again because when I educated them, they took notice of that. They have not only given me more of their work, but they have also referred other clients to me as well.

  4. Hi Brian,

    thanks for sharing that inside look. It’s great to see how times have changed from not giving any inside look to “not educate your competitors” to “everybody needs a blog and to be open”. I think it’s a really good trend that -besides educating customers – may help you to find partners for your freelancing team.



  5. Preston Lee says:

    Great Post, Brian. I have learned that a lot of clients aren’t annoying because they want to be, it’s simply because they don’t get it. It’s not their fault.

    I would say that a huge part of our job (unless we have other people at our workplace that deal with the clients) as designers is to help our clients understand the basics of the business.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jared says:

    Good stuff Brian, completely agree.

  7. Craig Hooper says:

    Agreed w/ all of the above (or below). Excellent summary—’specially the reasoning behind running a design-focused blog…

  8. Richie says:

    very well said Brian, a must read for every freelancer.

  9. its very important to keep your clients informed and educated. makes the process so much easier and also can help keep clients happy.

  10. [...] @Behoff: How to Get your clients to think and see like a designer [...]

  11. Thanks for the insights. It’s always good to take a step back and evaluate your process and interaction with clients. Great post!

  12. The biggest benefit – I’m sure – you get from writing a blog like this is the ability to look like you really know what you’re doing.

    Some great advice, especially for any designers who don’t necessarily have a strong portfolio but want to show potential customers that they know what they’re doing. A blog shows that you’re willing to help others, willing to better the industry as a whole, and that you are knowledgeable in the area.

    Nice insights Brian, keep them coming!

  13. Great post! I was planning to guild a blog, and now I’m even more decided to do so. thanks

  14. [...] Educated clients equal more clients [...]

  15. [...] Educated clients equal more clients [...]

  16. Eko Setiawan says:

    This article opened my mind, and I learned so much. Especially in the “blog is a great start to providing some insight into your processes” and “use words they understand”. Thanks

  17. [...] Hoff of The Design Cubicle has a nice little article on “Educated clients means more clients“. Very simply put, if you educate the client about your work and how much you would normally [...]

  18. [...] recently read an article on Brian Hoff’s The Design Cubicle that talks about the importance of educating your clients. [...]

  19. [...] about your process and what you’re doing. Why this code is better than that one. There is a great article about this over at the Design Cubical by Brian Hoff; you should check it out. posted under Web [...]

  20. PSDDude says:

    Interesting Article ! And interesting point of view – Educated clients equal more clients – it makes sense !

Brian Hoff
About Brian Hoff: Designer, Writer and Speaker

I’m a graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York who loves creating compelling and useful websites and memorable interactions across the web. When I’m not designing I can be found writing, speaking and occasionally part-time teaching at colleges — all on the subject of design. I started this blog to share my passion and experiences with designers and clients. I'm most active on Twitter; say hello: