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?