Designers, have you ever felt the stress of a non-responsive client or missing website content? Maybe you receive far too many requests from clients asking you for work that falls outside your original project scope. Sweet friends, I get it. And I know how this creates difficult design client projects for everyone involved! But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The number one problem I saw pop up within my signature course, the Brand Strategy School, was this struggle my students were having with their current clients. Whether it was issues with communication or projects not being completed up to their client’s expectations. Whatever it was, the project wasn’t shaping up to the way either side had anticipated. It seemed like each project started out great. But then fizzled towards the end causing my sweet design students to feel deflated and frustrated towards the work they love.
But there is good news. Over the past six years I’ve worked in this industry, I’ve really been able to hone in on the #1 reason why our design projects are not turning out the way we originally anticipate. In my experience, I’ve seen why we have these kinds of struggles. And how we as intentional brand designers, can better serve our clients.
The #1 Reason For Difficult Design Client Projects
The cause for difficult design client projects is the failure to set and communicate expectations from the very beginning.
When we break down this concept, it may sound a bit abstract. You may even be staring at your computer right now wondering, “how does setting expectations truly matter in the way my client projects progress?”
Friends, let me break it down. In my experience I’ve found that nine out of 10 times, when clients are not communicating well or they are asking for unrealistic requests and missing deadlines. It’s because there was a failure to communicate and set expectations when you first started working together.
Sometimes it’s our fault as designers and sometimes it’s an issue of our clients not communicating their expectations clearly to us. But here is the thing, as brand designers, your clients are hiring you for your expertise and guidance. It is our responsibility to set our projects up for success by setting clear expectations and educating our clients on what they can expect when they choose to work with us.
Once we set those expectations, we create open lines of communication that give our clients the ability to come back and tell us their own expectations or realign their expectations as a result.
For me, this process is so important. When I start with a new client, I am not just sending a retainer invoice, signing a client agreement and ignoring them until we start working together. Instead, after we have the final details all set in stone, I start educating my clients on what they can expect for the next steps of working together.
Setting Clear Expectations With Your Clients
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, you don’t know what you don’t know. And I feel the same is true with all of my potential clients. They are looking to hire me for my expertise and guidance. Before we even get to the point of signing a contract, I need to educate my potential clients. Through our initial consult calls we discuss what it’s like to work together, how my process is different, and what kind of results they can expect throughout the process.
I also educate them on the kinds of engagement, participation, and collaboration I expect from them in order to complete the project. And when I’m able to clearly communicate with my potential clients, we are able to navigate the branding process with so much ease, clarity and purpose.
When I communicate with my potential clients from the get-go, this sets a collaborative effort. Yes, it’s my job to guide each client through the design and branding process. But I also need each of my clients to be equally invested in the process, communicating with me, and walking alongside me every step of the way.
Working Together Needs To Be A Collaborative Team Effort
Having this communication upfront eliminates the kinds of client relationships where my clients expect me to do all the work and design nonstop with little effort to be involved in the process at all. It’s actually the exact opposite.
Before signing the contract, I make it very clear that in order to meet both of our expectations and goals, working together needs to be a collaborative team effort. When I’m able to communicate my expectations of what I need for their participation as well, it completely transforms the quality of our relationship and the kind of work we can do together. It enables me to serve my clients better throughout the process and nixes any chances of breakdown in our communication.
So there it is sweet friends. The #1 reason why as a brand designer you are struggling with your client projects. Having breakdown in communication or disappointment in unmet expectations from both sides, will almost always boil down to the fact that you unintentionally are not setting clear expectations for your clients from the beginning.
If these not-so-ideal situations of non-responsive clients, missing website content, and requests for deliverables that fall outside your project scope is something you want to dive into more as a brand designer. Then join me for a free live training just for brand designers and strategists this Thursday, June 28 at 11am CST. I am so excited to walk you through my 4 signature steps to set every client project up for success from the get-go!
Snag your seat and join me for my best tips for stress-free projects that make a difference for the way you are able to serve your clients and transform the results you are able to deliver.
Designer Strategy Chats
Designer Strategy Chats is a bi-monthly series of pitch-free trainings for brand designers and strategists hosted by Bonnie Bakhtiari of b is for bonnie design. Here, you can expect actionable education just for designers and strategists, live Q&A, and heartfelt encouragement to grow your design business.
Topics are based on your biggest questions as designers and strategists, so submit your ideas for a chance to be featured as part of an upcoming Designer Strategy Chat!