One of the main pain points I see with my designer mentoring clients as well as with my students in the Brand Strategy School, is this need to better position themselves as an expert to their clients. They seem to keep running into this sticky situation where a client doesn’t fully view them as the clear expert during a project which often leads to confusion, frustration, and a lack of trust. And, friend, I get it! There’s nothing worse than feeling like your client doesn’t respect or trust you to guide them throughout your process.
But in my experience, there are a few thoughtful steps we can take as designers to better educate our clients and really train them to see us as the experts that we are. It will transform the quality of the relationships you build with your clients, and it will create a better sense of deep trust because your client will know you have their back and are there to serve them every single step of the way.
Believe In Yourself As The Expert
First and foremost, you need to believe you are an expert.
You might buy into this concept that to really be an expert, you need to be in business for 10+ years or have a degree in graphic design. But honestly, what I’ve learned in my journey of being an entrepreneur is that an expert is someone who has become a master at whatever they put their mind to.
It doesn’t mean they have certain certifications or go to a specific design school. It means through practical experience and actionable education, they have thrown themselves into an area of study where they can confidently guide others through that subject in a clear and concise way.
Don’t feel like in order to be an expert, you need to be a marketing guru or know all the answers. We have to give ourselves credit for what we do well and not be so hard on ourselves. There are parts of your process that I know you do well and where you are the expert.
Maybe you are an expert at color theory or a master at Adobe Illustrator. Maybe you are a top-notch brand strategist or the most strategic marketer out there. Whatever you are, there are steps in your process where you can claim expert level status.
It’s important for you to recognize and own that. Because if you doubt yourself and feel insecure throughout your projects, your clients will recognize that. And it will impact the way they view you and your knowledge.
Believe in what you do and show confidence while doing it.
Educate Your Clients To View You As The Expert
Let me ask you something. When have you ever been impressed or felt confidence in someone who was nervous about what they did? Or what if it felt like they constantly were seeking your approval for everything they did? I’m going to assume that’s not someone you would want to work with, right? And they probably wouldn’t make you think, wow, this person has it all together and totally knows what they are talking about!
If you are not educating your clients on how they should be viewing you, how are they supposed to know how they should view you?
It’s important first to believe you are the expert in order to position yourself in that way. But you also have to take some thoughtful steps to further position yourself in your clients’ eyes so they see you as the expert.
This ultimately translates to how you position yourself both online and in-person. On your website, do you come across as confident? Do you look like the person who has all the answers to your ideal clients questions? As the designer who will guide your clients through this branding journey? Or, are you focusing instead on fun, but fluffy details and not taking a clear stand on your area of expertise. When you hop on a consult call with a potential client, are you confidently guiding them through your process or are you letting them take the lead most of the time?
The way we communicate directly impacts and educates the way potential clients view you!
Intentionally Guide Your Clients Through Your Onboarding Process
It’s so important to set yourself up to be viewed as an expert before working together, but after you’ve signed your client you still have so many opportunities to position yourself as a branding expert. I believe this has everything to do with how you are onboarding your clients.
With the onboarding process, it’s so important to intentionally guide your clients through every step of the way. First, this communicates to your clients you know what you are doing. And second, it shows you’ve done this before. The simple fact you’ve done this before inspires so much confidence and trust.
Think of it this way. The clients you are working with have never worked with you before, right? Maybe they have never even gone through a professional branding process. Because of that there are probably unspoken questions or concerns that need to be comforted. The more you can speak into those fears, the more trust you build.
Create an onboarding process that outlines step-by-step what is next in your process. Let them know what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. This will level the playing field and make it clear you are definitely in charge of this entire approach. And they can rely on you to guide them through this process every step of the way.
Acknowledge Client Questions
Another way to establish trust with your clients is how you handle client questions. We all are going to have questions pop up at different times of working together. Maybe it’s a frequently asked question or a completely brand new question. Regardless, the way you respond to those questions, directly impacts the way your client views you as the expert.
It’s so important to first acknowledge and validate their questions. Even if it’s a commonly asked question, it’s most likely the first time this specific client has ever asked you.
Let them know it was a great question and thank them for asking it. This adds a level of professionalism that goes a really long way.
If it’s a question you know the answer to right off the top of your head, let them know in your experience you’ve learned x, y or z. Don’t be afraid to refer to your past experiences or past client projects. This is another subtle way to directly acknowledge you do have experience in this area. You can say something like, “In the past, I’ve worked with a client and this same question came up! This is what we’ve found to be true….”
Referencing back to past projects and sharing what you’ve found to be true that eases their fear or answers their biggest question only build more trust. And it deepens the perception in your client’s mind that you are an expert.
But What If You Don’t Know The Answer To a Client Question?
I think there is this common misconception that in order to be an expert you need to know all the things. Which simply isn’t true. There is a lot to be said about someone who is constantly learning and who is not afraid to seek out the right answers.
So if your client asks something you don’t know the answer to there is no shame in saying, “That is such a great question. I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, but let me do some research and get back to you!”
I can tell you my clients appreciate my willingness to come to the table and say, I don’t know but I’m going to figure it out for you! It’s an extra step that shows them I care and they recieve that kind of relationship so well.
How To Position Yourself As An Expert
So friends, I hope this was a helpful outline of some of the best ways to inspire a sense of confidence with your clients and further position yourself as the expert that you are!
Let’s take this conversation a step further and create clear and strong boundaries with your design clients, friend! On top of that, it’s time to set your clients up for success by making it so clear of how your relationship can really look every step of the way. Join me for my Designer Strategy Chats on Thursday, July 12 at 11am CST as I walk you through my 3 ways to set clear boundaries with your design clients and wave goodbye to clients who just aren’t getting it.
PS – if you want to tap into your biggest strength as a designer and figure out how to leverage that within your business, then I need to ask. Have you taken my Brand Designer Quiz yet? If not, hop over here and figure out what your secret sauce as a designer is and begin leveraging that goodness within your design biz today.
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.