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 difficult this makes client projects for everyone involved!
Not only have I experienced this myself, but over the years, I’ve seen this come up time and time again with my students inside the Brand Strategy School.
But friend, trust me: it doesn’t have to be this way.
Over my 9+ years in this industry, I’ve realized why our design projects fail to go the way we anticipated. I’ve also learned how we, as intentional designers, can better serve our clients and kick these issues to the curb.
The Cause of Difficult Client Projects
Let’s cut right to the chase, friend:
The cause for difficult design client projects is the failure to set and communicate expectations from the beginning.
Let’s break this down a bit further: in my experience, 9 times out of 10, clients fail to communicate well, make unrealistic requests, or miss deadlines when there is a failure to set expectations at the start of your work together.
Yes, sometimes our clients fail to communicate their expectations to us clearly. But the hard truth? Sometimes, it’s the designer’s fault.
Here’s the thing: your clients are hiring you for your expertise and guidance. Thus, it’s your responsibility to ensure your clients understand what to expect by choosing to work with you.
Setting those expectations creates an open line of communication; it opens the door for your clients to share their own thoughts in return, and realign their expectations if needed.
In my process, this is key. Once I receive a retainer and sign a contract, I do not just ignore that client until our work starts. Instead, as soon as the final details are set in stone, I begin sharing what the next steps will be. This ensures that we’re both on the same page and prepared for what’s to come, and that any questions can be addressed before they become urgent.
Setting Clear Expectations From The Very Beginning
You know the saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know”? Well, friend, the same is true with potential clients.
People look to hire us for our expertise and guidance. Before we even get close to signing a contract, potential clients need to know what to expect. In my process, I use an initial consult call to discuss what it’d be like to work together, explain how my process is different from others, and share what kind of results they can expect if they choose to hire me. I also take that time to clearly explain kinds of engagement, participation, and collaboration I expect from them in order to complete the project.
When I clearly communicate things like this with my potential clients from the very start, we’re able to navigate the branding process with so much more ease, clarity and purpose. It sets the entire project up to be a collaborative effort. Yes, it’s my job to guide each client through the branding process. But I need those clients to be equally invested in the process—communicating with me and participating where needed.
Working Together Needs To Be A Team Effort
Having this communication upfront eliminates the issue of having clients expect me to design nonstop, with little-to-no effort on their end to be involved in the process. It’s actually the exact opposite!
Before ever signing a contract, I make it clear that our project will be a collaborative team effort. That is essential in order to meet our goals for their brand.
The quality of our entire relationship and the work we can do together is completely transformed when I simply communicate what kinds of participation will be required of the client; it enables me to serve them better and lowers chances of communication issues throughout the process.
Want to dive deeper into resolving difficult client projects?
So there you have it, sweet friend—the #1 reason why brand designers often struggle with difficult client projects. A breakdown in communication or unmet expectations from either side will almost always come down to an (unintentional) lack of clearly set expectations.
If you’re wanting to dive deeper into these not-so-ideal situations (like non-responsive clients, missing website content, or requests for deliverables that fall outside your project scope), then I have a FREE training that I’d love for you to get your hands on!
This video training, made for brand designers and strategists just like you, is all about my 4 signature steps to set every client project up for success from the get-go. 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!
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Designer Strategy Chats
Join me for pitch-free live trainings just for brand designers and strategists! I'm peeling back the curtain to share everything I've learned in my 9+ years of business. This actionable education has been designed just for you, to elevate your design business to heartfelt new heights!
Designer Strategy Chats
Designer Strategy Chats is a 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, Q&A, and heartfelt encouragement to grow your design business.