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Thank you next - lessons from past clients

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Working as a creative means working with clients, and that can make you feel very differently depending on your experience. When I first started out, I noticed that many communities love to talk about frustrating clients, kind how disgruntled employees meet over the water cooler to talk about their boss. And I get it! I have been there many times, but in the last few years I realised something very empowering. Sure there are frustrating people to work with, but 99% of those situations can be avoided with a better process. Why is that empowering? Well, it means that you actually have control over how you feel at work and every project can be more enjoyable as you improve your process. Once I knew this, I started using a strategy in every meeting, phone call and email and it has made me love my job. Hence today's title. By being aware of what has not worked with past clients, we can make a plan for the next ones.

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  • Go in with the right mindset

  • Understand your process

  • Finding the inflection point

  • Common questions

  • Ask for feedback

Go in with the right mindset

I think the core problem many creatives face is not feeling confident enough in their skills. You feel like the client's judgement will determine your future (and somewhat self worth) and that is not a nice place to be in. Remember that your client has decided to work with you because they like your style and they see you as an expert. It's ok to ask questions, push back a little and make sure you understand why they give a certain feedback. I can not overstate how many times I have spent hours creating something from scratch, when in reality my client was just not sure about the colour and I did not ask enough follow up questions. If you feel more confident, you are comfortable in your choices and it is easier to have a productive discussion. Always stay humble and try to see it from the client's perspective. This is something that will represent them and their business that they worked hard to build. Be empathetic to uncertainty and be ready to explain your choices in a clear way.

Understand your process

Confusion is probably the number one reason dream clients turn in to nightmares. To fix this, make sure you have a clear timeline before you get started and let your client know what they are expected to do at each stage. If there is a longer period when you are just putting your head down and creating (my experience is 2 weeks +), send little update emails to make your client feels comfortable. This also helps with making sure clients are ready to send you the content you need and avoids delaying the project.

My favorite way to help clients feel safe and excited is to set up a joint cloud file where you can add the proposal, timeline and any other information that can help answer their questions. This way, they can easily refer back to this when they feel unsure. If you are comfortable with it, you can also add a checklist with the stages you will go through and show the progress as the project moves forward.

Finding the inflection point

Think back to your past projects. Is there a stage of your process when clients tend to get frustrated or start asking more questions? If the answer is yes, this is a great place to revisit your process and see how you can improve the experience. Think of the journey your client is on like on-boarding for an app. In the same way that you would look for drop-offs, you can look for a change in attitude. Creative is all about trust so to make sure clients feel comfortable trusting that your design will help their business, it is important to keep them excited and informed.

Common questions

We recently wrote about creating a client-handoff package and how you can create a cheat-sheet for common questions to make your life easier. The same goes for the rest of your process. You can either do the same thing and add a list of common questions to a shared folder or as part of your welcome pack, or you can keep a list for yourself to anticipate the questions in each meeting. To make this a little easier, I added the questions I prepare for in our free lead to retainer guide so you can go ahead and copy these before adding your own.

Ask for feedback

This one can feel a little uncomfortable but I am always surprised of how helpful people are. Once the project is starting to wrap up, try asking your clients how they experienced working with you. You can be more specific and ask for things to do better and if they ever felt confused or nervous. Assuming you had a relatively good relationship throughout the process, people are very nice and want to help. In the case that they are not, well, you jut finished the project so that is ok.

I wanted to write this article because I see so many creatives feeling frustrated about client interactions and like their work environment is under someone else's control. It is not. It all comes back to respecting yourself and your skill while sympathising with the client and making sure they feel comfortable. It is worth investing in a good relationship with your client because they are much more likely to refer someone else and you can spend more time creating and less time selling.

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