Good Designers, Good Clients

by Laura Kalbag

22 Reader Comments

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  1. You have some really good points here. Definitely, i think, most of us can improve on massively. But Ive been in situations where i believe my communication skills have been very good, and all too often, the client is just a massive ball ache.

    I totally agree putting the effort in pays off, but i also know with some of the clients I’ve had to work with that are perhaps down the other end of the scale in terms of their budget, sometimes simply don’t want to / are unable to listen. But, people are people. And personally i love what i do too much to stop from the odd bad client.

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  2. Great article Laura, I completely agree with your points. Communication is definitely key in bridging the gap between what a client wants/needs and expects.

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  3. I dont see them either Laura….I have said for a long time that Clients From Hell is fake and just a bunch of made up stories. I seriously doubt even 5% of the stories there are true.

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  4. Great article Laura.  As you say, much of the work in avoiding a ‘bad’ client happens before you start working together: By taking the time to research, meet them and ensure they are a good fit for you and you for them.

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  5. Have you never experienced the following cases?

    1. Office politics are in play and others within the company you are working with internally sabotage a project (normally because their role is being altered/usurped by the changes)

    2. The original client who initiated / believed in the project is replaced with someone who does not. This can often be because they want to use their own people and so they intentionally sabotage the project.

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  6. This is fantastic, insightful advice – thanks for sharing.

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  7. Great article, Laura. I love working in client services, too, even if it’s not the path many people take. Finding the right clients, being able to communicate effectively with them, and leading the project are all on us, completely right.

    It’s always a team effort, and knowing what role we should be playing is a huge part of that. Rock on.

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  8. I’d definitely like to hear a little more about the times when it does go wrong in situations like the ones outlined by Tesmond (#5) because in my experience working on bigger, longer term projects, it seldom goes swimmingly the whole time no matter what your level of customer service skill is.

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  9. “Laura Kalbag is a freelance designer working with small and meaningful clients” .. seriously? As opposed to what, meaningless ones??

    I find the whole article patronising and borderline insulting. I guess you are savvy enough to not complain openly about clients thus ruining your chance of landing more work and damaging your online public persona. Stick in the industry for another 10 – 20 years or so and see if your attitude changes somewhat.

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  10. I work at university. Our “clients” are mostly our faculty. We find they are receptive to what we want to do most of the time. There really aren’t “bad clients” so much as there are:
    1. Heavy users of our services.  People who demand a lot from us.
    2. People who won’t engage. They come to us for a new site, but then don’t have time to follow up when we ask for the needed content and images.

    When you get to choose who you take on as clients, there shouldn’t be bad clients. In our case, we typically can’t “no” to most “normal” sites.

    (why does ALA want my friends list?)

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  11. The only ‘bad clients’ are the ones who don’t pay.

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  12. I’m not going to dwell on the instances where I’ve been peeved by bad clients; that would be counterproductive to the spirit of this article. I like how Laura hasn’t externalized the blame for her client relations like so many in the web field. It’s important to remember that egos are on the line on both sides of the client – web professional divide. Technical brilliance or design chops don’t make you a better person or necessarily a better communicator. Sure, there are instances where clients act in bad faith or try to use you as a “production tool for their design eye,” especially if you’re working for other creative professionals, but I would have to agree with Laura that educating, being open with the process, and trying not to take on meaningless projects just to pay the bills are ways to ensure happy client relations. That’s just common sense, and it begets good clients.

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  13. Really have to disagree with Ian’s comment on bad clients being the ones who don’t pay. I had one guy who paid, and then promptly made my life heck for months….even tried SWATing me at one point.

    Regarding the article though…honestly, its a little overoptimistic. Some of us freelancers have horrible, HORRIBLE luck with clients. Does not matter how much you go over the project, how communicative you are….they don’t care, they are out to rip you off.

    For instance, I have a client who I’m dealing with right now. He waited until I finished the project…and as soon as I confirmed everything was working perfectly, and that he’d received the files….he called me a sucker and filed a chargeback.

    Its the luck of the draw, and while I am very glad to hear that the article writer has had very good luck…some of us are on the complete opposite side.

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  14. tesmond James Young 1

    I can’t say I’ve experienced anything I’d call sabotage, but there’s definitely been awkwardness sometimes. I’m not saying it’s a solution that will always work, but I’ve tried to squash the awkwardness by finding a way to show I’m not there to threaten their jobs, I’m there to help.

    @realist

    ‘Meaningful’ may not be the best word for what I’m trying to say there. It’s my way of trying to emphasise that the projects I work on are often small, but not menial.

    I’ve definitely been un-savvy enough to complain about clients publicly when I was starting out. And I promise I’m not just saying that I love client work when I hate it. Doing that might make me savvy, but it’d also make me miserable.

    @Jeannine Thompson

    That sounds awful. I hope you’ve got a good contract so you can get your money back. I don’t know how it works where your business is based, but I’d definitely get legal advice.

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  15. Great article. I think it takes work on both sides and it is all about communication.

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  16. Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful info specifically the last part :) I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

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  17. Brilliant article. It’s easy for us as designers to assume that clients understand what we do for them and also that they get design in the same way we do – most of the time they don’t. So as you say, education is the key rather than complaining they are bad clients.

    The biggest issue I would say though, is clients who aren’t 100% engaged in the project and don’t seem to have the enthusiasm that I as a designer might have in seeing it through to a successful and effective conclusion. Those clients also tend to see a new website design for example as the end result, the end game – I have to tell them that launching a new website or giving an existing one a facelift is just part of the story. They have to consider what comes next, the marketing, the promotion the customer services, the quality product and the passion for what they do, what they sell and the customers they’re selling to.

    Look forward to hearing more of your wisdom on ALA soon! Thanks.

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  18. All of my clients are from hell! i really enjoyed your article

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  19. Love the article.
    Your mouth is open in your author photo.

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  20. A good read, yes agree on some of your points. Designers responsibility to clearly communicate the service and end product they will provide as well as listening and to their best ability understanding/clarify what the client is wanting/needing.

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  21. Great article.
    I worked in a place with a man who I called a “do-er”. He would do whatever the client told him to do, so that he didn’t loose him, and his money. I do understand he was not a freelancer and he needed to keep returning clients to keep business going, but not giving any creative feedback or not being able to state his ideas and share his (over 20 years) knowledge was almost irritating. I pointed it out, and he said “If you tell a client he is wrong, he will not like it and not return”.

    Well, I did. I was put to work with two of the businesses clients. Two totally different projects, and both times I made the client aware of design problems, ideas, included them in the process. When thy had an idea, I showed them how it will not work and tried to find a way that the idea could be interpreted in a way that it would work.
    These clients were amazing, patient, happy and pleased with the outcomes.
    Afterwards I learnt that one of them is usually very mean to people. Yet, to me he was awfully pleasant.

    Thank you for the article, and making me feel I am doing something right.

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  22. Great post. I think about the client is how we lead them to get the better of the project, without stress or turn it bored. This relationship is a loop of hit and mistakes along our designers life. Thanks for your article and for share a new perspective for us :)

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