There are no bad clients. Or, more precisely put: all bad clients are your fault. Here are 4 Mistakes to Avoid When Taking on a Project:
Here’s a typical scenario:
You’re a graphic designer.
A potential client reaches out and says they need a logo and website designed.
You write them a proposal.
They read your proposal.
Maybe they get back to you,
maybe they don’t.
Let’s say they do, but your quote is a little more than they had budgeted…
MISTAKE #1 - Just giving a discount
Can you do it for 10% less? You need the money, so you’re happy to give the discount. You start working and ask them what they want—color preferences, logo specifics, etc. They’re going to send over examples of what they like.
Why it’s a mistake: When you give a discount just because, you’re suggesting your original price was an arbitrary number, not based on any sort of value you put on your work. You can immediately lose the client’s trust this way.
MISTAKE #2 - Just asking what they want
The client sends over tons of information about their company, as well as examples of designs they like. Great! You see some patterns, and you get to work.
Why it’s a mistake: The first rule of creating a great client is developing a relationship of trust. They must trust you to do what you do best, that you know what you’re doing and that you’ll deliver. You are the expert, so you should lead the process. If you ask the client what they think the logo should be, you’ve created doubt around your status as a design expert. If the client were an expert, they would’ve made a logo themselves. And if you allow the client to lead the process, things can get messy…
MISTAKE #3 - Emailing work without explanation
You create dozens of logo designs, and you send your ten best in a PDF.
They call you up: “We liked logos 3, 4, and 9. We’d like to see #3 in a couple of different colors, #4 with the font from #5, and we like #9 but can you make the logo icon just a little more... modern?”
Why it’s a mistake:
You’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping something sticks. You don’t trust that you know what is good or right—you just hope the client will like something. Doesn’t sound like something an “expert” would do. It’s your job to educate your client so they can make an informed decision.
Sending tons of options makes it harder for clients to make that decision. Most clients are terrified of paying for a service and not getting what they want out of it. But again, you’ve put them in a difficult position—you’ve given a novice the job of making an expert judgment. This will result in requests to see more options because of uncertainty.
MISTAKE #4 - Doing whatever the client says
You get back to work. You make another PDF with all the edits, which ends up being another ten logos—all variations of their three favorites. You send it over.
They call you up again, with more revisions and requests. These communications go back and forth for days, maybe even weeks. The requests have (d)evolved from small and straightforward to frustrating and outlandish.
And now you have a shitty client. You haven’t even begun the website yet! AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.
Why it’s a mistake: Well, this is what happens when you let your client drive the ship. You can become their whipping boy before the project even begins. By doing whatever the client says, you are not using your expertise. That’s what they’re paying you for!
This is why you must stay in control throughout the process.
In the end, it’s not the client’s fault—it’s yours. You are responsible for leading your projects and your clients, for building trust and rapport. Make sure you listen to the client and then give them exactly what they need to achieve their desired results.
*Caveat: Some people just suck.
Do everything you can to avoid working with people like this. Have a screening process before you start projects with new clients. In these cases, $1 does not equal $1.
Even if you need the money, a shitty client will cost you time, energy, and sanity. This may, in turn, cost you money anyway—and it can keep you from finding the clients who love, respect, and pay you what you’re worth.