Clients: The Real Business
It’s a strangely amusing trend at the moment amongst designers, agencies, and other people of the creative industry to make jokes of clients, and their strange wants and desires. It is a rare conversation now that I have with another designer where one of us doesn’t have a horror story to tell of a client who has pushed us to the point of insanity, and it is readily supported by a wave of humorous videos, comics, and jokes across the internet. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where designers are almost looking like a cohesive group, on the verge of a revolt and rebellion against the horde of ‘anti-design clients’.
As funny as the trend is, it causes great fear in me for the future of design. People have forgotten who the client is, and what he/she represents. While working in an agency, it is far to easy to see clients as those annoying people who should be ignored/avoided as much as possible, while freelancers seem to pass their days wishing they could think like that. To put it crudely, I think the creative industry needs a collective ‘HTFU’ pill.
Clients are there to be respected, educated, and helped. Clients have a need. Their need varies from job to job, and often, these needs can be very in-depth, involving, and engrossing. Even more often, however, these needs are far more mundane, basic, and technical. As designers, we are experts in our field (well, most of us anyway.) We are the people that clients come to for solutions for problems they cannot solve. We should be grateful in today’s advanced world that these problems still exist, and that we are still seen as the people clients come to.
Talking to designers at the moment, it would seem as though they have a very distorted view on a ‘Bad Client’. Common definitions are: pushy, self assured, controlling, and all round difficult. Here is where designers need to stop blaming the client and look at themselves: Pushy? They are usually business people, being pushy comes with being in business. Learn to deal with it – push back. Self assured? That’s good! They’re confident in what they want, and that enthusiasm can be used to create something good. Controlling? Usually because they are sceptical about your ability/dedication to the job. Show them that you are committed to helping them, that you have their best interests at heart, and they will trust you. All round difficult to work with? Talk to them. Explain why you are doing what you are doing, why it takes that amount of time, why you put that text here, and not there, and in this font and not that font. Usually clients behaviour is a result in being in either unfamiliar territory or in territory where they have not been impressed previously.
So, the next time you are frustrated up to your eyeballs with a client, just take a moment, unclench your fists, and put yourself in their shoes. Be the dream designer. Be the helpful tech wizz. Be the person who busts their guts to help the client’s business to succeed. Because at the end of the day, as long as that pay check comes in, your business is successful, and everyone is happy.
And always remember: No one knows the client’s business like the client. Respect their knowledge.