That Word 'Just' & How To Work With A Difficult Client

Posted by Todd Anderson on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 Under: Advice
As the creative director of a busy design studio, along with also being someone who has in the past run my own design practice and worked as a freelancer, I have come to dislike the use of the word ‘just' and I know that I am not alone.

I used to come across it a lot. For example; a client who after signing off a job, gets back in touch and asks, “Can you ‘just’ make a change for me.” "It’s 'just' something small and I need it quickly." This usually translates into; its a minor change so can you also do it for free? The fact that the jobs been signed off means nothing... It’s 'just’ something small.

For them its a 'just' but for you it could easily be de archiving the editable files, making the change, then there’s a text re-flow... Not on just one edit, but them all! Then you need to outline the files and resend it to them to sign off... Again! Before you know it, the 'just' is a couple of hours of your studio design time... Certainly not 'just' a 'just'.

Ive come across so many of them. There's the “can you ‘just’ change the colour”, or can I ‘just’ see it without the image.” 

However, you don’t want to upset the client and your concerned that if you ask them to pay for something that they see as a 'just' then it might complicate your working relationship, or even worse, that they might not want to continue using your design services. My goodness... ‘justs’.

I am sure that many reading this post have had a similar experience. Over the years I’ve realised that the best way to deal with a ‘just’ is through clear communication and setting the parameters at the very beginning of a project. Its all part of being a professional and it will ultimately gain you a lot more respect from your client.

Try to look at things their way. We all make mistakes. In all cases a friendly reminder that they did sign the job off doesn’t hurt. Most clients will be OK about it and maybe they didn't completely understand the design process. We often take for granted what people outside of the industry know and occasionally they might not understand. Politely let them know that the ‘just’ isn’t quite as simple as they think it is. Tell them that you will do all you can to help but it may affect other projects in your studio. Nine times out of ten the client will understand. Don’t assume that they know what reflow is! Or that re colouring an image isn’t necessarily a quick job!

If you work to a project cost: If your a freelancer or own a small business and your responsible for quoting on the work then make sure that you state that your client gets a set number of reverts and after that any further work will be charged at a set rate. Its important to know what that charge is upfront. Have it clearly written on the quote with an area for your client to sign. This way you both know exactly what the parameters are before the project has begun. It also gives you something to refer back to if there’s any discussion later on.

If you are working to an hourly rate: If your pricing is via a time sheet then a situation like above can really upset your schedule. You may have other projects in motion that will be affected by your client getting back in touch. In this situation you will need to illustrate that their revert is now back in the queue and can only be worked on once your current in tray of work has first been completed.  I would do what you can to get it done but they need to understand that this is your livelihood and by making them happy you maybe loosing face with another client. You should also inform them that your time is billable, even for smaller changes.

Always remember that this is a business first. If you make friends on the way great, but you have to pay the bills. In my experience I have found that most clients are usually fine if you just explain the situation. Make sure that you have an upbeat, positive and professional attitude.

Most projects go through tough periods. I call my projects my babies for a reason. Unfortunately you often get a painful birth but in most cases you also get the joy that comes after, when the final design is born.

Never forget the power of good clear communication! The final project will always be a lot more successful if you work as a team. Don't necessarily view them as your client but instead as a partner!

But what if none of the above works? Then unfortunately you may have one of those rare difficult clients and in most cases your a lot better of without them. Really! You may be missing out on the opportunity to work with a better and more understanding client that respects you. Great clients are out there! I have a super relationship with all my clients and we respect each others skill sets.

Just remember this brilliant quote from Micheal Bierut. It's one of my favorites.

“If you do good work for good clients, it will lead to other good work for other good clients. If you do bad work for bad clients, it will lead to other bad work for other bad clients.”



In : Advice 


Tags: design advice motivation clients freelance business success 
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