Earlier this week I did a presentation at my local WordPress Orlando MeetUp about Client Transparency. This talk was a really open look at what it’s like being a creative, dispelling some perceptions on the creative lifestyle, as well as some insight into the thought process of a designer or developer working with the average client. I’ll be honest and say that most of these views are my sole perception, however many other creatives have echoed the same emotions and feelings.
The purpose of this though was to bring some light and understanding to both sides of the table when it comes to working through creative projects. The better both creatives and clients understand and respect each other, the better the development process will be and increase working relationships for long terms.
If you were unable to attend the live presentation, it was recorded and will be shared soon.
Trust can be one of the hardest things to give and develop with a client. Trust in your business relationships is integral if you wish to see your clientele numbers and your own company’s revenues grow. The level of trust in your business relationships—especially client relationships—is a one of the greatest determinants of a business’ success. Therefore,building your book of business is intrinsically tied to the trustworthy relationship you have with your clients and developing the long term relationships with them.
The Personal Touch – Consistent communication with clients, and building mutual trust and respect, often leads to repeat business for your company. Try to find ways to show clients how much they are valued, which contradicts the typical deli line “NEXT,” limited attention given to clientele by many business. Equally as important to the attention you give them is setting reasonable and attainable goals centered on ways to solve their problems with your product or service. Most client’s want you to set specific goals to be attained, reflecting that you are as equally invested in their success as you are in the ROI. These personal touches create brand loyalty with your clients and will cause them to stay with your company even if a competitor offers what appears to be a “better” deal.
Get in Their Head – Knowing your clients is just as important as servicing them. Small talk during a business meeting is a great way to asses a business’s operational structure and culture, and this intel is critical to reflect your knowledge of their needs. Gain respect and trust by sincerely asking clients what’s important to them and listening intently makes clients feel heard. Try to elicit the critical issues that are most meaningful to the to them. If appropriate, take a little time and diligence to discover not just the clients’ needs for your product of service, but also their personal hobbies, family dynamics and even biggest pet peeves to develop a more personalized relationship. If they trust you with personal information, they will undoubtedly trust you with their business.
Make it Happen – Trust me, if you don’t return phone calls in a timely manner, are consistently late for appointments or miss deadlines, it will be disastrous for both the relationship and your bottom line. For example, when you give a client an expected date of completion – its simple, MEET IT! Nothing is worse for a budding business relationship or repeat business than failing to meet deadlines. To keep the fire smoldering and the business coming your way, give reasonable timetables for projects and deliverables. If something unexpected does come up, make sure to communicate that with the client before the actual deadline date. When it comes to this issue, it’s always better that you call them than they call you!
Earners Keepers/Lackeys Weepers – To keep your client’s trust and respect, it must be maintained over time by doing the things you did to earn it in the first place. You do not have to be perfect – just trustworthy in both words and actions ,and ensuring that they are complementary of one another. Trust can be easily earned by someone with upstanding character and integrity, but hard to dispense if you lack those critical qualities.
Crystal Clear – Transparency is critical to the provider/client relationship. In this day when contracts with fine print have replaced the nobleman’s handshake, there’s a tremendous need for honesty and not camouflaging crucial facts. If there’s some aspect of your product or service that a client wants, but you know you can’t provide, tell the truth. There’s nothing wrong with stating that you can’t do something or haven’t yet developed a particular service or product. You can still win them over or keep a current client happy by letting them know that you are innovative enough to work on a solution thereby reflecting your commitment to them and their business.
In Summary – Begin or continue earning your clients trust by giving them your best, proving your competency and following through with all commitments to show them you value their business and the relationship. Remember, word of mouth can be your best advertising or your worst adversary.
If you’ve been in this industry for a while sooner or later you’ll come to a hiccup or worse a wall. Whether you’re a freelancer or the owner of a design firm or anywhere in between you’re not immune from the reality of circumstances and bad luck. Now some mishaps we actually can avoid, and that comes from seasoning and learning how to make good decisions early in time. There was a quote I got recently from a book I’ve been reading that really resonated with me.
“Easy short-term choices lead to difficult long-term consequences, while difficult short-term choices lead to easy long-term consequences.” The Paradox Principle.
I’m here to let you know of some good ways for you to deal with those setbacks. I’m also here to tell you that you’re not alone. We’re all out there at various times of the day or night pulling our hairs out or slamming desks when things don’t work right. Until there’s an 800 number for 24 hour sympathetic support, we have each other.
#1 Walk Away
This tip is probably the most important; walk away for a few hours. When you hit a wall in development, it may not be best for you to fight your frustrations head on. More times than none the more you look at it, the more things will make even less sense. You also run the risk of double thinking some other strings of code you knew were good before but go back and tweak that in hopes that it will fix some later functions that had you messed up in the first place. Ugh! Been there before and probably will be there again. When it happens and it’s been about an hour already, just take my advice and walk away for a few hours to clear your mind. Coming back to it the next morning with a fresh mind and fresh eyes usually makes an issue stick out in such an obvious form you’ll be happy you took off.
#2 Get a Second Opinion
Get a second pair of eyes on your work. You can rub your eyes all you want but still never see clearly. And it may not be your vision, it may just be your lack of understanding or knowledge. One thing I learned early in this business is that I’m not the smartest, but if I can find others that are smarter than me to help when I need them, I’ll still win.
#3 Spend Time On Another Project
It’s never good to waste time. Especially when the weekend is fast approaching and you’ve been pulling some late nights on some deliverables. I refer back to my one-hour law; if you’ve made no progress in an hour, find another project that you know you can pick up and make steady progress on. There is a slight chance the time away working on something else may job your mind on what can help get you through your main setback. Even if there isn’t, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day knowing that you finished some things instead of lost 6+ hours making absolutely no headway on just one piece of work.
#4 Research and Read a Book
There is a possibility you may not know everything. I know crazy right? So why not take some time to look up your exact issue on Google? You’d be surprised at how many other people will have had the same question. While you’re searching the inter-webs why not check out a few forums like Designers Talk or FreelanceSwitch. Great places to put your questions out there and get support from other designers and developers. You can also take this time to read up on your HTML or CSS skills. Remember that bookmark you left on the second chapter of that “Build Your Own Website The Right Way Using HTML & CSS“, well why not pick that book back up and continue reading up. We’re part of a fast paced and ever-changing world so try not to get left behind in technology, otherwise you could be working much harder or longer than you need to.
#5 Relax and Inform
For me it’s music or playing Wii with my kids. Go ahead and indulge a bit into something you enjoy to do. The work will still be there. If your project is pending, go ahead and let yourself off the hook and contact your client(s) and inform them of the setback and that you’ll need some extra time to complete it correctly. It’s key to be honest here because a mountain of other issues will arise later if you don’t. So go ahead and set that expectation to follow-up when you’re back on track, not a projected fix time/date, but a call or email when you action have it figured out and are able to move forward.
So what are your biggest or most recent frustrations in work? Do you have some other ways to handle setbacks? Let us know in the comments below.
Image credits: iStock Photo
Since 2000, UPrinting.com has remained in a class all by itself as an environmental-friendly online printing source for marketing & branding materials such as brochures, business cards, and so much more. In contrast to some of its industry contemporaries, UPrinting.com offers more customizable brochure options, a larger selection of templates as well as stellar customer service to create a top-notch user experience. And in the era of social responsibility to our environment, UPrinting.com offers eco-friendly printing that makes users feel even better about their products and UPrinting’s social and environmental awareness.
As you can see to the left, UPrinting.com offers an extensive line of products to give your business (or a clients) the branding edge with quality brochures and a wide array of other marketing materials.
Less Trees & Chemicals, A Better Brochure!
Create Impactful Impressions!
Ever receive a brochure that looks like it was designed and printed by a child? Nothing is worse for a small business than to appear small by skimping on their marketing materials such as brochures. You want to give a great impression when you hand your business literature to a prospective client or customer. UPrinting.com uses provides a quality product geared to enhance the appearance of your own products or services.
Customization on a Whole Other Level!
Oh how I wish I knew about UPrinting.com years ago! One of the fun parts of my job is to create something unexpected & atypical designs for my clients to showcase the range of my talents. Especially with brochures…you can create them in any size, folding options and paper stock. They even give you full creative license to develop you’re own signature brochure by choosing every component including background colors and innumerable stock photography options!
So unlike some of it’s competitors, UPrinting offers premier, high-quality brochures with unlimited options that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Thanks UPrinting.com for giving me the designing edge I need to bring my clients brochures from vision to creation!
When a new website is completed and launched, there is a great sense of relief and jubilation from my design firm. All the extra work we put into a project feels like it was so worth it. Almost like we could have done it for free had we been given the chance. Hearing how the client or group is so excited and hearing their praises gives us some great confidence and feedback that we met or exceeded their expectations. However the project actually isn’t completed at that point. I pull together all the staff members who were involved with the project for an exit interview.
In Corporate America when someone is let go from a job or moving to a new department, the sitting manager or HR representative will host a meeting with the employee that is moving to get their honest opinion on their soon to be previous role. Their asked to be candid and explain how they felt about their manager, job function, duties, achievements, and of course moral. The end of a design I feel should be the same in some aspects.
Some things to consider or talk about with your team or reflect on yourself would be:
Content: Was there enough content provided from the beginning? How much copy needed to be edited or rewritten? Did the client provide enough? Was I delivered or provided to us on time or when asked?
Budget: Was the client charged adequately for every deliverable we were tasked with. Did we find any areas in the project that could have been handled a different way that would have given us more services we could have offered? Does it seem like the client would have paid more for the same level of service?
Timeline: Did we beat our deadline? We’re we late and why? What were some factors that contributed to our timeline. How can we avoid any setbacks on our end or the clients going forward. We’re they’re new requests submitted that effected the timeline that was not accounted for?
Teamwork: Overall how did everyone work together? Did anyone feel like they didn’t get their opinions expressed or considered enough? Did everyone pull their weight? Did everyone feel they were given all they needed to complete their tasks? Was the communication across the team well enough or does it need improvement? What was the best medium for communication?
Customer Experience: Did the customer play a big enough role in the project. Were there enough options provided yet not too much to hinder a confident choice? Did all the team members have a chance to meet and/or talk to the client? We’re all of our responses timely? Did email communications go well, or could more phone calls iron out misunderstandings?
After reading through these I’m sure you may have wondered or even asked some of these questions to yourself after completing a project. It may seem a bit time-consuming but I promise you it’s worth the effort. It will help you avoid mistakes in your future projects while providing some self-examination to your firm and tactics. If you have some other points to add please do so in the comments below. As always we love hearing your opinions and contrary thoughts.
(Image credit: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo)