So you’ve finally nailed this whole ‘building a website’ thing, and you’re ready to start shouting out about your business and landing those first few paying clients.
Now, just like learning to build pretty websites, it’s obviously going to take a few practice runs to get you confidently managing clients like a pro!
But there’s a handful of super common client-handling mistakes that even experienced designers continue to make that could be seriously affecting their business.
I remember how frustrating it was to try to build my business by trial and error, and so I’d really like to keep you from having to learn a lot of these things the hard way as well!
There’s this dreamy potential web design client out there. (Say they are a photographer.)
They know they need a new website, but they’ve been soooo incredibly busy with wedding season and editing that they honestly haven’t had more than 5 minutes to look into it.
They finally see a quick break in their schedule and so they sit down to Google “Squarespace Designer for wedding photographers.”
Out of the 27 tabs they now have open on their desktop, they are really resonating with your portfolio…as well as two other designers who have a similar style and vibe.
How will they ever choose!?
Well, more often than not, the next step will make that choice for them.
Your competitors have clearly listed all their packages and pricing right there on their services page with an impossible-to-miss “Book Now!” button.
But when they click back over to your tab, they can’t find the prices, or what’s even included in your packages…
And the only way to contact you is to email you for a quote. ♀️
Three things tend to happen here:
1) They assume they can’t afford you.
2) They can’t be bothered to play email tag so they just don’t.
3) They do email you. But by the time you get back with your price list and an option to book a consult call, they have already moved on to the next step with some other designer who didn’t waste time playing games.
Make it ridiculously easy for them to get started working with you!
Which brings me to mistake #2…
The sale isn’t officially locked down until they’ve made that first deposit.
But at this point in their search, you should know that it’s 100% possible that they’ve received proposals from other designers they were considering.
So if your client has to jump through hoops to get you paid, or are being asked to enter all their sensitive info into some sketchy looking app they’ve never heard of, they may think twice about wanting to work with you, and go with what’s behind door #2 instead.
Not 3 days from now when they have time to sit down and figure out how to send a wire transfer…
Not 2 weeks from now when they finally get that check dropped in the mail…
You want some way to include a button or link right there in the proposal or invoice you are sending that they can click and get you paid instantly.
This way, you aren’t being ghosted by clients at the last minute, or having to hound clients to send you money (which tends to put a strain on the whole client-designer relationship).
And your bookkeeper (which I’m guessing is also you) will thank you come tax season.
Speaking of having to hound clients, there’s one simple thing most new designers don’t know to do that could honestly save them 95% of the headaches they face when working with clients…and that is to set firm deadlines for every step of the client process!
One of the biggest struggles I hear from new designers is that their clients will seem all gung ho and excited about hiring you to build their website, but then when it’s time to actually get started on their project, they take FOREVER to get you their content.
So now a project that was supposed to take weeks has dragged on for months.
Or you send a finished design over for approval, and it’s radio silence for weeks…
But then suddenly a day before you were supposed to launch, they send you a giant list of revisions which basically means redesigning the whole thing overnight!
There’s one simple thing I did to ensure that projects always ran smoothly and always wrapped up on time.
And that was to clearly communicate from day 1 exactly what I needed from the client and exactly when I needed it by.
I repeated those deadlines in my contract, in my welcome package, and in the simple reminder emails I would send at the beginning of each new phase of the project so clients never had to wonder what was expected of them.
Oh, and the thing about deadlines?
They only work if you actually enforce them, which leads me to mistake #4 newbie designers tend to make when first getting started working with clients…
The only way to make deadlines non-negotiable, is to make it clear in some sort of legit legal document, what will happen if those due dates are not met.
So say a client misses the deadline for submitting their photos. I can’t really move on without them, but I’m also not going to cut into my next client’s time by allowing this project to drag on.
So my contract clearly states that if the project is stalled due to a client missing deadlines, then they are automatically sent to the back of the line, and I will not resume work on their project until the next opening in my books (which could be months away.)
And since I could have been using that future slot to book another full-price design package, there is also a fee to restart their project at a later date.
So contracts aren’t just about making sure you get paid for your work, or that you don’t get sued if you mess up their site.
If set up correctly, they also protect your time, and save you from constantly having to hound your clients for content, which isn’t fun for them or you!
The other biggest issue many new designers face that can be easily solved with a solid contract is scope creep.
Your contract should clearly outline exactly what is and isn’t included in the package your client paid for, and that anything outside of that will cost extra.
Maybe their package includes 2 total rounds of revisions, but then after you’ve made all the edits requested in round 2, they suddenly come back to you with 50 other things they want changed.
You can simply refer them to the contract they signed, saying you are happy to add an additional round of revisions for X number of dollars.
A good contract protects both you and your client in the event of something going wrong with the project, and will only add to your credibility as a pro designer!
So we already talked about how frustrating it is for new designers when their clients drag their feet on submitting content, but what about when the client sends you 50 photos, at 50 different times, in 50 separate emails.
That’s a whole lot of time spent tracking down content before you can even get started on their design.
If you want to totally streamline your process, and be able to take on more projects, while actually feeling like you are working less, make it easy on yourself by having one place where all the project files can be easily uploaded and accessed at once.
I personally loved creating a Google Drive folder for each new client. They could upload their photos, and I could share any client homework or pre-design worksheets for them to complete there.
Then, when I did sit down to design, I knew I had everything I needed for the project ready to go in one place.
When you are first getting started as a designer, it is super tempting to want to make yourself available 24/7.
You do not want to miss responding to a new inquiry, or answering a client’s so-called ‘quick question’ about their project, so you permanently attach yourself to your laptop, accepting emails, texts, and calls all hours of the day.
But I’m telling you right now, this is not sustainable.
Which is the exact opposite of the freedom and joy you were picturing when starting this dream.
So decide the way you like to work, and decide what the perfect business and life balance looks like for you, and then set office hours to reflect that.
Your clients will always respect your time and expertise more knowing that you, yourself, believe your time is valuable!