Being a web designer is honestly one of the most rewarding jobs out there.
You can work from anywhere, you get to decide what type of work you want to do, when you want to do it, who you want to work with, and how much you want to get paid to do it!
On paper, it’s the ultimate dream…but it’s not without its challenges!
You’ve heard the stories.
The red flags. The nightmare clients. The total “remind me why I left my cozy 9-5 again?” moments.
With some careful planning and preparation, it’s totally possible to side-step around the major pitfalls of 1:1 client work, and get straight the perks you signed up for.
I actually designed a whole course that teaches just that!
Whether you’re an aspiring designer who has yet to get started, or you’ve been at this for years and are currently facing total design biz burnout, Square Secrets Business has all the systems, processes, and best practices you need to build a business you actually look forward to waking up to!
In the meantime, I have the help of our trusty featured designers to get you steered in the right direction when it comes to wrangling (ahem…working with) clients!
Let’s welcome our oh so wise web design council back for one last post in the “Web designers speak out” series!
Take it away ladies!
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from working with clients is to watch for red flags.
I’ve taken on a couple of projects where I saw the warning signs of a challenging client but took the project anyway, and none of them have ever been worth the money I’ve made.
Blown out timeframes, unclear communication, not respecting boundaries, scope creep, and indecisiveness are draining and will take away your energy.
You didn’t start your business to feel that way!
– Jessica Haines, Jessica Haines Design
“Creating a process with a fixed timeline can alleviate a lot of the common client-related struggles.
By laying out a structure to projects rather than having “we’ll start today and we’ll finish when we finish” attitude, you’re helping to keep the project controlled and predictable.
– Corinne Pettit, Heart & Hustle Studio
“Every client project is a learning process.
– Jacinta Gandy, Social Circle
When I started I was so used to working for other people that I was looking to my clients to tell me how they wanted to run our projects.
But after gaining experience I see how much better they respond when I step up and lead them through the process. They feel like they’re in capable hands that have done this many times before.
Also, by requiring feedback to very specific questions (i.e. What do you think your ideal clients will like about this design? What do you think your ideal clients will NOT like about this design?)…
– Lindsey Anderson, Six Leaf Design
“I had to learn to be very firm with clients.
Many of my clients have never worked with a professional designer before, so they need to be shown the ropes!
I typically work with 1-3 clients at a time. It sounds crazy, but it works for me. Find what works for you! Maybe you’re best with 1 dedicated client.
I find that there is enough lag time with feedback that I can work on multiple projects at once.
(I also think I’m slightly ADD, so giving my brain new material is a good thing!)
– Malena Southworth, Southworth Design Co.
“Boundaries are huge, and remain a struggle even when you’ve been in business for several years.
Also, you get to decide how you like to work!
So if you love working with one client for a long-term project and that’s how you really jam, do that!
I am personally the opposite which is why I do one website per week – then I’m onto the next!”
– Kali Edwards, June Mango Design
“I’m still learning!
Just a few months ago, I had a client that disappeared 2 years ago reappear and want to pick up where we left off, even though my pricing and packages had changed.
I’ve learned that working with clients is an ever-evolving process and that’s okay.
– Christy Price, Christy Price
And make sure your process is accurately annotated. It’ll help set client expectations on what it’s like to work with you while protecting you and your business.
If you can’t afford a lawyer to draft one for you reach out to other web designers to see if they’d be willing to share theirs.
So many of us support community over competition and would be happy to help (myself included!).
– Erin Neumann, Be Aligned Web Design
“Sticking to a projects’ timeline is one of the biggest potential difficulties you might face with some of your clients.
Even if you send a client a questionnaire form during the onboarding process, they might be slow when sending information about their business and themselves, which can extend the website creation process.
This is understandable because writing about ourselves is hard!
Also, set boundaries in your own personal work schedule by not biting off more than you can chew.
– Kaitlin Hoppenstedt Ortgega, Studio Kait
“Clients can be wonderful!
I highly believe that your vibe attracts your tribe. So I intentionally go into every client interaction thinking it is going to be great.
BUT clients will always ask for more (who can blame them? I’d do the same!)
I’m never upset with a client who wants to ask me for more. Because it never hurts to ask!
But keep in mind that it’s up to you to set boundaries that are right FOR YOU! Not for your client.
Whatever your answer, just know your limits and what you’re comfortable with.
It helps to have a process for this ahead of time so you have a consistent response to clients – to me it feels fair.
For example: yes I’ll help you with your logo, for a set fee.
Yes I’ll help you with picking branding colors (that’s included in my package).
HECK NO will I ever manage your IG. Thanks for asking, here’s my recommendation for someone who loves doing that… because I don’t!
Working with clients can be so fulfilling. But it can also feel draining if you don’t lead with parameters and boundaries that you’re comfortable with.”
– Becca Wood, Alto Design Co
Do the majority of your clients want a website designed in a similar style?
Try creating a website template or two that features that style.
– Rose Lindo, Bittersweet Design Boutique
How good is this advice, right!?
Oh, and feel free to snag my free Passive Income Roadmap to help you get that started as well!
“As a former project manager, I thought I knew about working with multiple clients at once.
A few things I wish I knew in retrospect:
(I now use Google Voice).
2) Though I fortunately didn’t run into problems with this, I definitely learned to increase my project timeline.
3) I used to work with a lot of smaller clients at once, but now I find it much more effective to work with just a few larger clients at once–it’s more efficient on the administrative end, and less mentally demanding to stay on top of everything.”
– Melissa Stephenson, Five Design Co
“When I first started my business I took on web design work from anyone, no matter what industry they were in, whether I felt I ‘clicked’ with them or how disorganized they were.
But it resulted in a lot of difficult experiences where I felt unable to set boundaries, communication was tricky and we both lost enthusiasm for the project.
Trust your intuition!
You CAN be picky – set your boundaries and stick to them!”
– Steph Bisson, Colour & Love
“My best advice when dealing with clients is to recognize red flags early on in the inquiry process.
failure to respond in a normal amount of time
already having a down-to-the-pixel vision for what they want
nickeling and diming you on pricing (different from negotiating)
not willing to sign a contract
requesting too many phone calls before booking
having a really tight/inflexible timeline
something just feeling “off” in your initial conversations
Trust your gut – if the thought of talking to the client on the phone makes you nervous, it’s probably not a good fit.
– Jen Davis, Hello June Creative
This allows your clients to read everything before starting a project, avoiding any type of confusion in the future.”
– Maru Ramirez, Studio Mer
– Cherise Vecchio, Joelle Studio
“I wish I knew client boundaries before I started.
I’m that type of person who has a hard time cutting off at the end of the day and doing life outside of work. It’s important to have those client boundaries.
It gives you a motivation and a clear head every day when you’ve allowed yourself to cut off for a period of time.”
– Hannah Phillips, Dear Brunch Design
– Jaime Lawson, by Jaime
This meant I would sometimes end up with no work and others I’d be completely overwhelmed with projects piling on top of each other.
Of course, I was afraid if I told a client I couldn’t start on their project for a few weeks they would just go elsewhere and I needed all the work I could get.
Turns out that’s not the case though.
– Kirsty Montgomery, Kirsty M Design
“I wish I knew how important it is to set boundaries from the get-go.
Even if clients mean well, they will push your boundaries if you don’t have them in place.
Scope creep is very real, people!
Spend some time adding your boundaries into your contracts (which are SO important to have) and including them on a welcome page/packet for your clients.
– Eleanor Stones, Eleanor Stones
“I love loveeee using Trello to manage my client communication for projects.
– Jackie Elefante, Jaks Digital
“I wish I would have known to include more details about extending deadlines in my contracts when I started!
Juggling multiple clients at once – oh gosh! I am still working on this haha!
I really believe that there are some business lessons that you just have to hustle through in the beginning until you find what works best for you.
I had to work with many clients at once, at a lower price, in the beginning to really build out my portfolio.
– Mary Kiser, MK Design Studio
– Michanae Edwards, Michanae’s Designs
“You HAVE to set strict boundaries up front.
It needs to be known that you have specific working hours and that you have a set way of handling communication.
Using a system like Asana can not only make your business appear much more professional but allow for smoother easier projects.
– Mackenzi Green, Kenzi Green Design
“Figure out your ideal client and then stick with them!
Along with that, figure out who is NOT your ideal client.
What do your toughest clients all have in common? Is it a similar age, gender, location, business… write those things down and keep that list close by.
– Rebekah Read, Rebekah Read Creative
“When I first started out, I wanted to be seen as the girl that was super accessible and would answer you on a dime.
Healthy working boundaries are a must in order to be successful!”
– Sarah Dobbs, Mckinly Media
“When I first started my business I felt like I had to take on every single client who reached out to me.
Big or small – my theory was to say yes to everything.
In some ways I’m glad I did that because it helped me realize what I love doing, who I love working with and where I wanted to take my business.
In other ways it was a big struggle.
I took a systems class from Hey Sweet Pea and it opened my eyes to A LOT of ways to better manage my clients and figure out how to grow with the RIGHT clients!
I built a contract using Agree.com.
I created template emails (THIS IS GAME CHANGING!) for clients and orders.
I think creating those “rules” for yourself and your business is necessary in order to help your business grow and work the most efficiently with your clients!”
– Chelsea Pimienta, 23 & 9 Creative
– Emma Hall, Retro Marketing
“Always sign the contract and list all expectation and deliverables, take a deposit, frame your deadlines/milestones [before getting started].
– Anna Hamilton, AH Design