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.

Good news!

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!

Web designers speak out:

What I wish I knew about working with clients

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from working with clients is to watch for red flags.

If you see warning signs that something isn’t the right fit for you, listen to your gut.

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!

At the end of the day, you have the ultimate say in the clients you work with, and it’s ok to turn down a non-ideal client or project.”


– Jessica Haines, Jessica Haines Design

Website | Instagram


“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.

Nobody likes a project that drags on for 3+ months longer than predicted (clients nor service provider).

Creating a process with a fixed timeline will spare you a lot of headaches in the long run.”


– Corinne Pettit, Heart & Hustle Studio

Website | Instagram


“Every client project is a learning process.

When things don’t go as planned don’t get discouraged, take action.

Find the gap or opportunity and make the necessary changes whether it’s implementing a new policy or offering a new service.”


– Jacinta Gandy, Social Circle

Website | Instagram




“Most clients want you to take the lead and appreciate when you tell them what to do and how to do it.

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?)…

…It makes them think harder about what is or isn’t working and why and that gives me better direction on how to move forward.”


– Lindsey Anderson, Six Leaf Design

Website | Instagram


“I had to learn to be very firm with clients.

My contract is rock solid and my terms are not flexible. I worried for years that this would make me seem mean or difficult to work with, but clients respect and appreciate the firm lines and boundaries!

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!)

I like Trello and Asana for project management. Still figuring this one out, but I usually end up planning on paper. I use a 7 subject teacher planner that is great for multiple projects.”


– Malena Southworth, Southworth Design Co.

Website | Instagram



“Boundaries are huge, and remain a struggle even when you’ve been in business for several years.

Some people are always going to try to push those boundaries, whether it’s asking for discounts or trying to talk to you “after office hours”.

I have found that once my boundary gets crossed, I learn where the line was and make sure to enforce it in the future.

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

Website | Instagram


“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.

So, a restart clause in your contract is good to have!

I’ve learned that working with clients is an ever-evolving process and that’s okay.

It’s great to take a look back at your past 3 or 6 months of work, and with a critical eye decide what worked and what didn’t, then make changes going forward.”


– Christy Price, Christy Price

Website | Instagram


“Use a contract. Always.

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.

I can’t tell you how many times having a rock-solid contract has saved me. From reigning in scope creep (a client increasing their expectations of service) to submitting as key evidence when a project went south.

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

Website


“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!

However, copywriting plays a huge role in the overall effectiveness of a website, which is why you need to prioritize getting their personal testimonies and written statements ASAP!

Also, set boundaries in your own personal work schedule by not biting off more than you can chew.

Know yourself and your daily work limits, and plan your monthly schedule accordingly.”


– Kaitlin Hoppenstedt Ortgega, Studio Kait

Website | Instagram




“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!)

They may ask because they don’t know they’re stepping outside of your normal scope and they think it’s included, or they’re curious to learn, or because you seem like someone who probably knows a lot of things and they tend to think that website knowledge = social media knowledge (in my experience!).

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.

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to say yes. It’s okay to say yes for an additional fee.

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

Website | Instagram



“If you get the same questions or similar requests from clients over & over again, try to find a way to turn those ideas or projects into a passive income stream.

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.

Not only does this save clients tons of time & money, but you’ll be able to sell this product or service over and over again.

Win-win!”


– Rose Lindo, Bittersweet Design Boutique

Website | Instagram

How good is this advice, right!?

On that same note, you might find my How to Build Squarespace Templates course helpful (available separately or as a bonus in Square Secrets Business!)

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.

Ha!

A few things I wish I knew in retrospect:

1) Don’t use your personal cell phone number to communicate with clients if you don’t want them calling/texting at all hours of the day and night.

(I now use Google Voice).

2) Though I fortunately didn’t run into problems with this, I definitely learned to increase my project timeline.

Rather than quoting a timeline I know I could get a project done within, I now add in a nice buffer in case other unforeseen tasks or issues come up (like if you get sick and can’t work for a few days, etc.).

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

Website | Instagram


“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.

So my advice would be only work with people who you connect with and who you feel will appreciate your work.

Trust your intuition!

Work with clients whose work you’re interested in, because you’ll bring more passion to the project and you’ll make a better team.

You CAN be picky – set your boundaries and stick to them!”


– Steph Bisson, Colour & Love

Website | Instagram


“My best advice when dealing with clients is to recognize red flags early on in the inquiry process.

Red flags I’ve identified:

  • 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.

It’s never worth the money (to me) to work with a nightmare client – save yourself the pain and frustration and notice those red flags early!”


– Jen Davis, Hello June Creative

Website | Instagram


“A great way to set boundaries with clients is to write everything in a welcome package.

This helps set expectations, talk about how content needs to be delivered, set timelines, and general terms and conditions, such as payment and feedback information.

This allows your clients to read everything before starting a project, avoiding any type of confusion in the future.”


– Maru Ramirez, Studio Mer

Website | Instagram


“Great service and an amazing experience is memorable.

Remember that you are providing the client with an end to end experience [not just a website].”


– Cherise Vecchio, Joelle Studio

Website | Instagram


“I wish I knew client boundaries before I started.

I love my clients and it’s hard not to serve them 24/7 for me.

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.

In the end you’ll better serve them by pressing into yourself and your personal life.

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

Website | Instagram


“Don’t say yes to projects that don’t feel right, trust your instincts.”


– Jaime Lawson, by Jaime

Website | Instagram


“My biggest mistake when starting out was saying I would start immediately to every client who made an inquiry.

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.

When someone really wants to work with you and is also a business owner, they completely understand that there is a lead time to working with someone and it’s not off-putting at all.

If anything it shows them that you are an in-demand designer!”


– Kirsty Montgomery, Kirsty M Design

Website | Instagram


“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.

Think about things like office hours, project length and details of exactly what is included in the project.

Don’t be afraid to tell your clients about your boundaries either. 9/10 they’re not even going to bat an eyelid at them!”


– Eleanor Stones, Eleanor Stones

Website | Instagram


“I love loveeee using Trello to manage my client communication for projects.

Previously I was just getting feedback for website projects via email and things would just get lost in long threads and it was hard to keep track of.

Streamlining this process in Trello has been a game changer.”


– Jackie Elefante, Jaks Digital

Website | Instagram


“I wish I would have known to include more details about extending deadlines in my contracts when I started!

I had multiple projects take almost a full YEAR to complete because nothing in my contract or welcome packet really motivated the clients to move through the process at a reasonable speed.

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.

But now I’m able to charge more and therefore take on less projects at once.”


Mary Kiser, MK Design Studio

Website | Instagram


“Stay away from clients who have no idea what they want!”


– Michanae Edwards, Michanae’s Designs

Website | Instagram


“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.

Doing everything back and forth through email is just not ideal or professional enough to up level your business.

Using a system like Asana can not only make your business appear much more professional but allow for smoother easier projects.

I wish someone would’ve told me that if I give my clients my phone number during the initial intro call it must be stated in our contract that they CANNOT freely text or call under any circumstance.”


– Mackenzi Green, Kenzi Green Design

Website | Instagram


“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.

The reason I keep that list of red flag clients near me at all times is because it is SO EASY to say yes to money, but I have gone through one too many heartaches to have the money be worth it over the stress of a tough client.”


Rebekah Read, Rebekah Read Creative

Website | Instagram


“When I first started out, I wanted to be seen as the girl that was super accessible and would answer you on a dime.

Now, I realize the value of both my time and yours, and for that reason I only communicate through email/Slack/Zoom on M-F from 9am-5pm.

Not only will it help your customers respect you more, it will also give you peace of mind that it’s okay to have time for yourself.

Healthy working boundaries are a must in order to be successful!”


– Sarah Dobbs, Mckinly Media

Website | Instagram


“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.

About every other client was NOT my dream client and I was doing work I didn’t enjoy but I thought I had to do it to grow.

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 started being more specific with my targeting of clients by updating my language and design style to speak to them not the masses.

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

Website | Instagram


“Always have an agreement and a deposit before starting to work on a project.”


– Emma Hall, Retro Marketing

Website | Instagram


“Always sign the contract and list all expectation and deliverables, take a deposit, frame your deadlines/milestones [before getting started].

This will protect you and the customer, make a clear outline of expectations.”


– Anna Hamilton, AH Design

Website | Instagram



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Web designers speak out: What I wish I knew about working with clients