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How to Wow Design Clients in Three Steps

by Margaret Penney | January 16, 2017

Most freelance designers would agree that clients can be hard to come by. Marketing, business listings, online recruitment, and plain old word of mouth can each play a role in securing a new design client eager for your services.

Since it takes a lot of effort to get new design clients, it’s equally important to impress them and keep them happy in the long run. Here are some strategies for wowing design clients that work.

1. Listen Well, Listen Clearly

Design clients appreciate being listened to and truly heard. If you’re working with a new client, make sure that you do a proper client intake and really listen to their goals and aspirations for the project.

Some designers tend to think their role with the client is to be only “the expert,” and they go into a meeting with all kinds of ideas and advice before actually listening to a client. Designers can most definitely be experts in their field, but part of being an expert is to understand the art of listening.

It’s important to recognize the client has been working with their brand longer than the designer and has a lot of information to communicate about their product and experience so far with their business.

You can also send a client an intake form with questions about the project, this is particularly useful if you are communicating primarily by email.

Once a designer has completely listened and learned about the project then it is time to take on a more advisory and facilitative role.

The Fishbone logo design project by George Probonas captures the visual message of this brand in a clean and clear mark.

2. Manage Expectations

The first step in managing client expectations is to come up with exactly what you’ll provide the client and a schedule for presenting the design.

Designers may want to overcommit right away and announce they can have something ready immediately, especially if they are keen on working on the project. Designers also may offer clients the kitchen sink too, knowing it’s probably an impossibility to provide.

Take a moment and think realistically about the time frame and parameters for the project. Come up with something reasonable and possible. Send it to the client for discussion and approval.

Once you have the timeframe and design goods squared away now is your opportunity to wow the client and exceed their expectations. Send the design for review early, offer more than the required number of designs, or just come up with some truly stellar work.

Laia Avinoa Bacao packaging project is biodegradable and allows for both fast food and drink to be carried together.

3. Amplify their Wishes

If you’ve listened to your client, you now know what they want. You know about the general design style they like, what their business goals are, and what people they are trying to speak to—their customers and audience.

Designers have the opportunity to take all that information and amplify it into a unique design product. A good designer knows how to interpret the wishes of a client and present them back to them better than what they originally imagined, but also totally in line with what they want.

Designers do this by using their own knowledge and research as a resource.

  • They draw on design history and current design trends to create something new that’s the right fit for the marketplace.
  • They use color theory and typography to create designs that are pleasing to the eye and appear professionally-made and premium.
  • They come up with visual concepts and approaches that translate important branding messages and create a valuable conversation with the client audience.
  • And finally, they solve problems:
    • They make a product more saleable by changing the form of the packaging so more of them can be stacked on a shelf.
    • They advise their restaurant client to place the phone number in a bright color on their homepage.
    • They come up with ways to create a brochure that looks better than the one the client has but can be produced for a fraction of the cost on smaller card stock.

If designers listen to their clients, manage expectations, and amplify their wishes they are likely to impress them. It’s not always easy to do, to follow these steps perfectly, but it can be reassuring to know that it’s also not as complex a process as many new designers may think.



Margaret Penney is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Margaret is a teacher, designer, writer and new media artist and founder of Hello Creative Co.


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