5 Tips for Managing Client Expectations for Graphic Design

by Sara Duane | February 11, 2016

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Whether you’re a freelance designer or working with a larger organization, part of your job is to manage expectations of what can be delivered and when it can be completed. Creating websites or other design work for clients can be very demanding and time-consuming. If you can manage clients and their expectations, you can complete your jobs more quickly and with fewer hiccups, as well as potentially take on more projects with the extra time you may free up.

There are a number of techniques that can be used to help manage clients and their expectations. Take a look at the five tips below to help your projects go more smoothly.

1. Assess your client and their expectations. There are as many different clients out there as there are graphic designers. Some are easy going, others are extremely difficult to work with. One of the best ways is to get to know them. It is crucial that you ask questions that will help you get to the heart of what they want, why they want it, and when. If they have unreasonable expectations, you may want to pass on the project.

2. Communicate clearly, from beginning to end. Be as unambiguous as you can about what you will be delivering. Break the job down into stages, outline how many concepts will be created, and how many rounds of revisions they can expect for your proposed price. Keep your client up to date on progress, and check in with them often to make sure you’re not heading down the wrong path.

3. Be realistic and honest, almost to a fault. The worst thing you can do with a prime prospect is to give them unrealistic expectations of yourself. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s one thing to promise you’ll deliver by a certain date, it’s something else to promise that their shiny new website will double their leads. Additionally, if there has been a misunderstanding along the way, don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong. Even if you made a mistake, owning up to it will mean a lot to your client.

4. Under promise, over deliver. Imagine that you have placed an order for coffee with milk and sugar, but when it’s delivered, it’s a coffeehouse latte with the perfect amount of sweetness. If you under promise and over deliver, you can set your customers’ expectations – then exceed them. You may not be able to add chocolate to your client’s website, but you can set your expected finish date at a later time, then finish the project early. This might be a good idea anyway, as things often take longer than you think they will.

5. Plan, plan, plan. Plan the project well. Know how much you need to charge and how long it will likely take you to complete it. Set stages for yourself so you’ll have certain things complete by specific times, which will lead to you knowing a realistic endtime. You don’t necessarily have to share all of your plans with your client, but do be sure to clue them in so that they can review and edit requests. Also, try to listen carefully to what they say and want and include it in your plan – having to go back and correct or change something costs you time from finishing this and other projects.

If you’re a freelancer, the best place to start managing client expectations is with the projects and clients you take on. During the vetting process, you can often get an idea for who will be difficult clients or who will likely be easy-going. If you’re aware of the potential pitfalls, you can weed out the troublemakers in the beginning or, if the project sounds like something you really want to work on, you can steel yourself for a potentially bumpy ride. Sometimes, though, difficult clients can push you to greater heights, so the turbulence could be well worth the effort.

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