Running a design business means you have to be the boss of the client process unless you have a project manager.
I’m guessing you aren’t at that stage if you’ve landed here, no worries let’s chat!
First, let’s start with some signs that your design process might not be going as smooth as you like.
Symptoms of a Missing or Unclear Design Process
There are some symptoms that you may be experiencing or have experienced that are tell, tell signs your design process could use some work:
- After you agree to work together your clients still have a lot of questions.
- Your email inbox is out of control with emails from clients.
- The deadline for content has come and gone and you have no idea when you’ll receive it.
- You aren’t getting paid on time and bills are getting close to being due or have passed.
Are just some of the symptoms of an undefined client process that is not being executed.
Besides the stress of not getting paid and then having projects run into each other. Your clients may feel like their experience is not so great.
Don’t fret there are some methods and techniques you can create in your business to help you sleep better and love your business more.
Set Clear Expectations From The Start
You have to be 100% clear on what you are offering and how it is being offered to your clients. That way you can solidify your expectations such as:
- How clients can ask questions
- How clients are to submit content
- How can give you useful feedback
Now you may be thinking how do I set expectations? Set them from the very beginning, for example, designers, you usually need content before the design phase.
Let clients know on your services page what they’ll need in order to work with you. If your client doesn’t have the necessary content, then book them out a month or more in advance. This will allow them enough time to gather the necessary content. Yes, secure a deposit if you go this route.
Another way you can communicate your expectations early is through Intro Packets and Welcome Packets.
Related post: Benefits of Having A Welcome Packet
An Intro Packet is a PDF you can send clients who submit an inquiry through your contact form. It can contain information such as your design process, content requirements, payment requirements etc.
This will prepare your potential client to work with you and during your discovery call, you can reinforce your expectations by simply asking: “Did you have any questions regarding having content ready? Payment schedules, etc.”
Further validating if they read it or not and plus you’re setting the expectations that this is how your process works.
You’ve Clearly Explained Your Process and Content Is Late, Now What?
Let’s back up a bit, make sure you have a clause in your contract regarding late content. For example, if X content is not received by the design date there will be a late fee of X.
You can also have some sort of wording in your contract that explains what happens if the content is late past X days. A consequence could be canceling the project and charging a fee to reschedule based on your availability.
Once you have rules in place then the next thing to do is to enforce them if they come up. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but think about how uncomfortable you feel not being able to pay your bills.
You have a business and it’s up to you to make sure it operates for your clients.
Maybe Content Isn’t A Problem, Your Client Is Constantly Changing Their Mind
Sometimes when clients have too many options or they decide to invite their whole community to critique designs you’ve crafted. They can drift off, this is where you’re going to need to step up and redirect the focus.
In order to redirect the focus make sure you have a clear understanding of the goals. They are going to be important when helping your client get back into alignment with the results they want to achieve.
When you notice the squirrel syndrome happening, it’s time to pull out those goals and have a chat.
Remind your client of their goals and then simply ask: “Based on the goals we agreed upon, is going in the direction going to meet those goals?” Then pause.
Let them think it out a bit, most of the time they will realize that it’s not in alignment and they can move on.
One way to combat the feedback loop is to set clear guidelines on how to provide feedback, they could include:
- Not sharing designs with non-target audiences early.
- Tips on providing useful feedback beyond I don’t like that color.
- Asking your clients to submit feedback in a numbered list.
- Providing a feedback template to help your clients give you the best feedback.
When you set clear guidelines for feedback it also helps your client make decisions faster. Just remember to put a timeframe on when you expect to receive the feedback, back.
Remember, your clients expect you to be the leader in helping them reach their goals. They are paying you for a reason because they can not do it on their own. It’s okay to push back and set clear boundaries, it will make not only their experience much richer but your sanity will remain intact.