Last summer I wrote an article titled ‘Is your designer ripping you off? Look for these 5 telltale signs…’, which was born out of a negative experience I’d recently had with a web agency. To give a bit of balance, I’m going to approach this article from the side of all Web Designers & Graphic Designers out there.
It’s simple, the biggest challenge we all face as designers is price. As design professionals who are selling a service, we are basing all of our quotes on time estimates. More often than not however, our client has no spec, and only a rough idea of what they want which often either evolves or is revealed over the course of a project. Whether you’re a freelancer or run your own design organisation, I know from experience that this is a challenge we all face on a regular basis.
1. Making Assumptions
It’s so easy to assume that because a client hasn’t mentioned something in the initial discussion, it isn’t on the agenda. We’ve all been there before – you’ve scoped out a project and began work, then it comes to round one of client feedback and they throw a huge spanner in the works that puts the deadline date in jeopardy really early on.
It’s crucial to ask the right questions right from the very start to ensure that firstly, you’re going to be giving the client exactly what they want, secondly, you’re pricing the project correctly, and thirdly, to cover yourself when those aforementioned spanners are thrown so that your resource isn’t stretched beyond what you’ve quoted for.
2. Giving the Easy Answer
A large proportion of the time during the sales process is spent talking to decision makers who tend to be strong characters that have much more experience than you in situations that require negotiation. It’s very easy to feel intimidated if this is not familiar surroundings, and subsequently agree to things that you shouldn’t really be agreeing to. Whether that be to lower the price of the project, or maybe do an additional piece of work for no extra charge, etc.
Remember, a client won’t mind you taking things away from a meeting and providing an answer later. If you feel like you cannot make a decision right there and then, voice it. There’s no shame in deliberation and it’s crucial that anything thrown at you in these scenarios is fully considered and thought through. Instinctively saying yes to keep the meeting going in the right direction is a big mistake that could come back to bite.
3. Undervaluing Yourself
I remember sitting in meetings with prospects back in the day, and being almost apologetic for the fact that I was charging for my service. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that what we do as designers requires time, patience and above all, talent. All of these come at a price and the right clients know this, so don’t be afraid to be honest when it comes down to laying out your proposed costs.
You’ll always get the odd prospect who thinks you are too expensive and claim they can get someone else to do it for “x” amount cheaper, but remember, there’ll be a reason why that someone else is “x” amount cheaper, and that’s usually at the expense of the quality of the product and/or the service provided. Stick to your guns and charge what you know you’re worth, not what somebody else thinks you’re worth who doesn’t know a pixel from a pickle.
4. Being Too Accommodating
I’ve been very guilty of this in the past, particularly in my freelance days, but this is a habit that can seriously harm a business over time. Firstly, I’m a huge advocate of going the extra mile for my clients, but there is always a limit and sometimes clients can take your good nature for granted, either consciously or subconsciously. We’ve all heard the question “Can you just make one more small change please?” and then dread what’s next.
Most clients I’ve worked with, whether it’s large, blue chip organisations or small, one-man start-ups, don’t know how large, small, easy or difficult their requests are to implement, particularly when it comes to web design. What might seem small and trivial to them, may be 2-3 hours of work to you.
It’s entirely up to the individual in question how accommodating you are, but my advice would be that, should the client request something post sign-off that takes a considerable amount of additional time, you notify them of how long this will take/has taken, and that any further amends will incur an additional cost. By this point, the client will have had multiple opportunities to review your work, and therefore more than enough opportunities to flag changes. Unfortunately, at times you have to just draw that line on a project yourself otherwise it’ll never end.
5. Not Documenting EVERYTHING
Your initial project documentation should be as detailed as possible, but we all know that things can evolve as mentioned earlier. And as a many discussions surrounding a project will be made either face-to-face or over the phone, this can cause problems later down the line as there is no future reference point.
I’m sure some of you can relate to being in a position where a conversation has taken place between yourself and the client, in which an important decision was made about a project, yet the client has no recollection of making that decision and now wants to reverse it. This adds time, resource and ultimately cost onto the project that you have to bear the brunt of.
Whether it’s down to selective memory or early stages of dementia, it’s 100% avoidable. I’m assuming the majority of you make short hand notes during meetings and calls (if not, you should). These short hand notes can be used to create an email summary of your call, the points covered and the actions coming out of it for each party. If a re-spec and re-quote is required because of a change request, this should also be highlighted. This gives the client ample opportunity to respond adding or amending certain pieces of information. Both parties then have a written reference of this conversation so there is no room for ambiguity and no need for you to take an unnecessary hit on the project.
Over the years, I’ve made these types of mistakes and learned the hard way. I think it’s important for all designers out there to realise that the work you do adds a lot of value to businesses, and that you should be rewarded appropriately for applying your talent. Trust me, not everybody can do what we do, and that’s why there always has been and always will be opportunities out there for us all. Keep being creative.
January 23, 2016, Jonny Miller, Founder & Director