How to Be a Good Client

Nick Green

When embarking on a new project, often the emphasis is put on what we as an agency will provide for you as a business. This makes sense, of course, as many people view our work as a transaction: you pay money for a product which we produce for you. In reality, however, most projects are best viewed as a partnership, and the outcome will depend on the success of our relationship.

I’ve seen projects exceed expectations, take fewer hours, and result in portfolio-bolstering quality because the client knew what they wanted and gave us the motivation and space to do what we do best. I’ve also seen projects fail because the client was unprepared, had expectations that didn’t match ours, or was simply under informed on how to best approach a creative agency.

I’m going to present some general guidelines that will apply across the board, whether you are working with us for branding, identity, video, design, marketing, or web work, and should really just be a jumping-off point for how to approach an agency.

Get Organized and be Clear

The absolute best way to walk into a relationship is to know what you want.

If you are looking for an identity or brand refresh, gather all of your current brand materials and be ready to explain your goals with the refresh. Having your materials and goals organized will increase the focused time we can spend on achieving those goals.

If you are looking for a new website, be prepared to point out a few examples of websites you like and be able to explain why. Create a list of features and functions that you would like the website to include, and start gathering and organizing the text and photos for the site itself.

Of course, if you don’t yet know what your options or goals are, we can still help, but that should be our first item on the agenda.

Be a Part of the Process

Your role in any project is to communicate clearly with us what your overall goals are and provide timely feedback and communication during the project. We value your perspective, and by checking in with you at certain points during the process we can assure that we aren’t headed off in entirely the wrong direction.

For example, a web project will often consist of several stages, each of which will be approved before moving on to the next stage. Once a stage is approved, moving back to a previous stage can often result in hour overruns and can sometimes result in out-of-scope charges. A typical web project might consist of these stages:

  • Determine project scope and deliverables
  • Organization and material gathering
  • Sitemap and features approval
  • Static designs (up to 2 rounds of client revisions)
  • Demo site (up to 2 rounds of client revisions)
  • Client training and site deployment (go live)

In order to build the sitemap we need to have all the materials ready to go. To work on the designs we need to have the sitemap. You can see how important it is for us to get feedback and approval from you before we can move on to the next phase.

Give the Good Kind of Feedback

We need feedback from you, but the best projects consistently result from clients who value the instinct and experience that we bring to the table. It is often very tricky for many clients to walk the line between active, helpful involvement and micromanaging a project to death. The best way to think about it is that you want to clearly communicate what your goals are, not how they should be achieved.

If you don’t feel like those goals are being met, and sometimes that happens, try to give feedback with these types of things in mind:

  • Focus on function rather than form. For example, good feedback might be “We want to impart a sense of trustworthiness and consistency, since we want to appeal to older customers,” rather than “We want that to be a darker brown.”
  • Resist the urge to tweak for the sake of tweaking. This comes back to trusting the overall integrity of the design. If you feel that a particular design or feature is not accomplishing what you want to accomplish, make sure you tell us that. However, if you are making specific design suggestions just to feel like you are helping the team, don’t.
  • Combine your feedback into rounds. Open up Word or your text editor of choice and start compiling your list of requested changes. When one of our developers or designers sits down to work on your project, being able to focus on a single long list of changes will result in a superior end result. Having to compile hundreds of emails on our end will result in missed requests and sometimes rounds of changes that end up in out-of-scope charges.

Trust and Respect Each Other

You have hired professionals to help you accomplish your goals. It can’t be overstated that starting off with a trusting relationship helps make the rest of the pieces come together. By paying good money for a team of professionals, you are inherently trusting us to provide talent, ideas and execution of those ideas.

Every successful project starts with clear communication. That success is carried by the trust and respect that we have for your goals and you have for our skills. Each project is completed through teamwork, and being a good client is a huge part of that teamwork. We look forward to working with you.

And Now, This…

Sorry about all those lofty words. Enjoy this oddly satisfying gif:

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