Are Your Communication Skills Scaring Away Your Design Clients?

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In this age of instant messaging and texting, usage of proper English (or whatever language you’re communicating in) has become a rarity.

It’s not uncommon to receive a text from your spouse that might say “k gtg ill b l8 2nite” or send an email to your friends that ends with “Later yo!”

However, if you rely on slang terms and a cryptic mishmash of letters and numbers in your professional communications, you might be scaring your clients away!

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Turning potential clients into paying clients

Before prospective clients become paying clients, you generally must convince them that you’ve got the perfect blend of skills and experience to complete their project within a specified budget and in a timely fashion.

Oh, and it’s got to wow them, too. Most often you’ve also got to show them why you, and not your competitors, deserve the job. What may separate you (or your competition) from the herd may very well be your communication skills.

Why, you ask?

Professional communication establishes your credibility as a serious designer, not some flake in a bathrobe in your mom’s basement. Clients want to know they can trust you because often they’ve got to justify you not only to their boss(es), but also in their checkbooks.

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Stand out through professional communication

So, how do you win them over through professional communication?

In emails, design briefs, quotes, etc:

  • Use proper sentence case.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • Proofread your work.
  • Understand the difference between:
    Then and than
    Affect and effect
    Insure and ensure

On phone calls, over Skype (and the like), and in meetings and interviews:

  • Practice your pitch.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Avoid using “fillers” such as er, um, ah, etc.

Professional communication doesn’t mean you have to be stodgy or stuffy, though. Be positive, friendly, quirky, enthusiastic, or frank – but be yourself, and put your best foot forward.

Express yourself with confidence and in a manner that reflects how you intend to communicate throughout the rest of your (hopefully long and successful!) designer-client relationship. And always, always, show gratitude for their time and consideration.

Use these tips in your client correspondences to communicate that you’re serious about your work and you’re serious about their project. If all goes well, they won’t be embarrassed to refer you to their business partners, friends, and associates.

How do you communicate with your clients?

Have you ever won/lost clients due to your communication skills or lack thereof? Share your stories, tips, and thoughts in the comments on this post.

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  1. Great article, what a good reminder to never be *too* casual when working professionally with people. My favorite is spelling errors, especially on online forums. I cringe when I see someone on LinkedIn write a post with a headline that goes, “i’m am looking 4 a good job, plz contact me thanku.” 😉

    On the other hand, I believe that the nature of the relationship with the client should dictate how you communicate. Obviously, at the beginning, it’s better to er on the side of being too professional than not. But when it comes to clients you’ve known for a while, and have become more comfortable with, I think it’s acceptable to be a little more informal with them 🙂

    1. Sheila,

      I agree – start out with your best foot forward, and once you get to know the client you can relax a bit. Not to say you should EVER make careless spelling errors, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use less formal language and send a message from your phone that includes “Thx” instead of “Thanks.”

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Nothing is worse off than a first hand bad impression. This is the thing that divides a designer who goes into business successfully and those who end up working grouchily behind the table of some employers. Those who end up with successful business understand the value of possessing EQ. A good balance will result in great people’s skills which is needed in any business. So don’t go scaring away clients.

    1. @Morgan & Me Creative,

      Agreed – your first impression is one of the most important factors in your business’ success or decline. With a good first impression, clients continue looking for justifications to hire you. With a poor first impression, they look for justifications NOT to.

      Make sure your first impression is a positive one!

    1. @Mike,

      Thanks for the kudos! I’ve found such a wealth of information here at Millo, too, that it has become one of my most visited websites.



    > poor spelling due to writing fast
    > slower communications – I respond slower but I respond
    (this might be good in todays over-info-loaded world)


    > keeping things moving
    > adding a smile here and there

    Kenn Schroder
    Blog + free stuff on how to get web design clients.

    1. @Kenn,

      You are better off than many understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing is half of the battle!

      Thanks for posting!

  4. It’s really easy to lose your sense of self when trying to pitch something to a client. You don’t have to be uptight and this quintessential “professional” while speaking to a client. Just be yourself without sounding like a complete idiot.

    Hopefully, you’ll be working with this person for a long time so you want to be yourself when you first meet. It’ll start to get a little difficult when you have to keep up the charades to keep the client.

    1. @Connor Gaughan,

      So true – to some extent you tailor your pitch to the needs and the style of the client, but it’s a good mental exercise to determine how far you’ll go to earn them. Always ask yourself if the charade is worth the income/reputation/headache, and learn to know when it just isn’t a good match.

      Excellent advice, Connor!

  5. I’m so glad I found this site. This is a great blog for the aspiring template/graphic designer. Oh and I really like this article to, great tips.

    1. @Lisa,

      I’m glad you are enjoying the website and the article! It’s been a staple of mine for quite some time now.

      One little thing: You write “Oh and I really like this article to, great tips.” You should use “too” instead of “to” in this instance. “To” is a preposition while “too” means “also.”

      It’s simple little things like these that can scare your clients away! Proofread, proofread, proofread, and if you know you struggle, find a guru to proofread for you!

      Best of luck!


  6. I totally agree! It is super important to communicate professionally, which is seeming to be more and more or a rarity. So, staying sharp on your grammer/communication skills will help us stand out!

    1. @Tiffany,

      Thanks for posting!

      It is “super important” to communicate professionally, but I hope you aren’t using that phrase to do so! Also, you made two typos! You should say “…more and more OF a rarity,” and “grammAr/communication.”

      As I mention below, it’s simple little things like these that can scare your clients away! Proofread, proofread, proofread. If you know you struggle, find a guru to proofread for you.

      Good luck!


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