26 details designers should know about clients before starting a project together

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Starting your first project with a new design client can be very exciting.

It can also be a little nerve-wracking.

After all, you always hear the horror stories about clients who are terrible to deal with…what if your new client turns out to be more of a nuisance than a benefit to your bottom line? What if they’re too demanding, don’t understand your vocabulary, won’t take your advice, or don’t pay you on time?

It’s a lot to worry about.

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Today, we’ll explore 25 details you should know about your design client before starting a project together. As you explore these various details, you’ll be more prepared to make a decision on whether or not you should really enter into a contract with any potential client. There are always more details that are important to know. Take a second and share your additions to this list by leaving a comment.

Their business

Before committing to work with a client, explore the intricacies of their business. Try to determine if they are successful (because if they aren’t making money, they’ll have a hard time paying you), how they function and what makes them tick. Here are a few details you may want to explore further:

  • Who are their customers?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What services or products do they provide?
  • What is their mission?
  • What branding, messaging, or other assets are already in place?
  • What goals do they have in hiring you?

Their needs (in detail)

Sometimes clients can be vague when soliciting design work. Unfortunately, I have been caught in the situation where I misunderstood what my client anticipated out of our relationship. A good way to solve these sorts of misunderstandings is by drafting a solid contract. In addition, you may want to investigate these important details:

  • Are they looking for a specialist or a jack-of-all-trades?
  • Do they need a designer with a different skill-set than yours?
  • Is their project small or large?
  • How many hours to they need you to dedicate to the project over the next few months?
  • What exactly to they need from you as a designer? Advice? Direction? or just some pretty designs?
  • Do they need a complete overhaul or just some slight adjustments?

Their expectations

  • Are they looking for a long-term arrangement or a short-term one?
  • Are they willing to pay for advice, opinions, and expertise?
  • What is the general scope of this project?
  • What do they expect to have in their hands (deliverables) by the time this project is completed?
  • What is the general timeline?
  • How much do they expect to pay for your design services?
  • How many revisions do they expect?
  • How quickly do they expect you to return calls or emails?
  • How will they prefer to communicate with you? Does that match your preference?

Their personality

No matter how professional you are, sometimes personalities can clash. If you find this happening to you a lot, you may want to take some time to investigate a potential client’s personality. Make sure you can get along with the person. You have to enjoy working together or your projects are going to be a headache. Here’s a few questions to consider:

  • Do they speak to you with respect and dignity?
  • Do they appreciate your input and value your opinion?
  • Could you see yourself talking on the phone, meeting in the office, or skyping frequently with this person?
  • Do they seem to be open and honest about their needs, expectations, etc.
  • Thus far, have they been able to clearly articulate their needs and opinion?

Keep the conversation going...

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  1. Getting to know one’s client is crucial to managing them in future and being familiar with their business ensures you’re on the right path when designing for them.

  2. I found this information to be very helpful. I will be sure to ask myself (and my clients) some of these questions.



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