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How to turn design clients into raving fans who bring you more business

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Lately my business partner and I have been going to quite a few networking events – some that are more casual mixers, and others that are more formal. Through these events come opportunities to interact with good people.

In speaking with many of these people, I’ve noticed an underlying attitude that can be summed up in one sentence: “what can I get from this person?” or “how can this person benefit me?” If you hold this same kind of attitude, consciously or subconsciously, I’d like to offer you an alternative way of approaching and interacting with potential or current design clients.

Don’t ask “What can I get from this person?”

In business and networking situations, it’s easy to fall into this mindset – being solely outwardly focused on how the person you’re interacting with can benefit you. Can you work with them directly and get paid? Can they refer you to someone they know who could use your services?

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Now, there’s nothing wrong with thinking these thoughts. It’s ok (it’s actually great!) to want to succeed, work with more people, and grow your circle of business connections. But if you think about where this attitude is coming from, you may find that it stems from an instinctive place of survival and self preservation, a place that tells you that you need to put food on the table and pay your bills at the end of the month. It almost never comes from a place that wants to build a community of people who help each other, where success is an essential and unavoidable byproduct.

It may surprise you that switching to a giving attitude may bring you more success than you ever imagined.

Ask “What can I offer?”

The switch is pretty simple. Instead of asking yourself what you can get from a person, ask yourself what you can offer them. When your focus is on giving for the sake of giving, most people develop a strong sense of gratitude and want to give to you too. And they may give you a lot more than what they pay you for your services.

Firstly, you may gain a friend – who doesn’t love friends? But they may also refer you loads of new business, promote you, and become your biggest raving fans. You never know what little “miracles” pop up when you genuinely care and give from your heart. And they will pop…it’s kind of inevitable.

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5 Things you can offer your design clients

In the design profession, we can’t always (or pretty much ever) give tangible things or services away for free. After all, our work is our bread and butter, and we definitely need to get paid for what we do and for the worth and value that our work provides. This is why I’ve assembled a list of intangible things you can offer both future and present clients that may significantly improve your relationships, your income, and your mood.

A smile
Who doesn’t respond to a smile? Not only are smiles hard to resist, they’re also contagious. Smiling at people – not only smiling, but genuinely smiling – raises good vibrations all around and will be greatly appreciated by most. Not only that, by smiling you become a radiant source of light and happiness.

A Hug
You may be raising one eyebrow at this one and thinking: “you want me to go around and start hugging my clients?! Are you out of your mind?” Hugging may not be a pleasure you can afford with all of your clients, but the right ones will appreciate it more than you know. Hugging reminds everyone involved that, at the end of the day, we’re all just human beings who need to feel loved and appreciated.

Patience and Understanding
Clients can sometimes have unreasonable demands, ask questions that you’ve already answered several times, or inadvertently step on your toes in one way or another. Being able to see things from their perspective will not only save you countless headaches, frustration, and anger, but will also allow you to be understanding of what they’re going through and where they’re coming from, and genuinely show them that understanding. When someone feels like they’re truly heard and understood, they’re much more likely to give the same courtesy, and the relationship will most likely go much more smoothly and naturally.

If you think about it, people aren’t always honest about how they feel, especially in business relationships. They usually try to put on some sort of façade, and come off a certain way so that they give off a good impression. But what if we said how we actually felt? It’s so much easier to be open and honest and who you really are – it may be scarier – but it does end up being easier than holding everything in. Now, I’m not saying you should run to your client and tell them you can’t stand them (if that’s the case) – but if there are some tensions in the relationship, they’re better addressed (respectfully!) than left unturned. On the other hand, if you absolutely love working with someone, and it makes your day when you talk to them, tell them that too! Imagine how good it would feel if someone told you that!

Sometimes the best thing you can offer your client is the opportunity to work with another designer. Occasionally people just don’t see eye to eye on things, and if this is the case with one of your clients or prospects, it would be best for both of you if you point them toward other designers who may be a better fit.

When you genuinely care about your clients and their success, it naturally comes off in your words and actions. When you really care, it’s easy to make your clients feel special – like they’re not just another source of income, but unique human beings with their own dreams, desires, needs, and aspirations.

Join the discussion! Add a comment

What is your main focus when speaking to potential or current clients? Which attitude works better for you in getting new business and keeping current clients (and yourself) happy? Are there any other things you give your clients that they really appreciate? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About Lou Levit

Lou (Louisa) Levit is the co-founder of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: a web development partner for freelancers, agencies, and companies in HTML and Wordpress coding. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her lovely husband and biz partner, David Tendrich.

More about Lou’s business: Reliable PSD is what happened when a group of designers got fed up with the available web development and design to code solutions out there…and created their own. Check them out, and see why Hundreds of agencies & freelancers love having Reliable as their partner for HTML & Wordpress coding.

Leave a Comment



  1. Lou, this is an awesome post. I love how your posts remind me about the “finer” sides to having a business. And I think when you put tips like yours into action, it becomes way funner having a business too. Cause you love your clients, and they love you. And at the end of the day you feel like you’ve been working for friends and talking with them all day.

    Thanks for this reminder 🙂 It’s much easier, and safer, to keep clients at a distance. But I want to be more like this post. It’s just so much more fulfilling.

    But what do you do when you ARE frustrated at a client? Like in that moment where you’re swearing under your breath – what do you do then?


    • @David Tendrich, Hey David, thanks. I think things are funner in general (in life too) when there’s love going around.

      When I’m frustrated at a client I vent and let myself feel it…it’s ok to be angry at things and let yourself feel them. But after acknowledging my own feelings I try to see it from their point of view and come up with a plan to resolve the situation in the most effective way possible.

  2. I like your article. Great points, however about the hug part, I am not sure if I want to do that with my clients. I like to keep a business relationship. I am aware of my clients health, family life and so forth, but I tend not to get too involved or deeply concerned. To be honest I am too busy with my own agenda. I too have my own issues, that is where a close friend comes handy and not a client.

    • @Behzad,

      Hey Behzad, I totally see where you’re coming from.

      I could be wrong… But I think what Lou is getting at is it’s good to have a business relationship… But when you cross that line and reach out to your clients as a fellow human being – it can really deepen and improve the business relationship.

      We’re all super busy, and we all have our own issues – which is why I think this is so powerful. It lets your clients know that it’s not just their business you value – but you appreciate them too.

      Anyway, to each his own, and if that’s not something you’re comfortable with I totally understand.

      Would love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

      Best of luck 🙂

      • @David Tendrich, I agree with you to an extend. However I try my best to keep my clients happy by offering prompt service, no charge on minor changes etc.. Although they vary from case to case. I have had clients that tend to involve me with their personal agenda in the past and that cuts into my time. Remember time is money and your running a business. Sorry for being so cold LOL

        • @Behzad, I see where you’re coming from. I used to think time is money when running our business, and it is, but now I only believe it’s true to an extent. When you really enjoy what you do and the people you work with, it becomes more than just business (at least I know that’s true for David and I), it becomes more just an enjoyable part of life. I know it’s easy for us to do that with our clients because we just genuinely like who they are.

          Also, by reaching out to our clients on a personal level too, they’ve become raving fans who have done everything in their power to send us referrals and have written us incredible testimonials that have led to tons of business we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. So while it may take a little more time – it always leads to more money for us. That’s not why we do it, but it’s a nice byproduct.

          I know this isn’t right for everyone, and if what you’re doing is working great for you and you’re happy, then I’m happy for you!


        • @Lou, I think it come with the personality too, I am very social and warm when I speak to my clients, I just know when to stop and not get too involved. I do not want personal matters bring down the positive vibes that is needed for me and my clients to work together. Your comments are great as well.

  3. Great article…though, I don’t think I’m going to hug any of my clients. 🙂

  4. This is a very good article and a great reminder of how to treat people (not just clients or potential clients).

    You’re right, a smile can go a long way. It’s nice to know that not everything is 100% serious business, a smile is a good reminder that you’re human and you love what you do!

    Thank you for sharing.

    • @Jen, Hey Jen, thank you for your comments! I agree that it’s a great way to treat people in general – and smiles feel good both to get and to give – so it’s a win win!

  5. Wow, I have done this with my client.
    And I usually give them some extras for their kindness. Like one of my web dev. clients, every time he gives me a big referral I lower his maintenance fee for that month. He feels part of the business, and I when possible try to get together complementary business like suppliers and buyers of certain products when they both are my clients.
    These attitudes turns me into a hub where they want to be connected for these and other reasons, and I got a network that works for me, and that means a huge saving on marketing money and time.

    • @Felipe Martyn, That’s great that you’re connecting all these people and feeling the benefits of that in your business as well. It definitely makes clients feel appreciated and special when you reward them in some way when they bring you a referral – it’s a great practice.

      How did you get started in connecting your different clients?

      • @Lou Levit, the best way I found is to host a lunch or a evening gathering, so I would contact several of my clients and say them that I was gathering with co-workers and other peeps, from design and a wide range of activities and that their presence is extremely important because I will have the chance to introduce them to several people which they may be able to do biz with.

        Then, I would see who rsvp to it and I would place them strategically on the table, and make introductions, I learned to do that when I was the planner and producer of workshops for my last college.

        A great way too, is to schedule the meetings on the right way, like I would get one guy leaving and the other coming, in a way that they would “accidentally” meet. The best thing is to make it smooth and natural, like you weren’t thinking of it.

        Plus I created a “affiliate program,” the more biz they refer me, the more they win, and that would include a few kind gifts like tickets for concerts and theaters, or sometimes I would invite them to dinner and pay for the occasion.

        However, you have to be really sharp on these things, because some people will not give it back, so they should not receive from you either. Test them, if they get a good negotiation through you and they dont even bother to say a thanks, that one is a trouble and he will drain your effort for a network that works for you.

        And be memorable, with postcards and other forms of following the contact after the project is done.

        Hey, talking about it reminded me that I need to start it again in my new city.

        Thx for your time and comment, and I hope I’ve helped, you can follow me on twitter @designermartyn

        • @Felipe Martyn, Wow, brilliant dude. Thanks for sharing.

        • @Felipe Martyn, Yes, thank you for sharing! It’s a great system you got in place, and I think many people can apply elements of it, if not all of it, to their business. Really great ideas, and it’s awesome that you’re bringing people together in that way too.


  6. Hi Lou, many thanks for the great article.
    I can tell you hugs work for me, I am not a small guy and some have said it is like hugging a bear, and I guess gives them something to talk about. I have also had the privilege of some of my clients becoming good friends and referring work on, so it does work!

    Look forward to more articles in the future,

    all the best from the UK

    • @mark hawkins, Hey Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a nice response. Being able to hug your clients, and have them become more like friends to you definitely feels great…that way you’re enjoying what you’re doing, and the people you’re doing it for.


  7. I can’t picture myself hugging my clients just yet, but your post is a good reminder on how dismissing the “What’s in it for me” mentality can actually be quite rewarding. Thanks for the read.


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