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Keep design clients happy by managing expectations

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Keeping clients happy is one of the most difficult aspects of running your own design business. After all, if your clients aren’t happy, it’s likely you’re not happy either.

And if you’re not happy as a designer, why not just become an accountant? (Sorry, all you finance fans out there.) So what’s the secret to keeping your design clients happy?

Managing expectations.

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How to manage your clients expectations

Below, you’ll find a few tried and tested solutions for managing expectations as a designer.

Don’t make puffed-up promises
It’s one thing to promise your client (or agree in a contract) that you will finish a project by a certain date.

It’s a whole different story, however, if you promise your client that they will have more business due to your work.

It can be easy to slip sometimes when your client says something like “So, do you think this new web design will bring me more online leads?”.

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Of course you’re tempted to say “Yes”.

But don’t.

Although you thought you were just giving your positive opinion and being enthusiastic about the project, what your client heard was “I guarantee this will boost your online leads”.

Avoid puffed-up promises–especially the unintentional ones.

Under promise, over deliver
Manage your clients’ expectations by under-promising and over-delivering.

One idea is to give them completion dates that are a week or two after you think you can actually finish the project. That way, if you finish early, they love you, and if you need more time to finish, you’re still on-schedule.

Always count on things to take longer than you think they will.

That way, when roadblocks or hiccups come up, you’ll be prepared, your client will never know it took you longer than expected, and you’ll both be happy at the end of the day.

Avoid ultimatums
Lastly, try to avoid ultimatums. Try not to say things like “I never miss a deadline”, “Business always goes up for my clients”, or “I always finish projects earlier than planned.”

Hopefully you can see the danger in these sorts of phrases. If you guarantee your client that something will get done and then, for some reason, it doesn’t, both you and your client are going to be in a bad mood.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

Leave a Comment



  1. Fantastic post…client management can make or break a person’s impression of a company. Manage your clients well, and the referrals will most likely keep coming in.

  2. Yup, it’s ALL about expectations. Most disagreements can be handled ahead of time.


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