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Good Relations Take Work

“Good design is Good business” – Thomas Watson Jr., this is the reality. When you water well, you grow good plants. Navigating the business of design is as important as the craft of it. The world believes that being creative is a miracle that results in good work and it’s easy to become a designer. We as designers, throw stones on these people’s beliefs. We are the sole ones who understand what it takes to be a designer. Just making designs doesn’t mean that we can become a good designer. To provide desirable work we require honest feedback and focus on reworking on them with dedication. After having a valuable portfolio, we would need clients for buying our work, they aren’t easily found within the market. You need to understand how to get clients, how to build a good relationship with them, how much to charge for your work, and keeping all the process legal which would keep you out of trouble.

Here are some tips and tricks that will be of some help in your profession.

Good design is not found just by seeing the cover page of the book, you need to see how it would be useful to the client. Clients are a crucial part of your business, but they are the hardest to find. You need to find the clients that are most suitable for your business. To get clients, you need to be a flower to the bee, which would give them the best nectar. Clients also need to know what he or she needs for his or her project.People think once you have a good portfolio, you are all set. Clients will come running towards you, but it’s not the case. But yes, portfolios are a must. They show your ability in different fields and at what aspect you are the strongest. But the first thing a client would look for are REFERRALS. 

Referrals play a major role as people get them from a person they trust. Every relationship is built on trust and understanding. If we had a good experience with a former client, that client would refer us to a new client. It’s human nature; someone would work with you if you are recommended by another person. No one will like to work with total strangers, he or she won’t be willing to invest in something where there’s no guarantee. That being said, referrals play an important role; before referrals, we should have some number of clients. For making our portfolio strong, we need clients.

Keeping one’s processes ready before the client approaches is very important. Keeping them simple and to the point, raises the chance of our clients recommending us to their friends and peers. If the client loves working with us, then they would be quick in referring us to others. If a client approaching us has a process in her/his mind, let her/him recommend it. We are the ones who would know the process which would be appropriate for our project. Most of the clients come with a less professional process because they are unaware. If they are nice enough they would agree to our process but if they don’t, leave that client right away. As designers, we are in a professional world and we must carry on professionalism. Remember that, we are getting paid for our professionalism and not for compromises. While dealing with a client, it’s important to let them know what they need to provide us. The details would help us design the best possible solution to their problem. Do they already have a customer base to analyse? Will they need to provide us with copywriting? Do they need to provide us with branding guidelines (photos, fonts, logos, colours, etc.) for us to keep in mind while we are designing their website or application? They are also going to be involved further in the design process, so make sure that they are aware of their responsibilities.

While discussing with our clients, it’s necessary to ask as many questions as we can. It would help us to know their proposal well and designing a product which they intend. There will be a loose end in the design process if we don’t dig out what the client needs. This is the most important part as we would start the project thereafter. If we skip over, we wouldn’t be able to deliver the product which the client had dreamt of.

Many times, some clients start their proposals with a budget. It’s good to start the project with a budget in mind, but the client needs to be flexible over and around the budget. The clients that would have worked with a designer formerly, they would know what it costs for a good design. They wouldn’t hesitate to invest their time and money in our design. We need to retain them for our future business. On the other side of the river, there are clients who are new to the industry. They would be unaware of how to deal with a budget and design process. We should be capable of driving these clients to the design process. But if our thoughts and process are not matching with them, it’s just a waste of time, money, and effort. These clients are often labelled as Bad Clients. They want a huge amount of work done at a minimal rate which kills our enthusiasm for a project. Good clients look at their expected return as a result of our work, where bad clients only look at the price tag. With pricing, it’s not just about the money. It’s about the quality of our work. There’s a thought really well quoted by Ralf Speth, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design”. This thought needs to be conveyed to every client.

If we align our project cost nearby the expected spending of the client, we can improve our income and chances to win the project. While we are giving an estimate of the project to our clients, use ranges instead of particular figures. Ranges give you flexibility; if the project’s budget gets a little over, then we have the room within which we can get paid the actual amount. We need to have a good impression in the eyes of our clients or else we would lose the project. For the commencement of the project, we need some amount of money beforehand. We can ask for some amount to be deposited in the bank. If we don’t receive a deposit from their side, send a note explaining that the project needs to go on hold until we receive some deposit. Don’t be rude about this but be firm about it.             

We should focus on fixing things and not on handing out blame. We have come a long way with maintaining a decent relationship with the client. If the client is forever changing their mind or forgetting details, confirm that the documented agreements are with them and send copies of those agreements if they don’t. If within the future any dispute arises, we can call their attention to those agreements to resolve issues quickly.


Contracts are the precautions that should be taken beforehand to avert any disaster. It outlines the relationship with the scope of the work. We should never feel awkward insisting our client to work with a contract. It’s an indication of professionalism and it adds a star on our business profile. If any client declines, show them a red flag. We need to define very precisely what we will and won’t do alongside what the client needs to do/provide as a part of a contract and do so in writing.

One of the big reasons that people avoid talking with a lawyer before it becomes absolutely necessary is cost. The lawyer’s job isn’t to sue clients – it’s to make sure we never land in a place where we have to sue. Lawyers can read our contracts and keep it safe, keep our business filings up to date and guide us through the paperwork we may have to. This prevents legal problems and in long run, saves a great deal of money and headache. Keeping a contract separate from a statement of work doesn’t lead to a war with client. Meeting the client in person, in a case of misunderstanding is the best we can do.

Learning design and making a good portfolio is one thing, but a good designer is the one who knows the business part of design too (for example- how to get clients, make connections, and talk money with clients). That’s where the main game starts.

Today, many businesses in the world look blindly for success. These business firms just want to earn profits out of all. They find shortcuts for their work and in the end they have short-term happiness. Keeping a horse eye leads to losing potential clients which in future would leave the business doors closed. If they have potential clients, they need to still build up relationships to produce a good product and keep a good mark in the market. Going with the parallel thought of clients makes them more comfortable. Which will give birth to trust and meanwhile a seed can be sown that will grow in a successful collaboration.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs

For further reading you can hop into…….
Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro (book)

Author:
Krupa D Kotadia and Jayendra Singh Tomar, Automobile & Transportation Design, Sem. VII, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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