Keeping clients motivated throughout the design process

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Meeting with a client for the first time is invigorating. Both you and they are excited about moving forward with a new project that will help reach business goals. You set milestones together and work toward accomplishing the goals you have set, but sometimes clients tend to burn-out at some stage throughout the process. They go from wanting the “best work” to “whatever works within the time frame” or even adopt the attitude of “we can’t afford to do it all” or “let’s just get this project done by doing the bare minimum”.

As a designer, this can be frustrating because you understand the potential that the project has. You aren’t blinded by the fact that funds or time begin to be more limited than anticipated and it becomes difficult to understand why your client (who was so excited when the project started) has now fizzled out and left you to tie up the loose ends.

Solid tips on keeping clients motivated

So how can you keep a client motivated throughout the entire design process? This article explores a number of ways you can help your clients stay motivated, maintain excitement for the project, and push through to the end of a successful project.

Stay motivated yourself

The first and most important aspect of keep a client motivated throughout the design process is to stay motivated yourself. If you are becoming discouraged, lazy, or complacent, your client will feed off of your attitude and react the same way. Conversely, if you are motivated, excited and focused, your clients will reflect the same attitude. Motivation is contagious.

Keep a positive attitude

No one likes to work with someone who has a negative attitude. Along with staying motivated as a designer, you need to keep a positive attitude. It’s okay to get frustrated with clients, a project, or some other aspect of your design business, but never show this discouragement to your client. Even if things aren’t going perfectly, keep a positive attitude around your clients and the excitement for the project will spread.

Be a pleasant person to work with

One of the most common errors I have seen new designers commit is to be arrogant and a pain to work with. Yes, you are talented. But you don’t know everything, especially about your client’s line of work. Be humble and understanding when your clients want to make changes and help them understand your feelings on issues such as design changes or project changes.

This doesn’t mean you need to be a pushover, but it does mean that you need to be an enjoyable person to work with. Make it easy for your clients to get along with you or you just might find your client requesting that you “just finish up” the project “as quickly as possible”. It may not be that they don’t want to continue with the original plans, they just can’t stand to deal with an angry designer any more. Be pleasant.

Set reasonable goals together

Another vital part of keeping your clients motivated throughout the design process is to start the process off right. After agreeing upon a contract, sit down together and set reasonable goals. Determine who will do what, when these tasks will get accomplished, and how they play a role in the completion of the overall project.

When you reach the goals you have set, be sure to celebrate those victories with your client. Help them see the success and the progress you are completing together. (A sidenote: this always works well as a time to bill them too. It’s great to be able to send them an email with a subject line that says “Phase two Completed!” and the body of the email congratulates them for completing a step in the process and then gives them a bill for that portion which has been completed.)

Remind them of their excitement

Everyone gets trodden down with work. Believe it or not, you aren’t the only one who has to deal with people not answering their phones, not paying their bills, or being rude to you. Your clients also run a business, and you know as well as anyone how difficult and demotivating that can be at times.

If you see your client slipping into demotivation, take time to remind them of the excitement they had when they began the project. Help them regain the vision that you created together when the project started. Sometimes all they need is a small reminder in order to get that flame of excitement burning bright again.

Keep them updated on your progress

Along with reminding them of the excitement they had when the project began, be sure to keep them updated on the successes of the project along the way. Clients can often feel left out of the loop when you are working on a design project for them. Don’t just show them the completed project, include them in the actual design process and help the understand where you are in relation to the goals you have set.

As they stay updated, they will be excited by the progress they see.

Work quickly and efficiently

You’ve probably experienced the feeling of frustration when your client just won’t hold up his end of the bargain. Whether he was supposed to get you images for your site, copy for your brochure, or pricing for his billboard, nothing is more frustrating than being at a standstill because of someone else’s failure to work.

Your clients feel the same way. Don’t continually put their project on the back burner just because you have other “more fun” projects. Make sure to set timely goals and follow through with them so that the project gets completed on time or ahead of schedule. If you procrastinate, your client is more likely to adopt the attitude of “just getting the project done” instead of getting the best final product. Work quickly and efficiently for your clients.

Your turn to talk

What else would you add to these suggestions? Have you had similar experiences with your clients? If so what have you been able to do in your design business to keep your clients motivated throughout the design process? I’d love to hear what you have to say about it.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Great Article! I’ve already done a project in august. I think is the month in witch clients are demotivated by the sultry weather (at least in the Northern Hemisphere)

  2. Great article! This is a surprisingly difficult, but effective strategy to employ. Well worth the effort. And an excited client at the end of the process becomes a brand champion for their designer! Trust me!

  3. I think the best way to keep your client motivated is by being motivated yourself. Motivation is simply contagious. Nice article :)

  4. Great tips! In regards to keeping them updated, on all my status reports I let the client know exactly where I am in the design process. Am I researching? Am I sketching? Have I moved to the computer concept? I also give them an overall status of the project, a brief narrative of the process thus far, and when they can expect another status update.

    In the beginning of a project I ask the client who often they want a report…typically it’s once a week. This helps keep them in the loop in case they need to give a status report of the project to their team leader or boss.

    Very good article. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I do consulting for large companies. One thing that will keep them happy regardless if you meet deadlines or not is being proactive. Even though you may miss a deadline for any reason, if you are proactive and communicate it’s like nothing ever happened. On slower projects I send weekly updates, and on faster projects I send updates at the end of every day. It is priceless.

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