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Hello fellow designers, I need your help yet again.

As you all know from my last question that I am new to the design industry (and a recent graduate). This is turning out to be an obstacle in my profession.

The client I am working with now, insists on changing everything I ever present to him. I am working on redesigning his website, making a new brochure designs, visiting cards, new logo and new advertisement that would go on newspapers once the job is complete.

I started with the logo, as that was the most basic block of any business. I did a lot of research, put a lot of time on it thinking and rethinking about what the business represents and came up with one that would represent the business in all its entirety.

As I am a freelancer, I usually meet up with clients every tuesday morning to show them the progress and changes etc. Thats where the problem comes in. My client feels the need to change everything I have ever done. Color of the logo, size of it, font (he wanted papyrus font and failed to convey him the point of why it should be avoided) and so on.

Thats only the beginning of the problem. Once we finish the discussion, he shows it to his wife (a sweet lady in her late 30's) and their 4 kids (17, 13, 10 and 8 year olds) and each of them have their own opinion and he changes his mind and emails me - forcing me to redo a lot of stuff.

Now, I have read the queen and the duck problem and such and I even tried adding a "duck" once but it back fired when the client went all shaky and blamed me for having no design sense.

So, how do I convince him to let me do my job? is there any article on this world wide web that I could make him read that conveys him the point?

let me assure you, he thinks that he is a general public and so if he likes the public will like it too, which is why he is holding me as a hostage to his desires.

thank you.

edit: also, I have read few articles like the ones on smashing magazine but they are all in the point of view of web-designers and not for the clients. I dont want to show my client articles like those. thanks.

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The only real solution is to make sure that they understand their changes cost money. If you're doing work without billing it, you're letting them walk all over you. If it's billable hours, just accept that you're a whore & get it done with. –  Sean McSomething Nov 19 '13 at 3:51

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Here are a few hints:

  1. Prior to starting any work, appraise what the customer wants exactly, rather than what you think he wants or (worse, as you appear to have tried to talk him into not using a font you dislike) what you think that he should want. I'd advise some intense introspection here, because many designers I've had to deal with were quite full of themselves for no good reasons.

  2. Identify the true decision making process early on. From the sounds of it in your case, the true decision making lies in a committee shaped around the guy's family cell. It might be that his wife has a lot more influence on him that you might think -- and if so, make sure it's girly enough to get her support early on.

  3. At the end of the day, it's his money that he's spending, and he's entitled to having a fushia comic sans logo if he feels like it. I really mean this seriously. Suggest something you like if you feel like it, but always include something that delivers exactly what the customer requested.

  4. Contrary to mko I think it's fine to show early stage sketches -- once. Collect precious feedback at this stage. Revisit the requirements if it's obvious that you misunderstood them. More crucially, take note of how the actual decision making is occurring. Once that's done, don't show anything until you've entered the tweaking stages. If you're showing anything in between you're basically asking to be micromanaged.

  5. It helps a lot to get paid as much as you can in advance. Not doing so may sign you up for countless rounds of tweaking for no good reasons. Try to define a lower limit (as in percentage and dollars, rather than just the former) underneath which you can't be bothered to move a finger.

  6. Quickly learn to identify bread-eaters and refuse their business upfront. They'll waste your time and invariably complain that you're wasting theirs. You'll usually fail to do so early in your career, so additionally learn to (politely) tell them to go to hell.

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Showing early stage sketches is a hit or miss in my experience. On one hand you might get valuable feedback as you said, on the other hand it might open up for micromanaging and the risk of them later on saying "but that's not what we agreed on!" A big point of showing them late stage sketches is also that they'll feel too much work has been invested to get to that point that they'll consciously or subconsciously be hesitant to do big changes. A nice compromise might be instead to show other websites and designs and have them explain what they like and why. –  konrad May 24 '11 at 11:56
    
+1. Only one question: What are 'bread-eaters'? –  Martin May 24 '11 at 12:15
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Bread-eaters, is a restaurant term that designates customers who show up, fill a large table, order a first round of drinks, then bother their waiter for bread over and over; and leave crumbs all over the floor, table and chairs upon leaving (without ordering any actual food). –  Denis de Bernardy May 24 '11 at 12:21
    
More I read, more people seem to tell me that I am the one who is really bothering my client. this is an interesting insight. ps: I was going to ask what the bread eaters were, too, thanks for explaining. –  Miss Understood May 25 '11 at 14:00

To avoid micromanagement you'll need to be proactive. Since you are just starting out you may feel that you lack the authority to enforce a design decision (or the client may feel that they can push you around); the only way out of this trap is to proactively seek buy-in at every stage of development.

Meeting once a week at the beginning of a design project is probably not enough. When the design is beginning to shape up you'll want to meet with the client whenever you have new work to show. Try to present your client with a few alternatives when you meet; ask them to make a decision as to which one they would like to see you move forward with. Make sure that the decision that the client makes is documented somewhere, then move forward with the direction that they've chosen. Your responsibility is not to create what you think is the best possible design, it is to create the best possible design that fits within the client's demands.

By constantly involving the client and making only small changes for each iteration you'll never be surprised with a request for a complete re-do. If the client does decide that they want to go in a completely new direction you can point to their documented buy-in and let them know that the expanded scope of the project will cost more.

Clients are not like fast, nimble speed boats; they're more like ocean liners. As the captain it is your job to make sure that they are pointed in the right direction.

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thank you very much that was helpful –  Miss Understood May 25 '11 at 14:02

Micro managing clients can be hard to spot but best to avoid for repeat business unless you are hurting for work.

On one hand, it is just a job and if he is insistent on doing your job for you then just let him because then you are making easy money.

On the other hand, if you are trying to get your career off the ground and trying to build an impressive portfolio then these kinds of clients can be a waste of time because they will want you to whip up something that looks ugly and unprofessional. You would never consider putting these in your portfolio.

You need to strike the right balance, career advancement jobs that allow you to add something impressive to your portfolio, and the "bread" jobs that bring in cash but can be a headache and don't advance your career.

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What do you see as your job? Clients blindly following your designs? You can either learn to say no, get over it, or continue to be miserable in thinking people pay experts to do whatever they want. Sounds like you want to be an artist and not a designer.

Stick to your designs and let them know if they wanted a Photoshop Monkey, they hired the wrong person. Maintain your reputation. There's no shame in poverty.

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I was under the assumption that the artist IS a designer and vice versa. –  Miss Understood May 25 '11 at 14:04

Managing clients is a tricky thing and sometimes you have no choice but to divorce them if they're too much of a hassle. There are however some things to keep in mind

  1. Don't show your client incremental updates from the start For the first 80% of the project. If you do he'll do exactly what he's done in this case, nit-pick on everything. Even worse, when the final product starts to take shape he can no longer judge it on is current merit as he's been along for the ride with all of the revisions. Instead make sure you get feedback on things like what values he want his website to reflect etc etc so he does feel he has a say. When you arrive at a design or possibly 2-3 that are about 90% then consult him.

  2. Learn to take feedback! Most times clients say things just because they want to be listened to. The problem is that freelancers treat their words as law and either follow it or struggle against it. The trick is instead to say (sincerely) "thanks! I'll think about that". They'll be glad their opinion matter and you've promised to take it into account. If what they say have some merit so feel free to work it into the result, otherwise don't

  3. Project supreme confidence Basically the problem is one of trust. They need to feel and know that you know what you're doing and wont frack things up. Your the expert and they're paying for your expertise. Don't be arrogant but project an air of supreme calm confidence like you've done this hundreds of time before and know exactly what your doing. This also mean not getting into arguments about tiny details or irritated or annoyed.

It's hard to change a client relation once its gotten off on the wrong foot so you'll probably just have to make the best out of it but keep these things in mind for your next one :)

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I have worked on 3 projects before and I did not have this problem until now. thats excluding the one where my client didn't pay up until i acted –  Miss Understood May 25 '11 at 15:37
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Clients are like a box of chocolates, you never know which ones your gonna get :) –  konrad May 27 '11 at 7:39

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