Clients can be a little vague when they communicate with graphic designers. This is quite normal. At times requests and statements can seem deceptively simple. But they contain a “gotcha” which appears later on. Statements like these can damage the designer and client relationship. The trick is knowing how to interpret these statements to help your clients and be a better designer.
Here are 6 particularly thorny statements to watch out for:
1. I don’t have a schedule. You have plenty of time.
What’s not said: Although they don’t know when they want to have it done, they know when they’ll need it.
How to handle this: Ask the client how they plan to use the design or distribute it. Many times the timeline will become clearer when the client voices this. A good follow-up question is to ask about the optimal time to have it completed to have it ready for distribution or use.
2. I need this ASAP.
What’s not said: ASAP means that they will need it sooner than you expected, and they don’t want to pay extra for it.
How to handle this: Give the client a time when you can get it done without charging rush charges. And be willing to negotiate pricing by itemizing services to include or leave out.
3. I just found out I need this in another format.
What’s not said: They expect to have a change in scope without any impact in cost.
How to handle this: Before getting into this situation, develop a creative brief before doing any design work. Then you and the client can agree on the scope ahead of time. When the scope changes the conversation can go a whole lot smoother.
Once you get to this point you need to get all the details you can. Then determine how the scope will need to change — whether change in cost, needed features or services, or change in timeline — and explain this to the client to get their okay.
4. I don’t want to spend too much for this.
What’s not said: They want something they can’t afford. But they want you to give it to them anyway at the price they want.
How to handle this: Ask them what their budget is. If they say they don't know, or don't want to reveal it to you, give them a wide price range you expect it may cost them. I call this the wince test. You are doing this to gauge how serious they are, and what they are expecting. View their reaction. If they struggle with your range offer options that you are willing to do in a range they may be more willing to accept.
5. Can you just show me some ideas. Then I can decide what I really want.
What’s not said: They want you to labor for free. They don’t want to risk paying for something they don’t want.
How to handle this: You don't work on spec. You have to be firm about this.
6. Make it pop.
What’s not said: It can be one of two things: There’s a particular look they really want, but haven’t revealed this to you or they have no idea what they want. However, they want you to develop ideas blindly until they see something they want. Every designer gets this from time-to-time.
How to handle this: Ask a lot of questions to determine what may be the issue. Maybe ask them to show you examples. If you did a creative brief ahead of time, you have an objective way of discussing how the request fits the agreed-upon strategy. If it doesn't fit, discuss how the request needs to be adjusted to meet the objectives, or change the scope.
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