Managing your network of clients from 99designs

Barin Cristian Doru

We recently shared how to get follow-on work through 99designs, and now we’d like to share how to manage this work and your network of clients. Yes, manage. You might be surprised hearing this term, but it’s one of the most overlooked aspects in a graphic designer’s line of business. Nonetheless, it’s important!

Here are 3 tips on how to manage your clientele so you keep your design business alive and your clients happy.

1. Set boundaries for communication

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Working with a network of clients is a challenge that involves multitasking. While you certainly have the option to work on one project at a time, most of us either don’t have the luxury to do so or don’t like the down time we face while waiting for feedback. So if you are working on multiple projects, you must make a client feel like they have your full, undivided attention.

Don’t rush things. A side effect of being efficient is wanting things done now, but every client needs time. Whether they need to consult with a business partner, present your design to a team or even need their mother’s opinion — it doesn’t matter because it’s the client’s right to do so and you should respect that.

I recommend you have an initial conversation on Skype, but never use it throughout the project (except for special situations). The rest of the time you should use email or 99designs 1-to-1 Projects to exchange opinions, receive feedback and talk about changes — here’s why:

  1. Written feedback is better than spoken feedback. You want to be able to read and review your client’s thoughts multiple times while working.
  2. Clients are able to think through thoughts and outline them “on paper.” The client might say a lot more while talking face-to-face but it will be less refined.
  3. You save a lot of time. Theoretically, a conversation should be very straightforward and subsequently faster, but alas, that’s not the case in real life. You can easily get sidetracked especially since you’re in different parts of the world.

You should always communicate with your clients via email or 99designs 1-to-1 Projects. But I strongly recommend you have an initial discussion on Skype to know each other better and set expectations.

2. Be clear about your financial expectations

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Whether you charge by hour or by project, the client needs to know your terms right from the start. I recommend you never quote a project unless you’re 100% sure of what it implies. Changing your price somewhere in the middle of the job is one of the worst things you can do. This will kill any relationship, instantly.

Personally, I charge by the project. I like to see a complete brief, preferably with wireframes and a clear number of pages and/or pop-ups. After I’ve reviewed everything thoroughly, I set a price and it’s usually something like this:

“Total price is $(XYZ). You have (XYZ) rounds of revision and you’ll receive watermarked JPEGs until we get to the end result. After payment has been made, you will receive an archive with all the .psd files, well-organized and structured, ready to be sliced by any coder, as well as the links to any custom fonts I’ve used. All stock images and/or font licenses will be purchased by you and if you have any preferred stock image website, please tell me in advance. Let me know if you agree with these terms.”

This is just an example and your terms may vary drastically depending on your personal preferences. What’s important is to have everything clear right from the get-go.

Know what your expectations are and be very clear about them. Have everything written down so you can review them at any time.

3. Never become a Photoshop interface

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Screen sharing programs are great tools in our line of work, but make sure you use them wisely or you may get yourself in trouble. The most common problem while screen sharing is you end up in a position where you’re no longer a designer — you’re a simple Photoshop interface.

This usually happens when the client is a business owner, an architect, a brain surgeon, a nuclear scientist and what the hell, a superhero. Don’t be surprised, this is quite common. You’ll hear an endless amount of instructions like: “make that rounder and move it a bit to the left; take that picture and put it to the right; make everything 20% darker and add some pink; (insert 20 more instructions) and then the magical, ‘hmm… I’m not sure, what do you think?'”

This is when frustration builds because you no longer feel like a professional designer, but a tool the client uses to fulfill his fantasy as a designer. You think you’d never be in this position, right? Unfortunately, we all want to be paid, want that extra work, and that great review. So we end up forgetting our original purpose and get caught up in this game where the client turns into the designer, with you holding the mouse.

You’re the professional. It’s okay to say no to a client and explain why something is not working in their design.

Conclusion

It’s always important to establish boundaries in a decisive, yet friendly, manner. But this is easier said than done, which is why we recommend following these 3 principles right from the start of the relationship.

Do you have tips for fellow designers on how to manage clientele?

The author

Barin Cristian Doru
Barin Cristian Doru

Barin Cristian Doru aka 'thislooksgreat' is an experienced web designer and proud member of the 99designs community: http://99designs.com/people/thislooksgreat Besides creating awesome website designs, he is also an entrepreneur, an Android App Developer and a content creator. His work ranges from freebie PSD files to small tips & tricks in Photoshop, all the way to a premium 16 hour long course on how to succeed on 99designs.

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