One of the most difficult aspects of being a web designer is dealing with clients that "just don’t get it". In this article, we’ll discuss seven things that often make the job of web designers difficult when dealing with unreasonable demands from clients. The goal in this article is not only to identify these common situations, but also to share with you some ways to avoid them and explain to your clients why their demands can’t or won’t be met.
"I’m on a really tight budget and I need this done as inexpensively as possible."
One of the most difficult situations to be in is a client that does not appreciate the value of the service you will be providing. Web designers need to make a living too, and if the compensation of the project is too low, a lot of times it’s better to just pass on it because of opportunity losses of taking on low-budget projects.
How to Deal
If you are looking to take on more clients, it doesn’t hurt to respond; but if you have a comfortable amount of work – consider passing this one up. Even though it takes a bit of consultation time to determine the final price of a project, it can be helpful to respond initially with:
"My minimum hourly rate is $XX/hr. I’d be happy to give you a more detailed quote for the entire project with more consultation if you’re interested."
If they like your work enough, they may respond, and if not, it’s not wise to adjust your rate to gain a client. It’s better to wait for an opportunity and spend more time with your existing clients, than to take a low-cost job.
Some clients that just don’t get it may go further to devaluate our work with comments such as "my son said he could do it for $50! I was looking for someone a bit more professional…but that seems way too expensive, even for someone with more expertise."
In this type of situation, it’s important to maintain your composure and professionalism. You must also explain to the client that difference between a professional and an amateur web designer.
"I could probably figure this out myself, but…"
This type of client is usually a professional that needs to outsource their own work, or an amateur web designer who feels that their level of expertise is on par with professional web designers. This type of work often starts of with the mindset of, "since I can do your job, I shouldn’t need to pay a lot".
In addition, many clients like this seem to know what they’re doing all too well, and can be overbearing or can try to take the creative process away from you.
How to Deal
If I have enough jobs, again, I will generally stir clear from these types of projects because not only will the client expect a low-budget project, but will also want to drive the process or may be too overbearing, making it difficult for you to perform your job. A simple, "I apologize, but I’m really backed up at the moment with clients and don’t think I’ll be able to take on your project," will do.
Now, what if you’re already stuck with an ‘I can do this myself’ client? A simple reminder that you were hired for your expertise will suffice. Try to outline the benefits of having a web designer use his or her professional skills to craft the design for them. If it’s for a startup/new company, you can say that by giving the reins of the web design process to you, they can focus on other things that they need to get up and running.
"It’s a bit boring…it just needs a bit more ‘pizzazz’."
This statement could lead to a dreadful spinning logo, hot-pink marquee text, or a lime green background. Whatever they mean by it, not many clients who say this end up meaning subtle additions to make the design livelier; often it’s exaggerated features or obtrusive visual elements that throw off the harmony of your web design.
Another bad thing about this statement is that we can’t be sure what the client exactly means and how to address it to satisfy their desires.
How to Deal
Be careful of giving in to your client’s desire right away; you have to make sure that the revision you are doing is good for the design overall. This design is yours, and if you can’t be proud to show it off in your portfolio because of a design decision the client is trying to make for you, then that’s not a good thing for anyone involved.
If, based on your better judgment, it is not a good idea to go ahead with their suggestions, give valid justification as to why it isn’t a wise decision. More often then not, they see you as the expert in the relationship, and they’ll pay heed to your experience as long as your reasons are understandable.
But you should always pay attention to what they’re trying to say. Maybe their idea may not be the right choice, but the problem they’re trying to address may be valid. Work with them and help them articulate what it is, really, that they find "boring" and suggest good ways of addressing those problems.
"Oh, and by the way, I’ll need this coded into a blog."
Increased project scope: every web designer’s worst nightmare. If what you agreed to wasn’t setting up a weblog or creating a WordPress theme, it is scope creep. While it may be annoying to be asked to do something that you did not agree to, we must realize that a client with no technical expertise has no idea what it takes to turn a web design into a blog theme, and most probably aren’t aware that programming isn’t a standard web designer’s job. This problem, of course, goes beyond turning a web design into a blog into a number of other added jobs: design, coding, picking the right blogging platform, etc.
How to Deal
It is best to define initially in the proposal exactly what you will do for this project: this avoids potential problems in the future. Outline all the things you’ll do for them, and stick to this outline; resist the urge to agree to items outside of scope without additional fees because it encourages demands outside of what the project entails.
Solid requirements gathering also steers you clear from these situations; by knowing what it is exactly the client expects, the more prepared you are to provide it to them. If they mention a need for a weblog set-up, then you either need to tell them that it is not a service that you provide, or that it will cost extra.
It can also help to lay out the quote, project plan, and timeline so that it is very detailed to what you are going. This way, the client can better see things from your perspective, and clearly see that a "quick blog upgrade" is not a part of this project.
When the client broaches the subject of converting a design into a blog theme, remind them that it wasn’t part of the contract and that there will be additional costs and time requirements.
"I don’t really want to [use that communication method/pay that way/have to do this your way]. Let’s do this instead."
You’re just beginning a project, discussing initial details, and the moment you begin explaining to the client how you do business, they want it all done their way.
Let the small things slide, it will make for a better relationship and shows that you’re willing to accommodate their needs.
However, when you invoice through a certain system for financial security or collaborate through an online venue for organization and easier communication – a core business process – don’t cut clients slack just because ‘they don’t feel like it.’
There are a few problems with this. For one, you’ve likely spent time organizing your business in such a way that keeps in control of it; there’s a reasoning behind your system and you shouldn’t forget that.
How to Deal
If you’re in a situation where the client is trying to change a business process of yours, you can say something like:
"I understand where you’re coming from, but you should realize that I handle a number of different clients on a daily basis, and the reasoning for doing things this way it to help me run my business efficiently, and to get the project done for you more quickly with better results."
Most clients will understand that their project is not the only project on your agenda. It also shows that you’re not bending to their demands for a reason.
Also, some clients may not want to use a certain tool, payment method, or service because they are unfamiliar with it. For example, most people will have heard of PayPal if they’ve done any sort of online transactions in the past, but it doesn’t mean that your client’s heard of it before. It’s your duty – as a business that relies on this technology – to help your clients be more comfortable with the tools you use. In the case of PayPal, you could say something along the lines of:
"If you’ve never used PayPal before, let me help clear a few things up. I use PayPal because it is a secure payment gateway for the internet – you can never be too careful these days. There is no commitment on your part. You don’t need to sign up with PayPal or add funds to a PayPal account. You can easily pay with a credit/debit card, as you would with any sort of online store. It is a way for my business to accept payments and offer security for the both of us."
Stick up for your business processes, and don’t be such a pushover.
"I need a website identical to [Example website]. It should function the same way as well."
Clients who want to copy another website design happens more frequently than it should. Be careful: you don’t want to run into any copyright infringements.
There is a difference between creating a design that can compete with their competition and ripping off a website completely. When doing a website for a start-up business, it’s good to look at the competitor’s websites and find things that you can improve on, but you should never copy them directly.
How to Deal
The best way to deal with a client looking to copy another website is to explain to them the legalities of doing so. Instead, offer your ideas on how you can create a web design that can compete very well against their competition.
Additionally, make it clear that their website will benefit from being different.
"I needed this done a few weeks ago. When can you get it done for me?"
Many clients think that they are your only priority. If you have other things that you’re working on, it’s not reasonable to make deadline promises you can’t keep. You shouldn’t drop deadlines on your existing work to accommodate another project, because in the long run, everyone loses.
It wouldn’t be surprising when working with a client like this that they would not deliver their portion of the deal either. No type of web professional should have to work for a project months longer than expected, just because the client cannot give content or other needed information in a timely matter.
How to Deal
Make that client aware that you have other commitments that must be met and give them a realistic expectation of when you can get a project done based on their details, and set a reasonable timeframe for the project in the initial proposal. Just remember the fact that they needed it yesterday is their problem, not yours!
If your timeline is not suitable to them, in the long run, it’s better if they go somewhere else; for you, you won’t be rushing other projects to make up time, and for the client, maybe they can find someone who can get the job done in the timeframe they require.
Do you have other things that you hate hearing from clients? What are they? Join the discussion in the comments.