| Business, Design Basics

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Yesterday’s blog post was a bit of a pity party and I wanted to turn the mood around and start by thanking all the wonderful clients we work with.

Most of our clients are a joy to work with, and we’re proud to say that several have been clients for many, many years. We especially like the relationships we’ve formed with: Educational Endeavors, Global Citizenship Experience, New England Breeze, The Project on Civic Reflection, Chicago Review Press, Narrative Pros, New Leaf Project Management, New Chapter Press, Cream & Sugar Bakery and Well-Fit Triathlon.

We’ve watched their businesses grow and have helped in their growth.

We were able to do this for our clients by working closely with them on project after project. We’ve been allowed to be more than just creative hands, but true business partners. We’ve learned about their business goals outside of the specific design job at hand. In addition to the graphic design and branding expertise, we find ourselves helping with: organization and editing of copy to communicate more effectively; finding more cost effective solutions for print jobs; researching better vendors; offering and receiving general advice on running a small business.

Great clients make for great work. Here’s why:

  1. True partnerships use everyone’s talents. If you find a designer you like and trust and give them some room to run, you will be amazed by the results. If you hold too tight to the reins you’ll probably never see all the value he or she can bring to your project, to your business and even to your bottom line.
  2. The designer is involved early in the process. Providing a steady flow of work to your favorite designer not only helps their business, but it will help yours. Because you are in continual contact with them, as new ideas for your web site or marketing come up you can start to involve them in the process, even very informally, early in the process.
  3. Respect and courtesy gets reflected back to you. This is just basic human nature: honey catches more flies than vinegar. A positive and comfortable relationship will generate the most trust and best work from everyone involved.
  4. We go the extra mile for those we like. We are all pressed for time and stressed out. Extra requests can seem annoying, but we’re all willing to do favors for people who are pleasant and flexible to work with.
  5. We’ll use your resources wisely. If a designer has the big picture of your goals, he or she can help you figure out where to spend money and where to save it. If you go to your designer when you already have a preconceived idea of the structure of a project he or she may just follow your instructions rather than thinking outside the box.
  6. Your designer will be invested in your success. If you have great working relationship with your designer, and they know and understand your goals, they will work extra hard to ensure your success. When you look good, they look good. This could mean doing an extra proofread of some copy, or going on a press check even if it’s not necessary. It can also mean promoting your business when they promote their own via their online portfolio, etc.
  7. Networking and referrals for one another. I love to be able to introduce clients to one another, and it’s a great feeling when a client refers someone to me. We all know we’re doing work that we’re proud of. There are other times when I forward technology-related information or business opportunities to my clients.
  8. Open communication means easy communication. When I see an email or voicemail from one of my favorite clients, I get excited—new projects, more fun! When I see an email or voicemail from a toxic client, I start to get defensive before I read the subject line.
  9. Paying on time means no one is uncomfortable about money. When bills go unpaid, a  sense of dread grows in your designer. Unfortunately, nearly every designer I know has been stiffed by a client. Sometimes the client goes out of business, sometimes they are just late paying. The warning signs start firing and we move from wanting to help you to wanting to protect ourselves.
  10. We often do our best work off the clock. If you have designer who is thinking about your business, and not just an individual project, they’ll be finding opportunities to help you out, whether it’s improving a current project or listening for opportunities for you.

When I work on projects I like with clients I like, I always become extremely invested in the outcome. There have been times when I’m falling asleep at night and I think about design projects and remember small details that will improve the project.

There have been times when I’m in bed and realize we didn’t check to update the copyright date on some materials. Or, I just visualize a much better design solution, or a more economical solution for my client.

Face it, I’m only going to do this when I’m jazzed about a project. When I just feel like I’m “executing” someone else’s orders, or feel there is a lack of respect, there is no reason for me to put my most creative resources into the project. While that work will be satisfactory, it may not be as effective as it could be.

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