If you’re working with a client on a large-scale creative project, whether that’s building a website from scratch or mounting a total rebrand, you won’t just be doing design work — you’ll also be managing expectations and advocating for your own expertise. We share some top tips for building a sense of trust with your client that ensures a smooth working relationship and the best possible results over the long haul.
Treat your clients like individuals
Working with a client is an inherently professional relationship, but recognizing that you’re also working with a human being is key to building trust, especially when it comes to longer projects. Ordinary and thoughtful socializing isn’t something you should avoid — ask questions and follow up later on. Is a client’s kid trying out for a sports team? Is their family planning a big vacation? Don’t forget that treating your client like an individual could mean emphasizing a more strongly professional tone — if that’s your client’s individual preference.
Be open with your knowledge
You’re an expert when it comes to your creative work, and it’s great when your clients grasp the expertise you have. You want them to feel like they can trust you and your skillset, but you don’t want them to feel ignorant or disconnected from the process. If you’re presenting a logo redesign, for instance, you might describe some of the recent graphic design trends that your samples are in conversation with, or even provide examples of prominent brand logos in a similar style.
Provide a clear road map, but stay flexible
Provide a clear project road map for your clients, explaining your typical process and how you envision their project will fit into that rubric. Even if a large chunk of your project roadmap is likely to change, it can help your client to visualize the process and center their own thinking — all while helping to dispel any concerns they might have. At the same time, emphasize and project flexibility in your process, as you don’t want your client to feel at any point that the project is out of their control.
Focus on communication
Naturally, your client wants to feel like they’re in good hands, and it’s perfectly okay and even a good idea to project confidence. You can even provide examples of previous work. Are there particular problems your client is facing that you’ve confronted well in the past?
At the same time, it’s vital you stay honest with your client. If there are aspects of the project you’re concerned about, elements of their vision that you don’t fully understand, or even simple clarifying questions, these should all be voiced as soon as possible. Balancing confidence and honesty is critical.
Exceed expectations early on
In no way are we suggesting you should slack off as you approach the end of a large-scale creative project, but it can be a great idea to exceed your client’s expectations early on if you’ll be working together for a long time. You know best what your work schedule looks like and if you can invest a little more time in particular projects as they’re getting off the ground, but doing so can display your skills and expertise at a stage when clients are likely to be paying the most attention.