We all want to find that perfect client or the perfect vendor. The one that understands us, understands the obstacles in our market and helps us be a better version of ourselves. What you’re looking for doesn’t exist and it probably never has.
Is it right to always do exactly what a client says just because they are paying you? The balance of power in the client/vendor relationship is out of whack, but it doesn’t have to be. So, often design firms view the amount of money a client is spending on a project as directly proportional to the amount of “yes, ma’ams” you must endure. If you consider yourself partners then it’s easy to see that you both have the same goal and the budget is the means in which to achieve those goals. Treat your clients as equal partners, and you’ll find that they do the same for you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you are the expert in marketing, design, underwater BB stacking, or whatever you’ve been hired to do, but you have to keep in mind that your client is the expert in their company, brand and vertical market. Getting past the power struggle that often comes with new client/designer relationships can mean the difference between doing what’s right for their business versus what gets you paid. The combined expertise of both sides of the equation always results in a much more successful outcome, and that’s what you both want at the end of the day. In the end it helps to remember that you are an expert working with a team of experts. Find the expertise that each stakeholder brings to the table.
At the heart of the partnerships you form should be a common language or way to communicate. Graphic designers have a tendency to talk in tactics referring to elements of the design like fonts, colors and web site functionality, whereas, clients tend to talk more about goals and strategies like ROI, addressing pain points and increasing market share. Though both sides are equally important, a successful conversation needs to bridge the gap between the strategy and the tactics. It’s okay to talk about the elements of your design as long as it relates back to the strategy and goals for the client.
Looking back at my career as a graphic designer, I realize that the projects that brought the greatest success to my clients were cultivated in a partnership versus a client/vendor relationship. Many of those partnerships were some of the longest business relationships that I’ve had. So, stop looking for clients, and start discovering partners. You’ll both be happier and more successful in the long run.