Finding a client in whom you can build a lasting and fruitful relationship is hard to come by. Like any relationship, it’s common that everything seems ideal within the beginning stages. But as time progresses, you may start to notice that things don’t seem as good as they used to be. In any case, there is one particularly important characteristic of a client that should be taken very seriously or it will prove to be the cause of many headaches.
You Get What You Pay For
A good client will understand, respect and appreciate the effort that goes into your process of creating the work in which they’ve hired you for. Be wary though, because this isn’t as simple as having them acknowledge your process at the kick off meeting. Rather, they must embrace and expect this process throughout the life of the project, and/or relationship.
Clients must understand the work that goes into their final product. If you give them an estimate of time and cost in which it will take you to complete their project, they must respect this. If they are not happy with your estimate, be sure that everyone (client and designer) is on the same page as far as what the project must include. If your original assumptions were correct, suggest cutting areas of the project to make it work within their budget. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to discount the attention to design, or provide them with a site that is only half functional. You can slim down your production order, print with limited colors, cut out site pages that aren’t completely necessary, etc… However, if they won’t except anything less then their original scope, then so be it… Let someone else deal with their thriftiness. You can’t go into a car dealership and tell the salesmen that you want a brand new, fully loaded car, but are only willing to pay minimum price. If you do, they are either going to point you in the direction of a used car, or one that does not have all the bells and whistles you initially asked for. If you refuse this alternative, the salesman will kindly wish you luck and send you on your way – I know, I’ve tried. Anyhow, in the world of design (much like everything else), you get what you pay for. If you ask for the world but aren’t willing to pay for it then your SOL.
Proceed with Caution
If you notice this mentality within your client, it’s important that you move forward very cautionsly. Besides the fact that you or your client will never be happy, there are two possible scenarios that will inevitably take place if you have not properly addressed this issue.
1. You complete the work within the budget that your client has forced on you, and they are not happy with the results. This is simply because the amount of time that was alloted to complete the task was not of equal value to the time required. This will result in sour taste for both you and your client, potentially damaging the relationship.
2. You will work into your personal time in order to complete the unachievable request. Though your client might be happy with the results, the negative effect on your end will be twofold: Your client will expect this sort of behavior from this point forward and will never respect your initial job estimate. Worse, you’ve shortchanged yourself and your family by working around the clock in order to satisfy an ungrateful client. This will cause an unhealthy grudge between you and your client because now they have affected your personal life.
It’s not all Bad
Unfortunately, it’s easy for a client relationship to go sour, but there are way’s to avoid this. If you find yourself in a situation similar to this one, be sure to take the time and educate your client on the reason’s why a particular project requires the amount of time/money you estimated. I’ve found that it is fairly common that most people do not understand the undertaking involved in certain projects. Your client will (hopefully) appreciate your honesty and commitment to your process. Even if you’ve already reviewed your process, and the amount of work it takes to properly complete a project, they may have forgotten. In the times of a stretched economy combined with the rush of deadlines, any person could revert to the their basic instincts of wanting ‘more for less.’ However, if you’ve done everything you can to ration and accommodate an unresponsive client, I suggest kindly dismissing your relationship. It’s for the better interest of both you and your client.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about going above and beyond in order to please the client. I’ve pulled my fair share of all-nighters in hopes to make a project ‘that much’ better and to make my clients project ‘that much’ more successful. At the end of the day, there needs to be a mutual respect between you and your client. Otherwise, your simply being taken advantage of.