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As designers we have our skills honed; a gorgeous portfolio, well designed business cards, and a vicious social media presence.
So what’s missing? Here we will be discussing the preparation for impressing a client. Impressing a client is crucial not only for initial business, but also for repeat business. Impressed clients will brag about their new projects and recommend you to their like minded colleagues. One happily impressed client could easily spread your talents around to ten or more people.
In the words of American advertising executive William Bernbach, “Word of mouth is the best medium of all.”. So by the client recommending you, they are putting their stamp of approval on your work. That’s something your portfolio or business card just can’t do.
Every designer who is serious has a portfolio and business card. What makes you different than “Joe Designer” down the block? In our business, two things set you apart: being remarkable at design and being remarkable at marketing yourself. To understand if you are remarkable simply ask the question, “Am I memorable?” . Being remarkable is what gives you the ability to stand out in a crowd of your peers.
There is a good chance that you are not the only one submitting a bid on this project, especially if this is a job listing on one of the many job forums out there. So standing out is a must! The simplest things can make you stand out. It’s all about the small things, they add up in big ways with the client. It could be the extra creativity in your business card, portfolio, or even being the only guy to show up in a tie.
What do you want out of this project? Do you just need the money? Are you looking to increase your exposure? Looking to get into a new market? Ask yourself these questions and write them down. So what does writing down goals have to do with impressing a client? Organization. When one is organized it shows in all aspects of one’s work. This will allow you to put your priorities in order and unclutter your mind; allowing you to be calm, collected, and in control. You will present an image of streamlined efficiency and confidence. Also, if your intentions are written down you are more likely to follow them.
No matter how good your portfolio is, if you have the personality of freshly baked bread; you will not land the client. When meeting your client for the first time, quickly assess your surroundings. Finding common ground is the best way to start the conversation. In some cases the client may be half way around the world. In situations such as these, email and phone conversations are the only form of contact. Tone is everything when relying on a means of communication other than face-to-face. Watch spelling, grammar, and punctuation in emails as they can make or break you.
Before starting any new project, I google the potential client. I cannot count how many times this has prepared me for a crazy client. By checking on google and the various social networks, you’ll be able to grasp the gist of the client. Do they have several stores? Do they pay their vendors on time? Are there odd pictures of their last Christmas party on Facebook? The answers await on the internet.
Does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man? Never mind that now! When meeting a client for the first time it’s very important to dress accordingly. If you’re meeting at a bowling alley, a suit may not be a good choice. On the other hand don’t wear board shorts and a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt to a meeting. Well maybe if it’s a skate board company. I usually dress in dark colored business casual. It holds up nice and if I need to be a bit edgy, I loosen my tie a bit. Oh and when in doubt, wear a tie.
I have tattoos. I have been in situations on both sides of the fence. I have lost potential clients because of them and I have gained client because of them. It’s a fifty-fifty chance with tattoos. As a rule now, I keep them covered up unless they come up in conversation. I have tattoos in my illustration portfolio so the subject usually comes up.
In the end, it all comes down to common sense. Do you wear a suit or not? Do you relate that funny story about your design background? Use your judgment and your design spidey-sense to navigate the clients waters. Relax, you’ll do fine. Be yourself. They’ll love you, unless you have the personality of fresh baked bread. I want to leave you with another William Bernbach quote, “Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.”
In the next Client Tactics, we will look at sure-fire ways to spot a deadbeat client. Until then, want more ideas on being remarkable?
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Jeff Boshers is a freelance web designer from Tennessee. He enjoys discussing classic design principles, css, printing techniques, and client management among other things. You can find him on twitter @boundbystars and see his work. He is currently doing a 52 week project called 52 luchadors.