A guest post by Wouter Admiraal
The King Is Not Always Right
“Make my logo HUGE!”
Ouch! Here we go again.
We all know the rule: The Client Is King.
He’s the one paying the bills, so what the King wants, the King gets. But sometimes, the King requests things you know will hurt his business in the long run.
So what can you do about it ?
It’s Not Just The Project, It’s About Your Reputation
Many freelancers or small agencies will ignore their professional instincts, telling themselves: “What the hell! The client’s paying for it.”
And quite frankly, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Some clients are too stubborn to be convinced (and you might not have the luxury to fire them — yet).
But consider this:
Work is never just about money.
It’s about your reputation in the industry. If your client demands something insane and you do it, will you still put it in your portfolio? Or will you be too embarrassed to show it? Any project you cannot put in your portfolio is a project that served to pay the bills for a month or two, but represents zero investment for your business’ future.
On the other hand, projects you can proudly show to new clients (and online communities) are worth far more than just cash. This aspect is a good motivator to start finding ways to convince the client they’re wrong.
Here are a few tips to achieve this:
Building Trust And Respect
Clients will invest large amounts of money in you (or so they think), and that can be scary. You must realize that clients want nothing more than to trust you and be reassured that their project is in good hands.
Clients like it when we act professional. It reassures them. It shows them that we care, that we know our stuff, and that we won’t let them down.
First and foremost, when a client comes with a dumb request, do not push back. The client will sincerely think it’s good. Having someone tell you that it’s stupid is humiliating and doesn’t build trust.
A much better way is to acknowledge the idea and highlight the good aspects:
“Making your logo HUGE will indeed build your brand recognition.”
Then, gently but firmly, explain why your professional experience has shown you that it is not such a good idea:
“However, in my professional experience, I’ve come to realize that overly large logos tend to make the products that a company sells go unnoticed.”
If you explain things gently, but with firm conviction, you show them that you know your stuff. Many clients want to trust your professional judgment; they just don’t know if they can. So give them a good reason to trust you. In fact, many clients will appreciate you for challenging bad ideas, instead of simply implementing them just to be able to cash in.
In a very interesting article on Six Revisions, Addison Duvall makes a suggestion to consider befriending a teacher, especially one who teaches young children:
“If you struggle with being able to communicate difficult concepts to your clients, consider making friends with a teacher, particularly one who teaches young children. It may sound silly, but people who work with children on a daily basis must develop a keen sense of how to package information in easy-to-consume ways — which words to use and which to avoid, where exactly to begin your explanation, even what tone of voice to use.”
Using Psychology And Manipulation
However, some clients are not willing to take your word for it. In these cases, I use the following trick:
I think out loud about the suggestion, starting on the client’s side:
“I see your point. That would make sense, indeed.”
And then, step-by-step, start highlighting the flaws. I will make it seem as if the flaws were not obvious to begin with, as if I’m discovering them on the spot. This way, I don’t point a finger or make the client feel dumb:
“But, now that I think about it, I wonder if… yes, I imagine that making the logo HUGE will attract a lot of attention, and […].”
In almost all cases, the client listens attentively. In many cases, the client takes note of my professional deduction and sides with me.
If the above fails, I have one final trick up my sleeve. The idea is to get to a compromise. I will often take note of their request, acknowledge the reasoning behind it, but explain why I fear it might be too complicated or expensive (using the price trump card is especially good for building trust because clients will see you are not just in it for the money and that you just truly want to provide what’s best for them). Then, instead of leaving them with that, I would suggest another solution and usually, it revolves around Pareto’s law.
I would suggest a very simple solution that will cover most of their requirements for the least amount of work (or damage). Sometimes my suggestion is even free (like setting up a Twitter account instead of creating a company newsletter).
It is very important to highlight this as a win-win solution for them. Show them that, in the original idea, they would “win” one thing (e.g. “brand recognition”) but lose something else (“Your products go unnoticed”). The win-win solution lets them have both, but in a way you have the control.
Dealing with clients can be difficult, but I have found that showing respect and conviction are great ways to deal with clients and build long-lasting business relations. Never forget they are investing money in you: Show them that you are worth every dime, and more!
For further reading on dealing with clients, I can recommend the following:
- 6 Tips for Effectively Dealing with Client Demands by Addison Duvall
- 8 Ways to Deal With a Difficult Client by Mike Michalowicz
- How to Handle a Difficult Client by Michael Alter
Do you also have a share of clients who wanted something that’s against your creative principles? How were you able to deal with such situations? We’d love to hear from you!