5 Points on Picking Your Design Clients

The designer and client relationship is a two-way thing. You must be able to meet your client’s needs and the client must be able to provide time, budget, input and enthusiasm from their side to help you the designer make their project a success. Make sure your client looks for someone that wants to walk alongside them, “a partner more than a contractor”. That guarantees more success and satisfaction for both parties.

You and the client should realize that you can help make their business better and you should make sure that you have enough expertise to meet your client’s needs. There are thousands of horror stories about nightmare clients making life very difficult for the designer. Here is a few ideas around how to make sure your client is the ideal one:

1. First, meet with your client

Which at first seems to be an ideal client, could turn out to be a nightmare as soon as the pressure builds up, therefore:

  • Make sure you understand what they need and what you expect from them in return.
  • Make sure your client understands your working policies and what you expect from them.
  • Know that the possibility is there that your working relationship can become a friendship which is also good.
  • If you can, find out more about the client’s business background.
  • Meeting with your client beforehand can confirm if the client and project are a good fit for your studio, design style, way of working and portfolio.
  • Have your own studio criteria and make sure your client qualifies within this criteria.
  • Make sure you can meet with your clients needs.
  • Talking to the client you will soon realize if they respect your expertise or not.
  • Do you and your client share the same values?
  • Do you have the same values around project management?
  • Did your client do proper homework or are you the first and only studio they came to?

2. Before taking on a project, consider the following:

  • Is the deadline realistic?
  • Is the budget in line with the type of project and your project rates?
  • Is the project challenging and an opportunity for testing your skills?
  • Will the project become part of your portfolio?
  • Will the project be fun for you to work on?

3. Be aware and know about the following dangers:

  • Best paying projects can have the worst deadlines with very low creativity.
  • Most creative projects could end up having the smallest budgets, taking up most of your time.
  • If something doesn’t feel good, do not be afraid to pass it on.
  • People that argue the price upfront, rarely end up to be the client you want to work with.

4. Something about the contract

When bringing the contract to the table, it could be a good suggestion to mention something in the contract that the agreement could be terminated if the project is simply not working or client is exceeding their allotted time. If you have some doubts, but are willing to take a change, consider signing up a client for an initial phase rather than the whole project. If both parties are happy after the first phase, well done! Otherwise, say cheers with a smile.

5. Some advice

  • Get 50% upfront!!!
  • If clients pay your invoice when it suits them, think carefully before taking on the next job from the same client.
  • Make sure you have a good balance of work. You should have some of your own projects to make sure that you do not end up working with clients all the time.
  • Communicate with your client, by phone or Skype, not only with emails.
  • Look for interesting opportunities where your design expertise can be applied to the benefit of the client and your portfolio.
  • You do not have to take up every opportunity that comes your way. Not every opportunity is good for your portfolio, time or expertise.
  • Before blaming the client for what went wrong, make sure it wasn’t your own fault for taking on a project you shouldn’t have in the first place.


Therefore, to round up, get to know the client before signing up. Look for passion and excitement for the project from their side as well. Make sure the project is challenging and fun. Make sure the project will make it to your portfolio. Is the budget and time frame for the project realistic? Your client and team must be willing to invest their time, budget and energy into making the right design decisions that will serve best to the client’s needs.

This will bring you more success and project satisfaction. Have fun!

Pieter Els
Pieter Els
Designer at Inconcept Media that is passionate about changing the design industry. With more than 30 Years of experience in the industry and thousands of hours invested, I still love what I do. Follow me on Twitter: @PieterEls12

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