10 Tips For Turning Your Design Clients Into Your Personal Marketing Machines.

View Comments by Bianca Board on 21 September 2013

Do you remember when you first got into graphic design and it was all sunshine and lollypops? 

I remember meeting my first few clients and actually being excited for the ‘amazing’ opportunity of designing a sewerage management treatment brochure.

I shit you not! ;-)

These days it gets a little harder to stay ‘excited’, doesn’t it?

And I’ll admit, although I still love graphic design and web design, the passion starts to falter a little bit. Especially when you’re dealing with a difficult client  or working on the dullest website imaginable.

The problem is that your clients are like bloodhounds. They'll SMELL your disinterest and dissatisfaction from a mile off.

You might be asking yourself “yeah but so what? I’ve got the job and once it’s done I can move onto the next.” NO! That’s the wrong attitude.

And I’m not just saying that because I want you to be the ultimate goodie goodie... but because happy clients will bring you more business in the future.

By keeping your clients happy you can: 

  1. Go back to them and ask for more work in the future.
  1. Have them refer you more work from their friends.

  2. Upsell them more design services like banners, email templates and YouTube designs.


It’s all about attitude! Your client is NOT just a one job stand... they are long term sources of business.

In fact, before I started my Web123ProPartner program, and started helping other designers setup their web design businesses, about 80% of my work came from reoccurring clients and their referrals. Seriously... 80%! If I mistreated them I was effectively committing professional suicide!

So I present to you MY tried and tested 10 top tips to turn your clients into your own source of long term business!

1. Manage your client’s expectations.

Sometimes, in the pursuit or snaring that design job, or even just to keep them happy when you do get them onboard, some designers will make promises or agree to things that are either exceptionally difficult or impossible to do.

I know it can be tempting, but it’s important to stand up to your clients.

Trust me, they will try to push you around as much as possible. The problem is that if you make promises you can’t keep, they will very quickly lose faith in you.

Clients appreciate an honest designer, and if you recommend against something, or even outright state that you can’t do something, they will respect you for it and trust you for your design expertise.

2. Clearly label the client’s responsibilities.

As you’ve probably gathered from point 1, it’s important not to be scared of your client (though I appreciate it’s not always easy).

However you MUST be upfront and clearly explain where key responsibilities lie for yourself and for your client.

Typically this comes down to the timing and delivery of payment, work and feedback from your client.

I’ve been involved in several project where the client NEEDS something finished for a certain date... but still go on to be late with payment and late with feedback.

By clearly labelling each party’s responsibilities, and when they are due, you can save a lot of headaches and also cover yourself when a client wonders “well how come my website design is a late?”

I know it feels odd talking about the creativity and friendly aspects of a project, but you must bring up these crucial elements. Personally I write up a timetable for both parties and send it via email... it’s saved my bacon many a time, and surprisingly, helps you to maintain a positive relationship with the client.

3. Respond to your client QUICKLY!

Clients presume you are design wizards... literally! They think that with a single phone call or an email you will be able to make a quick fix or bend to their every design whim within minutes.

I know you can’t always do your client’s bidding right there and then (though some clients will seem to think you can) however the one thing you should absolutely not do is ignore them.

I know the feeling “I’ll reply later” or “I’ll reply tomorrow.” No... reply to them as soon as you can, even if it’s a quick “Hi Bob! Thanks for your email, I should be able to look at this tomorrow for you” or words to that effect.

There is nothing more frustrating for a client than silence... by simply replying and letting them know when to expect a response, you will look about 1,000 times more professional than 95% of designers out there.

4. Go the extra mile.

There’s a hard balance to make here so pay attention. You don’t want to be doing extra work. All those “can you just tweak the colour” or “can you just make the logo bigger” type requests add up, and frankly you should be charging for that extra work.

However there are ways you can go that extra mile without looking like a door mat. Doing a few more button designs, and few bonus banners or even suggesting an idea can go a long way to making you seem like a generous designer.

Basically, if they don’t ask for it and you do it, you’re going the extra mile. If they demand you do something for free and you do it... you’re a walking mat.

Just remember to let them know that you “did a few bonus banners on the house” if you do any extra work so that they know!

5. Make them your best mate.

There are many things in life where a strictly ‘professional’ approach is best. However design isn’t one of them. Just because they're your client doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the experience.

Build rapport... make them feel like your best mate. After all... he’s more likely going to recommend a ‘mate’ to design his friend’s websites too! ;)

6. Keep in regular contact.

Yes it’s important to keep in regular contact whilst you’re working on their new website, but I also recommend you keep in regular contact AFTER you’ve completed working for them.

Your current clients are your best source of additional work and referrals, so it’s important to cultivate these relationships. Check up on your clients 3, 6, 9 and 12 months down the line.

Ask them if they need anything, or if they know anyone who might be looking for a designer.

If you keep yourself in the forefront of their mind and if the experience was positive, you’re almost guaranteed to get some future work from your previous clients.

7. Never be high n’ mighty.

Yes we are gods. We are the lords and masters of design. Sadly our lowly clients don’t realise our infallibility.

Only kidding. However we have to appreciate that whereas design is our domain, our clients will come from a wide range of businesses and for many of them, design can be very alien to them.

One thing you must never ever do, is try to make them feel small or stupid.

One key way to do this is to not use jargon.

I’ve known many designers who try to bamboozle their clients with clever terms and complex explanations... and frankly, it doesn’t work.

A client wants to feel like you’re on their side, and that the world of design is not a terrifying beast. By talking to them in clear and simple terms, you will come across as easy to work with, and that you are helping them to understand the process.

8. Turn the job around.... FAST.

Okay okay... easier said than done. But a lot of designers LOVE to drag their feet along the ground when it comes to designing things for their clients. After all, you can’t rush art.

If you find you’re struggling to deliver work quickly enough, have a hard long look at your processes and see there is a way you can speed it up. If there’s one thing that can really cause you to lose repeat business... it’s this!

For myself, when I wanted to speed up the delivery of my web designs, I developed a tool that allowed me to produce websites within days instead of weeks.

This tool is available to all my readers, so if you’re struggling to produce websites quickly enough for your clients, check out my Web123 ProPartner program. 

9. Care about their business.

Remember... their success is YOUR success. So you want to show that you care about their business. Social media has made it so much easier to care, so use it!

When you do some design work, keep tabs on your client’s Facebook and Twitter and interact with them on a regular basis. Congratulate them when they succeed and recommend interesting articles or blog posts that you find. It won’t go unnoticed, and they will identify you as ‘one of them.’

In fact, this is why I’ve put so much energy into my Facebook, Twitter and blog. Because it helps me keep tabs with how my clients are doing, and allows me to become a better designer for them.

10. Make them moolah!

Remember... if they make money from your amazing designs, they are going to come back to you!

So don’t just give them a so-so design, make sure you knock it out of the park! Because if they get a great return on investment, they are practically guaranteed to return to you.


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So to summarise!

So there you have it my top 10 tips for turning your clients into happy little marketing machines... just to recap:

  1. Manage your client’s expectations: Make sure you let them know what’s realistic and what isn’t.
  2. Clearly label your client’s responsibilities: Make sure they know when to give you feedback!
  3. Respond to your client QUICKLY: Even if it’s just to say “I’ll get on that tomorrow.”
  4. Go the extra mile: Freebies and advice will go a long long way!
  5. Make them your best mate: Cos mates get all the best jobs!
  6. Keep in regular contact: After all you don’t want them to forget you.
  7. Never be high n’ mighty: Don’t be a too clever for your own good. Clients don’t like it.
  8. Turn the job around fast: Because your client isn’t getting any younger.
  9. Care about their business: It shows you’re not *just* a designer, but their friend too.
  10. Make them moolah: If they get a return investment, you’re more likely to get future work.

Need any help speeding up your web design projects?

And remember, if you need any help designing and developing high quality websites quickly, then why not check out my Web123 ProPartner program?

It’s perfect for designers who want to grab web design by the horns, but without having to work with a developer or know a single jot of HTML.

In fact, I’m running a 14 day trial, so why not CLICK ON THIS LINK right now and see what all the fuss is about?

What do you think? Share your comments below.


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