When first setting up this blog a few years ago, I thought it would be nice to write about the things that matter to me the most, and let’s be honest, the thought of using a blog as a form of self promotion for Dessein was at the top of the list. I have done just that. I have talked about our work, the awards and processes taken to achieve them. But quite often, other ideas cross my mind and I think… I should write a blog about that.
I’m not sure if it’s because another year has come to pass, the start of the next has begun, or our priorities around our own health and well-being have prompted the thoughts for this post – perhaps a little of them all. Perhaps it is all just part of the natural cycle of things.
Thoughts about working with clients – the good, the bad and the ugly. Is it time to say goodbye? Is this something for open discussion? Is it unprofessional to say… Sorry, we don’t like you and your work methods? or ‘We don’t want to do your work? Should we be grateful that these clients even want to give us their work? Is it time to end this working relationship?
I’m not sure if there’s a professional protocol to follow here, or if it is taboo to discuss, but nonetheless, I have decided its time to ask and hopefully answer these questions too.
Its all about your perspective
If I look back to when we first started, I would have said – What are you talking about? You have clients that want to give you work, all you just have to do is be nice, keep the lines of communication open and the rest will sort itself out, after all, work is work and we all need to make a living. If that means having to put a logo in six different positions on the page or changing the colours of the design just so the client can see what it looks like, it’s all part of the job – right? Well maybe, I guess it all depends on your perspective – where you are in your life, what matters to you the most and whether or not you believe this is how it is meant to be.
Let me elaborate. As graduates starting our own business, we threw caution to the wind and just did it – we did it all. We took on all kinds of jobs. Nothing was too small (shopping docket ads for crying out loud!) no amount of changing font sizes, colours or edits was too much to ask. And it was fine, hell, we didn’t even charge for those changes. We were still learning. Finding our feet and understanding the way of the world. And learn we did – often from the most unlikely source, and my advice to anyone starting out by yourself would be to do the same. You think you may know everything and that your design is perfect just the way it is, but you’d be surprised how, from time to time, a client’s suggestions can improve your work.
But where or when do you draw the line? How much is enough?
One of the most common things a new client starting out will say to us is…
I love the work on your website, you guys are great…and because these clients are usually new to the process or have had a bad experience with the last designer they worked with, they think it’s their job to direct you in the way it should look. Some even provide a sketch for you to follow. That’s great if you are giving your work to a student who may need a jumpstart of ideas, however a well-established design studio will be the one directing the new client as to how their new ideas will set them apart from their competitors.
Don’t get me wrong, we know we have to work with our clients to achieve the best results for them. You have to listen, understand and make sure what you are offering is both appropriate and effective in meeting their project objectives. But there comes a time when you realise, you know your craft and the best way to use it. Clients who trust you know it too. They don’t need to be told you are the professional – they know it and respect it. These are the best clients, as they too have probably already been through this journey in their own profession and have realised that if they have done their part of the job effectively and leave you to the creative, the designers will be able to create, inspire and achieve the results you are both looking for.
Dessein takes great pride of the relationships built over the years with our clients. The journey with them has often began with the very things mentioned here, yet we have endured and have a stronger working relationship as a result of it. These client relationships have been ongoing for 8, 10 and for some, more than 20 years! We know we must be doing something right!
Time to move on….
There does however, from time to time, come a point where it is time to say goodbye. Making the decision to say this to a client, is not made lightly, or one we wish to do without good reason. And the reasons can be many. Sometimes certain personalities simply clash and the relationship is strained, resulting in tension and anxiety – unhealthy and undesirable. No amount of financial renumeration is going to make this kind of relationship achieve the desired results. Time to say goodbye.
Life is full of natural cycles, and this can also be true for working relationships. A number of clients come to us in the early stages of their business and the creative solutions we supply them elevates them to the next level of their business, opening doors and providing business opportunities they could not have achieved before. The metamorphosis of their business results in different needs best met with different creative solutions. These clients are harder to say goodbye too as the journey has been just as much ours as it has been theirs. And still it happens.
Hello, how can we help you?
One of Dessein’s greatest strengths has been our ability to adapt and redirect. As the saying goes, one door closes and another opens. Saying goodbye and accepting change can be challenging… until a new door opens and brings with it a new hello.
For every goodbye allows a new cycle to begin with new ideas, new beginnings and new learning experiences. These are the things which make being a designer great. The learning opportunities that arise with each new project brings excitement imparting new wisdoms which are nurtured and grow – ready for the next hello and all the places they go….. so, goodbye until we say hello.