Freelance Design: Client Types & How to Work with Them

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“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Andy Warhol

Just as every freelancer is a little different, you will find each client has different needs and cares. However, many clients fall into one of a number of types, each requiring different approaches or handling to ensure the best working relationship. Knowing your client types will help you tailor your approach and produce the most successful project outcome.

Tech Impaired Client

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This client usually appears confused when any technological issues are being discussed. They prefer telephone conversations rather than emails and like to have a hard copy of everything. This type of client will usually need for everything to be gone through again before they fully understand the project details. However, they will usually rely on your technological expertise and will willingly take your advice. This can result in a lot of hand holding and it can be frustrating when they are unable to grasp even basic aspects such as emailing, but you should charge accordingly for this additional support.

The best way of working with a tech impaired client is to put all the technical details in writing, so they can read it at their own pace. This can save time explaining the details repeatedly especially if you have formatted the details into terms they will be more able to understand. You need to be prepared that you will not be using as much technology as you are used to. You should budget time and resources for meetings, phone calls and faxing. Try to avoid patronizing the client and ask for input from their area of expertise.

Uninterested Client

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This type of client is very unusual. Your questions will usually be answered with minimal responses and they will be lax in providing any requested materials or information. This will usually provide you with a great scope of creative freedom since the client is usually handing off the project to your control. However, they will likely ask you to handle all aspects of the project, even those outside of your skill set.

An uninterested client requires some forceful handling. You will have to chase information, so it is best to develop a humorous and polite attitude to force them along. They are usually uninterested because they have other stresses and priorities, but you can advise them on additional resources you can provide for additional costs.

Over-involved Client

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Some clients are frustrated creative types who want to tell you about their skills. They usually have a very specific idea of what they want and will require very little input from you. This can make for a fairly simple project if you are happy to simply make their idea a reality. However, they will not appreciate any criticism of their ideas even if they are flawed. This can result in them being unhappy with the final product even if it is exactly what they wanted.

It is a good idea to allow the client to lead the idea flow. Tell them explicitly that they have very specific ideas and you will follow their direction. However, you should also tell them that you can work without their input if they prefer.

Paranoid Client

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These clients will usually swamp you in legal paperwork, from drafted agreements to NDA’s. You must ensure that you check all the paperwork to check it protects your interests. It is worth having an independent legal professional to check the paperwork as it will usually be heavily slanted in the clients favor. There will usually be a number of grounds which can result in you not being paid, so it needs to be carefully monitored and adhered to.

Appreciative Client

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These clients value your skill and expertise. They will make you feel special and be delighted with your work. They tend to be very tactful and will word any aspects they are not completely satisfied with, in a positive way. Don’t take your appreciative clients for granted. Make sure you give them your best work and you can even provide additional content or services for no charge occasionally to show mutual appreciation.

Wheeler Dealer Client

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This client is always looking for a good deal. They will take your quote as a starting bid for negotiation and there will be some element of haggling. These clients can vary from entrepreneurs who have negotiated their way to success, to bullies who want you to work for peanuts. So you need to make sure you are happy with the agreed terms and price, or you will end up resenting the project.

On the other hand, these clients can be a great source of repeat or referral work since they usually have an expansive network of contacts. The key is to be assertive and not drop below the rate you are willing to work at.

“Not Sure What They Want” Client

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These clients can struggle to articulate what they actually want. They can be demanding, yet provide no real constructive criticism to work with. This can become very frustrating and can be difficult to budget for. However, if you can create their vision, you may gain a loyal and appreciative client.

The only way to deal with this type of client is to be very specific about revision costs. You also need to be prepared that it may be a very frustrating project.

Rush Client

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This client always has urgent and rush jobs which need to be your top priority. They will expect around the clock attention and all emails will be marked priority. This type of client will usually approve jobs quickly and tend to pay just as quickly.  They can create a great deal of stress, but it is important to be realistic and reasonable with them. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if they are not being reasonable, but make sure you provide a viable alternative. If they insist Monday is needed, try saying “I can’t do Monday but I can do…”. Rush clients have usually had experience of being messed about and will appreciate the honesty – providing you deliver what you agreed.

These are the most common types of clients but regardless, you should be aware and confident in your abilities and the rate you are willing to work at. This will make it easier to deal with any client and establish a good work relationship. What has your experience been so far?

Comments

  1. Nestor Diaz says

    “And the font should definitely have kerns.” That really killed me! Design is only a hobby for me, but as a programmer the over-involved client is definitely the worst. Or the client who thinks one can do anything with a wave of a magical techno-wizard wand.

    • Andra says

      The comics fit perfectly with the information from the article. Winters is such a funny guy! And you’ve made a great observation Nestor, you can find these types of clients in all businesses, not just design :)

  2. says

    Very impressive writing, A designer has great ideas to develop an interactive website and the font and typography makes the website more attractive thanks for sharing different tools of web design.

  3. says

    This article had my honestly laughing a few times.
    NC Winters has one creative mind!

    The next time a client want something too cheap and on a budget, it’s going to be hard to not say “Guess I could not use the letters C H E A or P”

  4. says

    LoL… This is really great. I specially like the RUSH CLIENT one. Cant remember how much time I have stumbled upon that and it has always been ASAP delivery from me but the invoices were the latest to be cleared :)

  5. says

    Superb facts discussed. I really appreciate the quality of your text. This post is very very impressive. Handling a client is always a tough job but we have to do it with lot of tacts. Thanks for sharing. :)