My path to successful client relationships and a flourishing web design business.
The following rules have helped me develop great relationships with my clients and grow my business faster than ever, all while raising my hourly rates.
1. Be On Time
This is important for both face to face meetings as well as calls or Skype chat. Also, pay attention to your client’s time zone when scheduling calls. The site www.worldtimebuddy.com is a handy tool to have available.
2. Be Easy to Reach
Provide your email, phone, skype, chat, and physical address to your clients. Make them feel they can contact you quickly and easily. You don’t need to answer every client phone call as it comes in, but try to answer most of them and quickly return those which you missed. Of course, you want your clients to understand you have normal, working office hours and are not available 24/7 (unless that is part of the service you provide and something for which they should pay a premium).
3. Provide Frequent Updates
It is not your client’s responsibility to ask for updates on the project. You should be sending updates as frequently as possible. When there is no update, let them know you didn’t forget about the project and you will send them details shortly – and then do so.
4. Be Responsible
If things go sideways, explain to the client what went wrong in simple, easy to understand language. Always state: what happened, why it happened, how it will be resolved and how it will be avoided in the future.
A word to the wise: Don’t be afraid to apologize, but don’t take all the blame (leave some room for interpretation) – if the issue caused your client financial losses, accepting 100% of the responsibility can be used against you. More important than who is to blame is how the issue will be resolved and how to ensure it won’t happen again.
5. The Art of Emails
- use standard sans-serif font
- no italics, regular font size, avoid colors
- keep emails short and to the point
- keep your signature simple (no images or logos). The email signature should only contain: your name, your company/position, your contact information
Example of good email signatures:
www.yourwebsitehere.com | 121-222-1121
www.yourwebsitehere.com | 121-222-1121
6. Put It In Writing
Do not start any work without a written agreement that at a minimum outlines the work to be performed, the deliverables and the timeline. Keep written agreements as short and simple as possible, but use them!
7. Be Proactive
Use your expertise to make suggestions and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. Clients often do not know what they really need and their requests can be Frankensteins, made up of various assumptions, random pieces of advice and articles they read or conversations they heard. Do not be afraid to suggest a better solution. Of course you do not want to make them feel stupid, but don’t be afraid to say what you think and never work on a project you would not want your name associated with.
8. Take Notes and Follow Up With Summary
Whenever you have a client meeting or call, take notes. It shows you are organized and the notes will save you a lot of headache later. After the meeting or call, put things in writing and send a short follow up email with a summary of what was discussed, what was decided, expectations and next steps.
9. Use Proper Language and Grammar
Check spelling and grammar three times before sending an email. If you are more into design and programming than writing, maybe it is a good time to finally improve your writing skills or hire somebody who can proofread your rambling words. Also, do not use slang and skip the jokes and emoticons.
10. Pay Attention to Details – 1px Makes a Difference
Consistency with alignment, colors and fonts are what makes a site look like it was done by a pro. Even one uneven pixel will distinguish a (web design) boy from a man. On top of that:
- Keep solid documentation, version control and good use of backups
- Provide your client with written instructions to the CMS
- When pushing the site live, do not forget about the details such as the favicon, SEO optimization of titles and descriptions, robot.txt, setting up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.
Of course you will always come across a client who will not appreciate your hard work and professionalism, no matter what you do. The best way to deal with this type of client is to follow the rules above and handle them courteously and professionally. Do your best to finish the project as quickly as possible and in the nicest way possible, or if that will not work, simply refund the money as soon as you see the problems coming.
1+1=2. I mean seriously, aren’t these rules obvious? You probably already know them, now it’s time to follow them.