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Building Relationships With Your Graphic Design Clients.
How do you define your relationships with your clients?I'm not talking about the graphic design work you do for them or their promptness to pay their bills. I'm talking about a true relationship. Outside of the actual projects you work on together, what sort of relationship do you have? Do you know anything personal about them? Could you hold a meaningful conversation with them that didn't involve work?
Building relationships with your graphic design clients is a key element in running a successful graphic design business.
I'm not suggesting you take them out to a movie or a weekend at the beach. But taking the time and getting to know them beyond your professional relationship will go a long way in establishing your future with a client.
Why? Because having a relationship instills trust, loyalty, understanding and so much more.
Now I know It's not possible to build a relationship with each and every client. Some of them come to you for a one time jobs and then you never hear from them again. Others have no interest in building relationships and only want you for your skills. But regardless of the client, it's your obligation to at least make an effort in building a relationship with them. Because when you do, it pays off a hundred fold.
In this week's episode of the Resourceful Designer podcast I discuss this topic in length. Here is a brief description covering some of what I talked about in this episode.
Benefits of building relationships
Having a good relationship with your client means you've gone beyond just being their graphic designer. It means you've become the person they can go to for advice, get ideas from, or just vent. And when you've become that person chances are they wont look elsewhere when it comes to a service you can offer them.
When you have a relationship with a client both of you benefit. Not only do you gain an understanding of their business and how they work but they also learn how you do things which can help you in future projects. You each gain a comprehension of the strategies and methods you use that will help you when brainstorming ideas. And most importantly, when you have a relationship with a client, you build trust and loyalty towards each other that goes beyond the projects you work on together.
Remember, people use people they like. So if your client likes you, there's no reason for them to shop around elsewhere.
How do you build relationships?
Building relationships with clients isn't that different than dating.
Imagine your going on a blind date with someone you don't know much about. What do you do to get them to like you?
The key component is communication. You need to have an open dialogue that goes both ways. If you were on a blind date and they did nothing but talk about themselves you would be put off. Same goes for clients. Give them the opportunity to talk and express themselves.
Show Respect. Let your client explain things, even if you already know what they're talking about. If your blind date starts telling you all about a movie you've already seen you wouldn't tell them to stop because you already know the movie. You would let them talk. Give the client the same opportunity.
Be Honest. If a client ask you something that you don't know or are unsure of, don't be afraid to tell them so. Honesty can go a long way in building relationships. Tell the client you don't know, but follow up that you are eager to learn or discover the answer. Show interest and they will appreciate you for it.
Be Patient. Some clients have a hard time getting their ideas across. Especially if they are unsure of the direction they want to take. Be patient and let them gather their thoughts as they try to explain things to you. Offer your advice and opinions only once they're done.
The following two are the most important factors in building relationships with clients.
Listen. Listen to EVERYTHING the client has to say. Not just about the project you are discussing but everything they talk about. The parts of the conversation not related to the design project are sometimes more valuable to building relationships than the project talk.
Learn what you can about your client during these conversations. If they talk about their children or mention an upcoming vacation, take note and bring up the topics in future conversations. Asking a client the next time you talk how his weekend at the cottage went shows him that you cared enough to remember that detail and ask about it.
Ask Questions. You should be asking questions about the project you are working on, but there is nothing wrong with asking questions not related to the project in order to build your relationship. If you're at a client's office and see a photo of kids, a dog or a vacation spot on their desk, ask about them. If you also have a dog talk about it. Knowing you're a fellow dog lover can help solidify the relationship you are building.
If you work on these skills you are on your way to building a relationship.
Building relationships take time. But the time invested is more than worth it in the long run. Building relationships with clients is one of the best things you can do for your graphic design business. It's a wonderful feeling knowing a client relies on you so much that they couldn't fathom going to anyone else.
I would love to know what you though of this episode. Please leave a comment below.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org