If there is one thing you learn as a freelancer, it is that you can never make a bad client into a great one. We all need them as we couldn’t exist without them and you can’t beat them into a pulp when things go awry. Often we try to make do with what we have and come to some kind of cooperative arrangement with the client but unless were getting paid really well, it’s rarely worth the effort involved. It’s usually not personal either as they would probably be that way with any other designer as those qualities are generally inbreed into their mind-set. The best way to deal with this is to start off with a good client and let go the rest.
One way of determining this list is by looking at how they budget and deal with money. There is a major difference between clients that don’t have the cash and ones that are just plain cheap. Anyone that can’t match your budget should lead you to much more lucrative opportunities down the line as very little in this world is free and you should treat discounts as bargaining tools and make sure certain items aren’t available to them unless they pay the price. The initial price you give clients will give you a value in your client’s mind, if you step away from your initial value, you reduce your perceived value in your clients mind. This is where you always need to be firm otherwise you will end up on the wrong side of it, doing more work for less pay.
You can bargain with them in exchange for Creative freedom and guaranteed paid future work as well as paid referrals, just avoid the term ‘free exposure’ as this is very broad and will often not get you anywhere and you might just slave your life away in the coalmines for nothing.
We all also have those ’other’ clients interfering in the design process such as standing behind your back shouting “Make the logo Bigger!” or “Make the shapes 5”h x 3.5”w, but can you make it more rectangular-shaped than squares?” while we slave away making iteration after iteration as a result of the clients ever changing mind-set. After a while we start excluding them from the design process altogether which can often lead to more interference as the cycle continues. We need to avoid this and include the client in every step of the process where we can largely avoid those hellishly uninformed ‘tweaks’.
Clients don’t trust our judgement either as they are often afraid of the unknown as they are not experts in web or design. They need to gain some kind of control. The more we exclude them from the process, the more they become concerned and the more they try and take control of the process. At the end of the day, they are responsible if the project is a complete flop and their reputation relies on it as their job may be on the line and they have to live with the consequences.
By collaborating with them you get to educate them about the design process as well as giving them that sense of control. At the end of the day we can accomplish both high quality work output as well as making a nice profit if we collaborate and learn with each other.
Hulk (link to image)
Evil Client (link to image)
Pencil (link to image)