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CLIENT SERVICE

7 Things You Can Do When a Client Doesn’t Like Your Designs

Oh, that sinking feeling when a client is less than in love with your work. 

If you haven’t been there then you’re all sorts of uber creative and I salute you, what’s your secret?

For the rest of us, I’d like to share a few things to consider when a client doesn’t like your designs.

7 Things to do when your client doesn't like your designs

The problem is in the title

But before I do that, I want to discuss the problem in the title, ‘…when a client doesn’t like your designs.’ Because the moment language along the lines of ‘like’, dislike’, ‘love’, ‘hate’ start getting used, things have become emotional.

Now an emotional reaction is completely valid. It can be a precursor to and indicator of something being right or wrong. And is the manifestation of intuition. But it’s not something you can act on as a designer.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t prick up your ears, respect your client’s reaction and take the response seriously. What it means is, you now have to undergo a process to get to a resolution that’s something resembling a win-win for everyone.

So, when the dreaded ‘like’ word starts getting bandied around, it’s time to remove the emotion and get back some objectivity.

The problem is in the title

 

But before I do that, I want to discuss the problem in the title, ‘…when a client doesn’t like your designs.’ Because the moment language along the lines of ‘like’, dislike’, ‘love’, ‘hate’ start getting used, things have become emotional.

Now an emotional reaction is completely valid. It can be a precursor to and indicator of something being right or wrong. And is the manifestation of intuition. But it’s not something you can act on as a designer.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t prick up your ears, respect your client’s reaction and take the response seriously. What it means is, you now have to undergo a process to get to a resolution that’s something resembling a win-win for everyone.

So, when the dreaded ‘like’ word starts getting bandied around, it’s time to remove the emotion and get back some objectivity.

1. It’s Not Personal

 

Try not to take it personally. This is not them saying they ‘don’t like’ you. You are not your creative. The design work is there to serve a specific and strategic purpose. Try and separate yourself from the feedback and don’t take it as a personal attack.

 

2. Go Back to the brief

 

So, I’m assuming here that there was a brief, it was good quality, and everyone was on board with it before the project started. Let’s assume that’s the case!

Even when you have a great brief, as you get deeper onto a project, it can become a long and distant memory. But if you find yourself in the uncomfortable situation when a client doesn’t like your designs, a strong brief will be your friend. When things stall, go back to the brief and remind yourself and your client where you started. It can be a good reset and help to refocus everyone’s minds on what you’re working to achieve.

 

3. Strategy Prevents Subjectivity

 

I’m a huge fan of strategy in all situations and believe that a strategic understanding should be the foundation for every creative project. When you invest in defining and agreeing the driving principles and success criteria, this gives the project a clear roadmap and reference point. It helps take the subjectivity out of everyone’s thinking. All feedback then becomes about whether the creative delivers on the strategy, rather than if they ‘like’ it or not.

Set boundaries with clients

4. Beware Design by Committee 

 

The moment your client starts making executional requests… can you to try different colours or combine concepts… pump the break.

When a non-designer tries to art direct, it’s the creative equivalent of putting lipstick on a gorilla. They’re not aware of the knock-on effect of those tweaks or if they are even going to work.

They’re just applying a band-aid solution. What you end up with is a steep decent into a hodge podge design that I like to call a design camel. And it’s sucked up lots of time and energy, created more frustration on both sides and is very unlikely to have fixed the issue.

Guide your client back to constructive, strategic feedback, rather than let them try to solve the creative problem.

5. Probe the Feedback

 

To be blunt, ‘I don’t like it’, it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, ‘I’ll know when I see it’, just doesn’t cut the mustard. You don’t have to accept or try and piece together a solution in response to this kind of feedback. Help your client articulate ‘why’. What isn’t working, what box isn’t it ticking?

 

6. Explain Your Rationale

 

Rule #1 (after the rule that says never under any circumstances take on a client that thinks comic sans is a fun font that shows their quirky side), never just send your creative work without taking the time to present it. Explain why you’ve made specific creative choices. Make it clear why those choices work and/or meet the brief and the objectives. Sharing your reasoning can change a client’s perspective on the designs and help them see your creative work in a new light.

 

7. Recommend

 

It is your job to cut through the noise for your client and give them a clear creative pathway forward. It can be tempting to give lots of options and show ‘evidence of industry’. However, a negative response from a client can sometimes be linked to overwhelm. Help them cut through and be strong with a single recommendation. This is where you start to step up in their estimations as a creative consultant as well as a creative doer.

I get it!

 

Really, I do. When a client doesn’t like your designs, it can be a difficult pill to swallow. It can knock your confidence and leave you feeling creatively drained. However, taking a deep breathe, and asking yourself how you can take the emotion and the subjectivity out of the situation, will be a big positive for you, your designs and the future of the client relationship.

If you’re finding that client management is giving you some sleepless nights and filling you with anything but joy, we should talk.

In my Creative Business Insider coaching, one of the key areas I focus on is client service. We work together on systems and processes for more efficient client management and approaches to create an outstanding client experience. All so you can create a business that you love, that allows you to work with clients on projects that excite you and gives you cashflow without working around the clock.

Bec Hughes Creative Business Insider Coaching

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