Keep your clients happy with these 28 pro tips

15. Learn to say no

If a client has a bad idea, tell them. If they want flashing day-glo text, say no (and explain why). If they want to use cheesy stock photography rather than original artwork, tell them (politely) that this isn't the best way to go. They'll thank you in the long term.

16. Put things in writing

Verbal contracts are just a lot of hot air, so make sure that you agree on a contract in writing. This should specify what they get from you: for example, you may set an hourly rate, offer the first/second set of revisions free, then charge for further revisions on the hourly rate.

If you or the client wants to change the terms of the contract at any point, get the changes down on paper or in an email. It saves a lot of heartache later on for both parties.

17. Keep in touch

Send thank you emails, cards, cakes – whatever's appropriate – to your design clients when the situation deems it suitable. Make a note of your project's live date and send your client a good luck message. Take an interest in how a project is doing a few months after it launches.

18. Make an appearance

A freelance illustrator who works for our sister title, Computer Arts magazine, insists upon hand-delivering his work rather than FTP-ing it over. When he turns up he talks through the work for immediate feedback, and brings cakes and cookies to brighten an otherwise ordinary day. This is not always practical, but will almost certainly win you plaudits if you can do it.

19. Offer added value

How can you make yourself stand out in a crowded market?

You're in a competitive market, so think about what extras you can offer your design clients. It always pays to over-deliver. This could involve working in-house, seeking out cheaper suppliers for them, or even offering to help out with extra workloads. Or could you deliver five concepts even though you've only specified three?

20. Demonstrate your loyalty

It's a tough ask in the current economy, but have a degree of loyalty. If you're approached by a competitor to your design client, think long and hard before taking the work. Similarly, pass on any news you might hear on the design grapevine. Your clients will soon learn to value you for more than your design skills.

21. Make small talk

It may sound sycophantic, but it works. If you know that your client is a die-hard Manchester United fan, have a chat about the weekend's results. If they have a family, ask after them. If clients feel they can trust and confide in you, they'll feel more comfortable hiring you again.

22. Design for them, not you

We all want amazing work that make our portfolios sing. But that should never be the priority in our design process. If the client just needs a good, solid design – nothing particularly groundbreaking, innovative or experimental – give them that. If you really want to create envelope-pushing stuff for your portfolio, consider designing something bespoke for that purpose, or starting your own side project.

23. Do great work

Always remember the primary reason the client loves you: because you produce great work for them. If you find you're spending all your time trying to make them happy in other ways, then it's probably time to review your working practices - because something isn't working as it should be...

24. Get inside their heads

Different clients require different approaches

Not all clients are the same, but they're not all completely different either. Check out this article by Carl Heaton of Bangkok Design Agency in which he identifies the five main types of design client and how to handle them.

25. Please clients by pleasing users

It's a tricky conundrum: the client is the one paying you, but the user is the consumer who ultimately matters. Manage to square the circle by keeping both happy and you'll never be short of work. This article by Ren Walker explains how to balance the needs of clients and users successfully.

26. Set your sights high

You don't have to be a massive agency to work for a major company. Even the biggest brands, such as Coke and Sony, will often hire small, lean outfits so set your sights high. Read this article to discover how to punch above your weight.

27. See an open brief as an opportunity

When clients leave everything up to you, it can sometimes be liberating, but sometimes it can be frustrating not knowing what they want. For advice, check out this article on how to cope with an open design brief.

28. Strike the right balance

Designers are hired specifically to be creative, but you'll also be expected to understand and meet business needs. It's a tricky balance to strike, but Alastair Eilbeck, creative consultant and digital artist at Amaze, explains how you can do both successfully in this article.

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