Designers may have a misconception that that clients are to help designers solely to build their portfolio. Wrong! The main concern should be solving the problems and needs of the client and everything else will follow for you. The benefits to having a great client relationship is: (1) you become more valuable to them, (2) clients can get you referrals, (3) you become happier. I will provide three solid tips to help you improve or form great client relationships.
1. Trading Spaces
Before meeting the client, you should do a quick research on the client. This will give you a chance to understand and empathize with them. Learn what their needs, concerns, and problems may be from researching their website and other places for information on the client. Also, it can be effective for you to remember anytime in your life where you've been the client. How were you treated? How were serviced? Were your needs met and how? Were you pleased by the end of the project?
2. Ask Questions
Always know that asking the client information is more important than you just talking. Each question should help to filter the realm of possibility for the project. If someone asks can you build them a website, ask simplified questions that gets you to the real problem. A good question would be to ask why do you need a website? The client goes on to explain that they need a site where they can sell their hair products online. When they are answering the questions be sure to listen with an intent to discover the problem.
3. Embrace, Then Pivot.
If and when met with an objection from the client, you guessed it... ask more questions! You want to be walking side by side with the client, not in opposing directions. (Example conversation) "Make it bigger."(client) "Why do you say that?"(designer) "Well the background is white and the text is yellow; it's hard for me to see."(client) "Oh I see. That sounds like a contrast issue; maybe if I changed the color of the text to navy blue the text should be more legible."(designer) "Oh yeah. That can work."(client) "Great! I'll make the change, and present it at our next meeting."(designer)
In summary, the relationship between you and the client can be made easier when understanding their needs. You can understand their needs by asking simplified questions that narrow down to the problem. Nobody likes to be bombarded with a person constantly selling them something. Instead, flip the idea of selling by simply providing value to the client. Make sure you have these three questions answered: Is there a problem to solve? Can I solve it? Can they afford me?