4 Things High-Paying Design Clients Expect from You

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

The first time you sit down with a client, it can be a difficult meeting. You are assessing how the client will be as a boss, and your client is trying to get a read on your abilities as a designer.

For a freelance designer, this process is even more fraught and happens on a regular basis. Freelancers inevitably deal with low-paying clients, high-paying clients, laid-back clients, and hands-on clients. It’s a tricky task for freelance designers to go from client to client and still have an understanding of what the expectations are for their work.

If you want to land high-paying freelance design gigs on a regular basis, it’s important to have an understanding of what those clients expect from you, so you can cater your design process to them and have a better chance of landing well-paying gigs in the futures. Here are four things high-paying design clients expect from you:

1. An established track record

If clients are paying you big money, they’ll want to know their money is in good hands. Without an established track record of working with high-profile clients, you won’t land well-compensated gigs. To this end, clients expect to see a manicured portfolio of your work with past clients, whether it’s on a Behance or Dribbble profile or you have your own website.

Similarly, they will expect to read reviews from your past clients or get in touch with them directly to learn about your past working experience. Be prepared to make a show and tell of your career in order to win over the clients that may pay you a lot.

2. Excellent communication

All designers know that communication and presenting ideas are crucial to a design’s success, and that’s no different for high-paying design opportunities. Mike Monteiro, co-founder and Design Director of Mule Design, once wrote on Medium, “I’d rather have a good designer who can present well than a great designer who can’t.”

Designers need to be great communicators and be able to articulate their decisions and reasoning to clients. Clients don’t always have great ideas when it comes to design because they are more focused on the business itself, and high-paying employers will ask a lot of questions to ensure they get their money’s worth.

As a designer, you must be ready to listen to the client and hear what they actually want, even if that isn’t what they say. Similarly, if a client doesn’t like your work, don’t take it personally. Always keep it professional, justify your decisions, and if the client still wants a change, work with them to ensure you both are happy with the final product.

3. Availability

Let’s be clear about this from the beginning: being available doesn’t mean you have to work all hours of the day, but it does mean your client can reach you at any time. This sounds like a hassle, but remember: you’re getting paid the big bucks and replying to an email or a quick phone call isn’t so bad.

Clients expect to be able to get in touch with you with any updates regarding your work or the business itself. Whether it’s truly pressing or your client is unusually friendly, do your best to be available. If you don’t want to give out your personal cell number, download Skype or Slack to your phone and communicate with your client through a messaging app to maintain some separation between your personal and work life.

4. That something extra

These days a designer needs more than just design skills to win better job opportunities. In an article for the Toptal Design Blog, Danielle Reid, Director of Design at Toptal, believes that “nowadays the designer kind of needs to be that middle man, who can take everything from the business goals, to learning about the customer, and understanding design patterns. Someone who can wear many hats and actually take a large broader picture view on a project and create something tangible.”

Whether it’s a background in business, front-end development, or research, high-paying clients expect designers to be versatile and bring a unique skill set to the table that will make them a better designer than someone who is simply an expert making mockups and drafting logos.

Have you worked with high-paying design clients? What advice would you give to designers? Share your experience in a comment below!

About the Writer 

Susy McNeil has been working in the retail industry and entertainment industry for over 4 years. She eventually transitioned to publishing to pursue her passion for storytelling. You may connect with her on Twitter.

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  • Crushpix said…
    Saturday, January 27, 2018 4:30 PM
    Well-written Susy and well thought out. I have found that one of the most important ways I can make a potential client feel like they are important and that we care to do business with them is to respond to their emails and/or initial inquiries as quickly as possible. Even when I'm busy, I try to find a moment to acknowledge that I have received their email, I understand their concern, and that I will answer more in depth at a specific time. And I thank them for letting me know their thoughts.

    As you say, being available doesn't mean you have to drop everything for every client throughout the day, but letting them know that they are heard has done wonders, in my experience, to keep an open dialogue going throughout the job and to maintain a strong relationship through the whole process of the job.

    The last day of the job, when they may give you an online review, is just as important as the first day when you're trying to win their trust as a client. And even though checking email throughout the day can be kind of a time suck, I think it's part of doing business in the electronic age. I feel that keeping our clients happy is just as important as delivering outstanding work.

    Thank you again for your advice.

    David Ronan, Producer
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