Build the Business of Your Dreams
By Andy Parkinson, on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
In response to a particular blog devoted to pointing and laughing at how badly certain applications are designed, Jason Zimdars of 37 Signals wrote up a post entitled “There is no place for just shitting all over other people’s work.” The post created quite a stir on the Interwebs, and deservedly so.
Jason sums up the issue with these laugh-and-point blogs:
Hiding behind your Twitter avatar and telling the world how terrible everything is is pretty easy. It’s even funny sometimes. Putting yourself on the line and making something original is really hard work. Which one do you want to be. Which one deserves our respect and attention?
Before “Read the fucking HIG” began its mission to make developers look stupid, there was a blog called “Clients From Hell” that aims to make clients look stupid. I loathe Clients From Hell. So much so that if I happen to find out a prospective freelancer reads it regularly, I’d look elsewhere.
I’m not worried about being a client from hell. It’s more about principle. I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t get that client relationships, even the “dumb” clients, represent the lifeblood of a professional’s career. Freelancers and small businesses cannot survive without repeat business and referrals. You will get very few of either if you do not respect your clients for what they are.
I get it. Your client doesn’t have a good color sense. They don’t understand filler text or placeholder images. They don’t know how to calibrate their monitors or use the correct language in their feedback. I understand how frustrating that can be. But it’s not their fault. You are the designer. They aren’t. That’s why they hired you, right? Grow up and be a professional.
You have a choice as a designer: you can set unrealistic expectations and complain about how the process unfolds, or educate your clients from Day One in order to give them the tools and skills to help you in your creative process. You aren’t just a creative-for-hire. You are a teacher. You have to be. Because if you don’t help the client understand what’s happening, you will work twice as hard. Maybe more.
Before you complain about a client and the frustrating things they have requested or said, ask yourself if you ever took the time to guide the client. Yes, you are the expert and they aren’t. But they have the money and vision, and it is your responsibility to teach them what is possible and what is not, and you have to earn their trust. Don’t expect it. Set aside your pride and become a servant of your client. Earn that trust.
Aaron’s post is precisely what made me decide I wanted work with him the first chance I could (Aaron doesn’t know this — well, didn’t know this). Our professional relationship started with a simple logo design and has blossomed into quite a bit more, with ever-increasing amounts of billable work to boot. I couldn’t be happier and I think (hope) he’s just as happy. Mutual respect is a beautiful thing.
The bottom line is that there is no place for just shitting on your clients, especially when their ignorance is what makes them want to hand you fistfuls of cash in the first place. Stop reading the point-and-laugh crap. Spend more time figuring out how to delight your clients instead. Your wallet will thank you.
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