Five on Design  |  Episode 55  |  July 13, 2018

How do you politely tell a client to pick up the pace?

At some point in your design career or owning a freelance business, you’re going to run into a client that doesn’t want to get back to you right away. They might be lagging on agreeing to a contract or getting assets to you. No matter what the case is, it’s super frustrating to be in that position of having to wait. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have no control over the situation.

It’s easy to poke back at somebody and put them on the defense right away. This happens with questions like: Where is _____ at?”

While you’re getting some frustration out with that question, it’s not the best way to go about things. It instantly puts your client on the defense, and often makes things worse. This is the last thing you want when you’re trying to get work done!

I did this for many years though, not realizing the impact I was making. Then I had the roles reversed on me and found that I didn’t like being accused of working slowly.

So how do you light a fire under someone in a positive way?

If you have a contract or an agreement, remind them of the schedule you agreed to. This should be something that you’re outlining at the start of your project. It doesn’t have to be completely set in stone. A rough, general timeline works fine. No matter what, it helps keep things moving and gives everyone an idea when to expect things.

Using a website as an example, there’s time that needs to be allotted for things like concepting, design, development, writing, and so forth. Having a schedule gives you some leverage to keep things moving. Without deadlines, no one feels like the project is a priority. We all know that design without content is very difficult to move forward with. Lorem Ipsum isn’t always the answer.

Automation is another wonderful tool to have at your disposal. I’ve been doing this for my own work, but it can work for clients too. Typically, this works best with payments that are on a schedule. 

I’ve read horror stories about designers who had clients expecting them to stop at the place of business to pick a check up. Or, having to wait by a mailbox for 90 days. Almost all payment processors out there these days allow for automated charging by credit card or wire transfer. You can position this to the client as a benefit and timesaver for everyone involved!

Similar to automation, you can always consider outsourcing things. 

Going back to the website example, if you’re having an issue with getting content on time, you might consider finding a contractor to do the work instead. 

They’re a great resource to have for any project. I know there’s a lot of clients that felt they could write themselves because they were the owner and the expert. However, it’s not as easy as it seems. When the realize this, it’s easier to push it off and not prioritize it. 

There’s a two-fold benefit to having a writer. One, it frees your client up to focus on other, more important things. Two, they don’t have to dedicate as much time to actually produce the content. Most writers typically have an interview process and are able to go through existing content to figure out what needs to be written or edited. They also know how to make things sound better and be more effective towards the audience that is reading it.

As a designer, you’ll usually get something that can easily be dropped into the final design and keep the project moving along.

So those are my tips for getting a client to pick up the pace. I know it’s a delicate subject for a lot of people. But, remember to keep things positive. Remind your client what the benefits are, and how important their role is in the project. Reinforce why it’s important to keep things moving forward.