One of the most frustrating things when you’re a young designer starting out or you’re beginning your freelance business, is getting clients to take you seriously. It can be difficult trying to figure out your career and how you want to work with people on top of getting respect from them all at the same time.
It’s easy to feel like you’re looked down on if you don’t have 10 years of experience or your business hasn’t been around for 15 years.
When I started out, I didn’t confront this right away. Instead, many of my initial clients ran me over. I lost a lot of money when it came to building proposals or charging for certain things.
The core issue, is that I didn’t know any better. I was working like an order taker instead of an expert. Clients would send me a list of things they wanted to see and I made it happen. They were effectively doing the work without having to move a pixel.
Since I didn’t see this right away, I was easily frustrated by a lot of projects and clients. I was trapped in a world of “make the logo bigger.”
While I was running my freelance business, one of my primary issues was not charging enough. It’s been said before that you want to charge a client enough that they’ll take you seriously. It’s an effective way to get them to appreciate value.
You can order hamburger for 99 cents from McDonalds these days. On the flip side, a burger at a steakhouse might run you $30. If you drop your McDonalds burger on the floor, you’re not going to be massively upset. Do the same at a steakhouse and you’ll put up a fuss that you’re out $30.
It’s the same thing with design.
If you’re not charging a client enough, they aren’t going to take your work seriously. This can even push the relationship back into the order taking method of work. Yet when you charge more, you begin position yourself as an expert again.
Of course, you should be able to provide reasons why you’re worth your rate. If you’re charging less than $50 in America these days, you’re going to be viewed as the order taker. Charge $75-$100 and you may notice a difference besides to your bank account.
Last, stand your ground. Some clients are good at pushing designers around. When you’re starting out, it’s easy to take it lying down and not push back. There’s a bit of a fear because we don’t want to upset a client (not like anyone wants to be upset anyway.)
Remember though, it’s your job to push back. Not in a mean way, but enough to make sure that your expertise is being heard.
The traditional I want the logo made bigger conversation is one that I like to pick on.
My favorite example comes from Michael Beirut. He was talking about a logo project that he was working on. The client wanted him to make the logo bigger. But rather thay coming back like the order taker and making a logo bigger, he created a series of options. Some of the options were smaller, and some of the options were larger than the original design that they were looking at.
He was able to stand his ground in a nice way by showing the client what five different logo sizes looked like. And ultimately they ended up picking the option that was the original size that he proposed.
He stood his ground and he made sure that the design still worked well and still worked right, according to everything we know. And on the flip side, he was able to make the client feel like they were heard and got them to understand where he was coming from when he was sizing the logo.
There’s a lot of neat little tricks like this. With some cleverness and creativity, we can find ways to stand our ground instead of yelling and fighting.
Respect always cycles back to being a partner and an expert. It’s important that not only your client remembers that, but that you do too.