We spend a lot of time talking about what to do to create a healthy graphic design business. Sometimes, however, it’s not about what you do but what you don’t do, so today we thought we’d take a look at it the other side of the coin by looking at some of the worst things you can do for your business. You may be surprised because some of these are a lot less obvious than you might think and some are downright counterintuitive.
Treating Good Enough As Good Enough
Regardless of the industry, business that are exceptional thrive while those that aren’t stagnate. When we work with clients (particularly fussy or difficult ones) it’s easy to fall into the trap of making your goal to get the design approved, but the problem there is that while they are satisfied, they may not be ecstatic. Satisfied clients pay their bills (usually), but ecstatic clients refer their colleagues and friends.
Working Without A Contract
Many designers (especially new freelancers) jump in without a contract because they’re convinced they don’t need it or they’re afraid a contract might scare away the client, but working without a contract is dangerous. Sure, you may have been fine so far but sooner or later you will hit a snag and having a good contract will save your bacon.
Treating Your Clients As Threats
I see it time and time again: the designer vs. client mentality. The designers are so worried about protecting themselves that they forget to think about what’s good for their clients (and miss the fact that what’s good for their clients is usually good for them).
Being Excessively Modest
Don’t get me wrong here, nobody likes a bragger either, but to succeed in business you need to be able to tell potential clients what’s great about your business and why they should hire you. Being too modest in your sales pitch will only lose you clients.
A designer who thinks they’re god’s gift to clients is just the opposite. Egos are everywhere in creative industries and are often clients’ biggest complaints. You may be great at what you do but remember where your paycheck comes from or that paycheck may disappear.
Badmouthing Other Clients
Speaking ill of your clients (or even ones you chose not to work with) is just plain unprofessional and tells everyone who hears it that, should they choose to work with you, you may end up taking about them the same way. Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be stodgy or without personality, it just means respecting the people you work with.
Promising Too Much
Doing everything you can for your clients is great customer service, but it can be very easy to take it too far. Sometimes we try so hard to please the client that we end up making promises we can’t deliver on, which makes the client more disappointed than if we had said no in the first place.
Giving Too Much Away For Free
Sometimes we need to a little work free of charge to keep the client happy. Maybe we under-quoted or weren’t clear about what was included; there are plenty of reasons we might choose not to charge for something, but there always needs to be a reason and the client should be aware of what that reason is, otherwise you’ll end up doing a lot of free work.
Creatives put their heart and soul into their work, which can make it hard to take feedback or constructive criticism, but feedback and criticism are part of the process. If you take it as a personal affront every time a client asks for a change you’re not only going to hate your job, but you’ll lose your clients, too.
Every business needs a plan if it wants to grow but far too often we fall into the trap of over-planning, which is to say spending so much time planning that we never get around to doing. Sometimes it’s better to leap in with only a vague plan than to plan an idea into oblivion.