Honesty is the best policy
Honesty is always the best policy in the design — or any other — business. If you and your client are at odds with any material before, after or during the design process, it needs to be addressed.
Disagreeing is not bad
Sometimes disagreement contributes to better results. I prefer to commit myself to quality work rather than conflict avoidance. In business, avoiding conflict just to remain well-liked can inadvertently sabotage the efficacy of a project. There is too much time, money and creative energy at stake to sweep issues under the rug.
Fight for what’s right
Lesson 1: During the summer of 2009, I was approached by the founders of a user-research company who wanted to update images on their website so their site would look cooler. Now, I could have done as they asked and made some quick, easy money. But I also knew that simply updating the images wasn’t going to make their site “look cooler.” So I informed these potential clients that they needed help with more than the images because EVERYTHING about their site was poorly executed.
Disinterested in my unsolicited advice, the clients pressed on and asked how much it would cost to get just the images updated. That’s when I respectfully told them to seek help elsewhere because my specialty lies in fixing a website’s problems, not covering them up.
And wouldn’t you know it, the founders took this to thought and decided that their business was at a crucial point in its development and warranted rebranding. So guess who they came to for advice? Me.
Turns out, this bit of honesty (no matter how risky or uncomfortable) ended up being the catalyst needed to take the clients’ business to the next level. And in the end, both sides won: Their business image evolved, and I landed a bigger project.
Lesson 2: In another case of fighting for what’s right, I dealt with a client who consistently rejected the T-shirt designs I was producing for his company. Each time I presented a design I thought was great, he turned it down. After each rejection we would get together to discuss new ideas. I soon found myself with a project that was taking twice as long as I had planned. Then, after one of our meetings, the client suggested I use a previously rejected image in a different way. That’s when things came together.
In this instance, allowing the client to disagree with me and giving the project time to resolve itself was critical. Yes, this took longer than I wanted, but it’s what the project needed. In the end, all the T-shirts sold, we all got paid, and everybody was happy.
It’s worth the struggle
Being honest will more often than not lead to a successful project. Don’t be afraid to disagree with your client and let your client disagree with you. Sometimes, a project will present unique challenges that can only be solved by way of a little push and pull.