Winning Over Your Client: Strategies for Designers in Disagreement

As a freelance designer, your primary objective is to satisfy your clients. However, conflicts arise when your client insists on a design choice that you, with your professional insight, recognize as detrimental. Whether it’s impractical, overly expensive, irrelevant to the client’s needs, or simply not aesthetically pleasing, your client may nonetheless be set on proceeding with it.

This guide aims to show you how to navigate these disagreements by persuading your client to consider – and often accept – your more suitable design proposal, all while maintaining a respectful and ethical approach.

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Is Your Design Actually Better?

Before engaging in any discussion, it’s crucial to assess with certainty whether your design solution genuinely surpasses your client’s request. While designers typically have a more refined sense of what makes a design effective, it’s impor

graphic designer

tant to remember that this isn’t universally true.

Design with a Business Perspective

There are times when a designer might believe they are enhancing a design, but the client has every right to be upset about the modifications. It’s essential to remember that effective design goes beyond attractive fonts or graphics – it must align with the client’s business objectives and support their financial goals.

For example, if you’re working for a pediatric dental clinic that aims to attract young patients with a playful, cartoonish brand identity, you might find their vision unappealing. However, attempting to overhaul their concept extensively could lead to disagreements.

Understanding the Bigger Picture in Design

If your design preference leans towards a more minimalist and refined style, you might find yourself trying to apply your own design standards to a client’s project without fully considering the target audience they intend to engage. This oversight could rightfully lead to the client’s dissatisfaction.

design goals

Although your design could be deemed “superior” from a professional standpoint, it might completely miss the mark in addressing the client’s needs (such as making dental visits less intimidating for children). It’s critical to always prioritize the client’s business objectives, even if they’re not explicitly mentioned in the project brief.

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Exceeding the Brief

Let’s revisit the scenario with the dentist client, but this time, examine a different aspect of the challenge. You grasp her objective – to make dental visits less daunting for children. You’re confident you have a solution that can achieve this more effectively than her current concept. So, how do you convince her to see things your way?

Before proceeding, be advised that the approach I’m suggesting requires more time and effort than you may be accustomed to. However, it promises significantly better outcomes in persuading your clients, earning you their commendation long after the project concludes.

Adhering to the Design Brief

The strategy begins with doing precisely what your client asks for. That’s right – you start by developing her “ideal” solution, as ghastly as you may find it, following her explicit directions. It may not be aesthetically pleasing to you, but it’s vital to complete this step.

Arriving at a client meeting without having fulfilled her specific request will likely upset her, and negotiating with dissatisfied clients is a no-win situation. So initially, meet the brief’s requirements.

Pitching Your Concept

Once you’ve delivered on the client’s request, it’s time to showcase your alternative solution, the one you believe surpasses her original idea. This step involves more than just presenting a new design; it’s crucial to effectively pitch your concept to the client.

pitching design

If your client has an eye for design, merely comparing the two proposals might suffice to sway her opinion. However, convincing often requires more effort. Highlight the distinctions between her idea and yours, focusing on how your proposal more aptly addresses her needs and contributes to her business objectives.

Clients are generally impressed by potential financial benefits, so if you have supportive data or metrics, this is the moment to present them.

Securing Approval

Engaging in a project involves more than technical skills for most designers; it also includes an emotional commitment. It’s common to feel a bit protective over your design decisions, particularly when you’re convinced your client might not fully grasp their impact.

Occasionally, you’ll encounter clients who seem immovable in their stance. In such scenarios, it’s often best to satisfy them as much as possible, finalize the project, collect your dues, and move forward. However, many clients are open to persuasion, provided you approach them with the right rhetoric.

Effective Communication is Crucial

The saying goes that communication is key, but let’s refine that idea: the right kind of communication is crucial. It’s not just about speaking; it’s about conveying your thoughts in a manner that resonates with your client, ensuring you maintain a position of influence.

email communication

This isn’t about manipulation; it’s about focusing on the client’s business needs and finding the optimal solution to enhance their profitability. Most clients will value your meticulous approach and dedication to discovering the most effective strategies. Such commitment is what high-quality clients seek in a designer and what will lead to the enthusiastic testimonials and referrals you aim for.

Setting Aside Personal Bias

To put it plainly, if you propose significant changes without your client’s prior consent and they react negatively, it might be a reflection of your own ego at play.

Throughout my experience, I’ve encountered a few designers whose self-importance and inability to collaborate effectively made them challenging partners. They seemed to believe that their involvement alone was a privilege for me, treating any modifications they made to the project brief as unequivocal enhancements.

You do not want to be that type of designer.

This attitude is universally disliked, and word of mouth among clients can significantly impact your reputation. While clients aren’t looking for mindless conformity, striking a balance between leveraging your professional insight and respecting your client’s knowledge is crucial.

In your experience, how do you navigate disagreements over design with your clients? Are there insights you’ve gained that you wish you’d had earlier?