Do Designers Need to Explain Their Creative Process to Clients?

If you are a freelance designer, encountering a “designer client” is almost inevitable. This is the type of client who consistently offers unsolicited advice on how you should execute your work.

Many clients feel compelled to involve themselves in the design process, whether it’s appropriate or not. What drives this behavior, and is it justified? In this article, we will explore this complex issue and discuss strategies designers can employ to manage it.

How to Work Better with Clients

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Setting Boundaries for Productive Collaboration

One effective way to address this challenge is by educating your clients on why their interference can be counterproductive. While the adage “the customer is always right” holds some truth, is it essential for clients to grasp the intricacies of your creative process?

Generally, when people hire experts for specialized services like back-end programming, they don’t feel the need to understand every detail—that’s why they hired a professional in the first place. However, design seems to be an exception to this rule. Let’s delve into why this is the case.

The Allure of Design

In previous articles, I’ve discussed how a large number of individuals aspire to be creative, particularly in our modern world filled with eye-catching advertisements, sleek websites, and engaging media. The appeal of minimalistic and elegant designs often leads people to underestimate the complexity behind seemingly simple designs.

The allure of design

Most clients aren’t intentionally disrupting your creative flow. They simply lack an understanding of the hard work that culminates in the final product they admire. While it may be frustrating to articulate the extent of your efforts, it’s crucial to remember that people often undervalue what they don’t comprehend. In the freelance world, this perception of value can significantly influence your compensation.

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Misunderstanding Breeds Doubt

Clients can become perplexed by a designer’s objectives, particularly when technical or industry-specific language is used. It’s crucial to minimize the use of jargon when communicating with clients.

Employ straightforward language to provide clients with a basic understanding of the project’s scope, the effort involved, and the time commitment on your part. While it’s important not to grumble, keep in mind that your value is only recognized when you make it known.

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Avoid Over-Explaining Your Process

Be cautious not to divulge too much about your working methods to a client. The reason is straightforward: clients may take your detailed process and hand it over to a design student or a relative who they believe can execute it at a lower cost, thereby eliminating the need for your services.

Maintaining clarity in the design process

If you’ve never experienced this, consider yourself fortunate. Clients who demand explanations for every minor action are a significant red flag. After all, they engaged a designer, not an instructor. If they’re genuinely interested in design, there are educational blogs, like this one, to which you can direct them.

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View It as an Opportunity, Not a Burden

When faced with an overly inquisitive client, many designers’ instinctive reaction is frustration. However, it’s worth noting that these clients wouldn’t scrutinize their gardener or repairperson in the same way. Constantly having to justify one’s work can dampen a designer’s enthusiasm.

Educating your client

When this occurs, rather than becoming irate, see it as a chance to enlighten someone about the intricate world of design. Adopt the role of an “industry advocate” and integrate client education into your workflow. Doing so will not only increase their respect for your expertise but also make future referrals more manageable.

Final Thoughts

While no one appreciates overbearing, self-proclaimed designer clients, it’s also true that clients are not fond of aloof, unapproachable designers. Freelancing is a two-way street, and the more clients understand the essence of design, without necessarily knowing the specifics of your approach, the better the industry will be for all designers.