Expectant Clients are lost in translation

Clients are brilliant, they really are! They come to you when they need something, they ask you to do the job you love and they pay handsomely for it! I mean come on, we get paid for doing something we would be doing anyway. We’re certainly not going to argue with them. Whilst it’s one thing getting clients to say yes, this can often seem to be the easy part of a growing client relationship.

Designers and developers can strike up relationships with clients unlike most other industries, this is down to developing their ideas into a reality. It’s great that we can produce print design for national coverage, web design for the masses or a logo recognisable by the world for years to come.  I try my hardest with clients, I’ve got to work with them for at least a couple of months so it’s the least I can do. I learn from them and pass on my own knowledge where I can, and now there are even clients who I can  firmly call friends. Becoming friends with clients can be disastrous long term as they expect most things to be done on a ‘friends’ basis from there on out, however the real friends clients will always treat business as business and friendship as friendship. Both should be kept as far away from each other as possible and both parties should know where to draw the line.

Once that relationship is built it’s all well and good knowing where to draw the line but what happens before that time, before your relationship is welded together like solid steel. Is there a place in time where we can firmly put our hand up and shout STOP! at the top of our voices to be heard above the droning sound of clients saying I want, I want, I want. Yes there is, and there is also a reason why clients expect too much.

Clients Categories

Depending on the category of client you work with you would usually have an initial meeting to gauge and measure up the client and see if they’re on the level, if they know their www’s from there @’s and their http’s from their ftp’s. The reason why some clients become so expectant is all down to them not knowing what to expect, they don’t know how the Internet works, they don’t know how dynamic websites are built or how ecommerce software is constructed so in not knowing what to expect they expect everything.

This has dire consequences on how a project plays out over the course of weeks and months. Your initial quote or proposal ends up seeming inadequate for what the client expects and thus the relationship breaks down fairly quickly as the client thinks you’re doing half the job they expected. The supplier ends up pulling hair and banging their heads in retaliation for the ensuing mental breakdown and thanks to every action having an equal and opposite reaction if nothing is done in the first place it will always happen.

You could say the blame cannot be pointed at any individual and that it’s just one of those things but it is one of those things that needs ironing out BEFORE a project starts. What can we do to help clients understand what they’re getting or how things are going to work? Is it up to us to sit them down for a days seminar to teach them about the great interweb? I’d like to think I could give them a few hours of my time to them, however my time costs money. Do I charge the client for their little lesson, would that put them further out of joint and cause them to run for the hills? I suppose it depends on the person and how various outcomes differentiate a good client from one you would rather avoid.

Adii from Woothemes and radiiate mentioned today on twitter that he learned in 2008 to give an approximate price to a prospective client in the first email he sends to them so they know how much his/their services are going to cost. This, to me is a great way to pre-empt a situation and at the end of the day neither you or the client have the time to go running round in circles over facts or money.

In reality money isn’t everything, it’s the job at hand and the services you provide that you would like the client to understand and what you’ve quoted for is what you have understood the job to entail and you’ve costed for this accordingly.  Anyone worth their salt engages into a contract with a client because they want to work with them, it is our choice to take the work on. It would be nice for clients to understand that we do what we do because we know how to do it. We want to work with them to get to an outcome where they can stand on their own two feet in the world of the web, where they can grow and establish themselves as a recognised brand whether locally, nationally or internationally.

So here is to a few changes in 2009 where clients and suppliers can work together amicably, in a relationship where both know where they stand and what services are going to be delivered.

Would be very interested to hear views on the subject.

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Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.

One thought on “Expectant Clients are lost in translation”

  1. Hi Gavin. My short answer to this would be clear communication all the way.

    Of course there are people that it is impossible to reach or get your message across to, but like you said choosing carefully in the first place is your best filter.

    If it were a perfect world, there wouldn’t be problems like this, but there also wouldn’t be war, divorce and any conflict.

    Your best weapon here is to communicate honestly, politely and logically. No time for emotion here, and absolute worst case scenario you go your separate ways with a (hopefully) amicable parting agreement.

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