5 Tips for Designers to Manage Clients

July 7, 2016

Running a professional design studio has a lot of great perks, but any designer knows that keeping clients happy is the most crucial part of the job. The kind of clients you choose to work with says a lot about the work you do, and you want to choose clients you can develop a great relationship and keep an open line of communication with, which can be tricky given the nature of the business. It’s important to manage clients well so that their expectations are reasonable and both parties are contented upon completion of the project. Here are a few valuable tips to help you manage clients and foster good relationships with them.

1. Agree on Goals and Reiterate Them Throughout the Project

Designer in a meeting with clients.

To manage clients more effectively, it’s crucial to be on the same page as the client before starting a new project with them. Talk in depth with your client about the scope of the project and find out what exactly their goals are when it comes to the product that you’ll be designing.

If the clients are ambiguous about this, communicate to them the importance of having these goals defined well ahead of commencing any design work. Improve your standing with the client by offering to work with them and fine-tune their goals by applying analytical design thinking.

The same goes for keeping up your end of the deal. Having vague design plans that you intend to tweak as you go along never ends well. Be sure to specify the milestones that you plan to hit and share them with your clients time and again. This ensures that both your team and your clients stay on board with a common vision.

Arriving at the point of having the project’s goals clearly defined and unanimously agreed upon is usually a big step forward for designers who manage clients. From this moment on, clients shouldn’t feel as entitled to change direction once you’ve begun work. If they do, they should already be aware that implementing changes will require more time and money.

2. Be Transparent

A MacBook opened to a photo editing software on a work desk with a book shelf in the background.

Have you ever felt frustrated when working with developers who take your designs to the dungeons without so much as providing a clue as to what they’re actually doing? Likewise, clients get anxious when they don’t know what you’re up to or fail entirely to understand the work you claim to be doing for them. Transparency is a must-have quality for designers to better manage clients.

Break down the project in layman’s terms and be as explicit as possible. The more you share with your clients, the more they will trust you. Many executives simply know that they need design work to be done, without fully comprehending what the design process entails. They may not know about concepts such as iteration, user flows, or information architecture. In fact, simply start out with the assumption that they don’t. You will also benefit from the practice of presenting complex concepts in simple terms.

Educate your clients about every step of the design process, the scope of your role for each step, and the tools and resources you would require throughout the process. To manage clients and their expectations, involve them in the project steps as you’re working through them.

3. Be Available

A designer talking to a client on the phone while referring to her laptop.

Again, that developer who took your money and pulled a Houdini on you for three whole weeks? Totally not cool. To manage clients well, you need to be consistently and reliably available to them. Always respond in a timely manner; otherwise, they will wonder what you’re doing with their time and money.

A good way to go about doing so is to agree with your client on the frequency of updates before even starting the project. Some agencies provide updates on a daily basis, others less regularly. Work it out with each of your clients as they may have differing needs and expectations.

But if you’re up burning the midnight oil and responding to the 20th email of the day from a client, it’s time to roll back and re-think your strategy to manage clients. Never let them go overboard and remember that it’s okay to set boundaries such as not responding during evenings or weekends.

So long as you set up regular calls with them and stay on top of their needs, you should be able to manage clients just fine by being reasonably available and letting them know your availability beforehand.

4. Over Deliver

A gift wrapped with star-patterned parcel papel with an empty gift tag.

We’re not saying to do free design work, not at all. Even though it’s a sure fire way to get a lot more clients, they just aren’t the ones you want to have. But when it comes to clients who are willing to pay for your services, you’d be amazed by how much a little gesture can impress them and make the working relationship much more pleasant.

Go above and beyond what your clients would expect from a designer by scheduling extra calls, following up after you’ve delivered a project, and offering them extra information that they might find useful. This could be insights derived from user data that would greatly benefit the client during the analysis phase of the project. Or tips on third party services that you know can help boost their business.

Chances are, the extra work won’t take much time, money or energy on your part but will mean a great deal to them and, hopefully, more business for you in the future. Just think of yourself as a nice person in general and that the extra little effort demonstrates who you truly are rather than just a calculated means to manage clients.

5. Learn to Say No

An overwhelmed designer with one arm emerged from the bedspread struggling to fight the exhaustion of having to manage clients.

Managing clients well doesn’t mean being a superhero. If you take on new work, make sure you have the capacity to do it well, and even over deliver, to keep your clients happy. Even though it might be hard to turn down a project or say no to the extra needs that your clients may have, they will appreciate it in the long run.

If you’re worried about not being able to complete a project on time or don’t have the bandwidth to do what they are asking for, learn to say no. In a mannerly fashion, of course. That way, you won’t have to manage clients with unfeasible expectations and end up being left hung out to dry.

In the end, don’t forget that you’re not just a designer, you’re also an educator and a regular human being. Manage your clients’ expectations, and you will find that working with them is much more satisfying for you both.

Got more tips for designers to better manage clients? Let us know by tweeting us @protoio! Would you like to further impress your clients? Send them a fully interactive prototype complete with extensive UI animations and screen transitions. With, you can easily create beautiful prototypes that feel real, no coding required. Sounds good? Start your 15 day free trial today.