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Becoming A Successful Design Freelancer

Lesson 13 of 15

Managing Freelance Clients: Setting Boundaries


Becoming A Successful Design Freelancer

Lesson 13 of 15

Managing Freelance Clients: Setting Boundaries


Lesson Info

Managing Freelance Clients: Setting Boundaries

All right, so part for thanks for hanging in you guys. So we are going to talk about tips for managing your client's, right? We've we've sort of alluded to boundaries and expectations setting, um, and we're going to go a little deeper on that, um, must for doing a job well done. Um, the work that you create in the projects that you do are in service of building a long term relationship with your clients over time and interned in service of you establishing a reputation for for yourself. So you're going to think about, you know, what kind of business would you like to work with? And for, right, what kind of business do you want to run on? And I have some advice about that. Another one is what air deliver bubbles like, so cool, like, I'm doing this website like, but what do I hand off to people like? What are they own like, what am I making? So we're going to talk a little bit about what deliverables r and then my very good friend corolla upon say, is going to come up and she's going to ...

talk about mistakes we started off. Earlier today talking about the fact that you're going to make some mistakes and that's totally okay and she's going to share some of the mistakes that she's made and you know hopefully that'll help you guys navigate them if you feel you're kind of going going towards something like that in your experience um so managing clients right? We're going to talk about communication setting boundaries, managing expectations and feedback eso communication it's really easy to miss communicate my good friend she's still live in san francisco and we're both from l a and one day I said to her, hey, I'm going to l a can you pick me up at the airport when I when I get back t when I get back home and she said, yeah, sure, you know what time and I said, oh, you know, my flight comes in at nine just like, great, um I went to oakland and she went to sfo um she's like she was she's like my a friend, you know, she she she's from l a she knows that it's better to fly southwest because there's more flights like I just I didn't I didn't say what airport because I just it was so in my own travel thing and figured she totally knew that s o you know, in your discussions with your clients you know, you're going to go through a lot of rounds of communications with them, and you still might not actually be understanding each other, right? So so, you know, I don't think you can over communicate too much. Um be professional, direct and clear, right? So, it's, great, if you have a good report with your clients, but this is a business conversation ultimately and part of that you can have a familiarity with them and a good report, but, you know, part of your communication is going to happen over email, and you want to document these things right, and it's not only to protect yourself, but again, it's to clarify so we may have said, great, you're going to do website great. I'm going to do a website it's going to be comprised of these things, but but, you know, somewhere down the line, you're going to realize that there's some kind of disconnect, right? And you wantto you want to be able to go back to things? Another reason to write things down and have some kind of documentation is so you can remember, you know, your client you might get on the phone with your client, and they might start telling you like the twenty thing. He's, right? You know, well, you know, this happened, and that happened and, you know, everybody here really likes the square, but, you know, we want to see another stuff, and and, you know, someone said don't do don't use the color red or whatever that is and it's like a lot of information, it's a lot of information to collect, um, so we talked a little bit about this answer any in a timely fashion, you know? Peter says not after seven o'clock, you know, and you might be not after seven o'clock for some clients and and, you know, okay, with the late night conversation with others, but you want to be able to set their expectations up front, and we're going to we're going to go a little bit deeper into how you might say something like that are stuff I wish that boundary recapping often, I think is really good you're you're going to tell me a bunch of stuff, right? A bunch of your thoughts and feelings, and you know what you need don't need, but at the end of the conversation, I'm going to say something like, ok, my next steps are I'm going to do this, that and the other thing, right, so you told me everything a lot of what you said my night would be actionable you know, it might not even be something that I can help you with it might not be something that's part of our scope of work um so I'm going to tell you I heard all of that but but here's what I'm going to do here's what's next for me and what that does is it lets you realign and and you know maybe they'll say oh, I didn't know that you know, wire frames were next door oh, I didn't know that you know that that we were going to go straight to editing now I thought that we were gonna you know, be able to look at more footage you know or something like that um picking up client lingo and using it so we talked earlier today about establishing this vocabulary and and you know you're you're kind of creating the shared language with your clients right? Um I've had a client say to me you know, really great um uh I think it's gonna work let me go back to the team an m p k and um you know, I'll let you know I have no idea what mp thiss ok? I have no idea turns out the company is in memo park, right? So they don't say menlo park to each other they say m p k um and so I asked her unlike what is m p k you know who's who are you going to take this back? Tio who is this mythical m p k right on dh it's totally fine tio asked that when your client says something that you don't know how some what it is right? And then and then if you're comfortable with it, you know it's fine to refer to that stuff you're establishing this common common ground in this relationship in this trust, so setting boundaries setting boundaries is part of what happens in your terms but then also, uh, making sure that you are upholding those boundaries right on do you have to establish this stuff in the beginning, right? So peter said, not after seven o'clock you're going to discuss your availability with your client this maybe in your terms or it may be something like the first time they email you after seven it's an opportunity for you to say, hey, you know, I work from nine to six monday through friday, I tried to keep a large chunk of the day dedicated to client work and I'm typically off email so like, I'm not going to be e mailing you all day, I'm actually working, you know, and we all know what a distraction email is, right um if you need anything, text me right and we can set up time for us to talk so this is what I prefer this is why you're not going to hear back from me you know immediately and on dh this is what works for me you know, they this it's always a negotiation they can come back and say look like I you know I'm not a texting person um you know, I I want to be able to call you like, is that going to work for you are you know or or something like that um preferred communication channel right? So how are we going to talk about our work? Um uh so you know e mails the best way to get a hold of me since we'll be looking at a lot of options during our meetings let's use video chat that would weaken screen share and do pinups easily so if you want to talk to me, send me an email but when we are doing meetings I'm working remotely I want to see you write and I want to see you for these reasons this is what has worked for me in the past this is what I think is best for for how to guide you through this experience, right? We're gonna I'm going to deliver something based on we've asked of me but but you're kind of in charge of not only managing yourself but managing your client through this process um method for communicating so everyone thinks their project is the most important I think you've all had this experience right and even if you've ever hired anybody I don't know if anybody has hired you know an interior designer like a plumber or you know even anything it's like no no no like I need her tomorrow ten or whatever that isthe right so so um you know another another good thing to do is establish your method for communicating progress so how are you going to let the client know what's going on now you're the project manager again and you have to think so that your client doesn't start wondering like hey, you know, like we talked two weeks ago and I haven't seen anything you know from from aa from my designer and they might start feeling doubt or you know, confusion or at least curiosity about like what's going on you are you are a business whose service is designed you're selling a service right and you know you can have a bad experience you can meet her shoes repaired right and the shoe repair could be absolutely great right like shoes are perfect and the person who helped you was not good right? You're never going to go back to that to that shoe repair place you know or you might not go back or you might read about yelp review or whatever but you're going to it's going to be this disassociation between the fact that you know the service was good or the product was good but the service was not good right? So you that's why you want to set these boundaries up front because you want to manage your client's expectations make them trust you have them feel that there's that you're that they have confidence in your work and they're going to ask you a lot less questions along the way so right, you know, one way to establish a method for communicating progresses to say I write weekly recap emails that's what I do at the end of every week I'm just going to tell you where we're out with things you know, if you have another way you want to do this, let me know and then you can decide like is that is that something that you want to do? You know do you want to have daily checkin calls? Is that that kind of project do you want to meet three times a week? You know are you working offsite? Are you working remotely but you decide actually on mondays they're going to go into the office and that's one of the things I didn't mention from before which is I think even if your remote it's great to go into the office from time to time it's just face time is really important way to establish report with people and trust and also putting yourself in the context of of the employer putting yourself kind of in their world is also really important tio so you know, I know this kind of fantasy of working in pajamas from home is is very alluring but it's also important tio break through that wall sometimes on dh you'll see benefits in the working relationship um so let's see that's setting boundaries feedback in approvals eso peter's advice right um before we get to always present your work he said don't ask the client if they like it totally solid totally solid on that um always present your work so um never just email your stuff right never just like when you get to this point of completion whether it's you know ah logo that you've designed or you know ah ah the first few the first concept for maybe a publication that you're working on um never just email it to the client always present your work and that goes back to this containing shape story, right? And my friend jack where he was telling me as a client what I should see right? So the assumption is that your client may have good taste, you know, they hired you write on dure client maybe designs having they may not be designed savvy, but you don't want them tio formulate an opinion about your work without you first giving them a suggestion for what they should be seeing and looking at because especially in in an environment where maybe you have, like, one person who you're communicating with, but they're bringing that back to a team of people or even their business partner when they bring that back, they're going to help. They're going toe use the information that you shared with them, tio, to share with the other group of people, right? So, you know, yeah, uh, you know, they're going to borrow your language, and they're going tio help you with that rather than it just being a room full of people talking about whether or not they like it. S oh, so you're going to present your work and you're gonna walk your client through, um, through what it is that you've created for them, and so you know, you're going to either make a pdf of that or you're going to post it online somewhere, but but don't give it to them early don't give in to them really, and don't email it to them until afterwards, right? Because they're going to forward it to other people, and then all of a sudden you're gonna lose control of how the work is received. You're going to lose control after that, you know, depending on the complexity of the organization, but you at least wanna start out, you know, with your best when your best foot forward with that um coach your clients on feedback so again peter's example totally awesome right don't ask clients if they like your work um uh asked them about uh you know does this meet your goals you know? And another helpful tip here is is someone might say, um feed that can be really prescriptive right? Like I don't like that fun right something like that but I don't like that fund is not actionable for me as a designer I can't figure out what fun you like you know, I could show you a budget fund but that's going to be hard for me that's going to be hard for us to get to resolution on that if you ask your clients what problem they're trying to solve right? So maybe they don't like the font because because they feel that it's getting lost right it's not strong enough or it's too dominant or it has too much personality and like the information that you're trying to conveys is somehow serious, you know? And so you're going to have to push them to think critically and give you information that you can take action on you are the expert you don't want the clients saying we'll just change it, teo you know, to a different fund and even picking the font name right? You don't want that that's not anything that that you want to do or that you're going to dio because that you're like giving over your expertise to someone else and they hired you because you're an expert in this so asking them what what problem they're trying to solve when when they get prescriptive with feedback um establishing a number of revisions so this is this's something that we talked a little bit about in the proposals class so you know, I think jen maybe in your photography I don't know if you do retouching or not but you know you're not going to retouch the finch forever right? You know, maybe if you're doing portraiture or something like that do you do you have aa number of do say like do you are you specific so yeah I mean it's actually so with portrait's it's important to be specific because you know I could take like one hundred fifty and you don't want to show them the whole hundred fifty because it will be because typically what they're also paying me for us to make the decision of where they look the way that we talked about so on and I personally like this the feedback I've been given one of my strengths is um being pretty happy having a good critical eye yeah and I'm not too emotionally attached to things yeah so I usually present like twenty and then I and I tell them like they they can keep fifteen and I will tell you even in that twenty like I can only go back and or two or three times a day and I lose like us or at least patients and I lose it yes yeah right and even in this fifteen they're like well don't want the full body you don't even like I'm already losing patients by the second or third time so I do have it down to a specific number I show them like full stop and then from there that they can keep yeah and then from there how many all like really you're more retouching yeah, I think that two or three rounds of revisions is very expected it's kind of an industry standard, if you will and a great way tio um uh limit the front frustration that's on the other side of that so first there's like the financial part of it, right? Like you can't just retouch images forever because because I'm guessing that you're charging by the project and then right and also may be losing money, I do feel like it's about helping that person make the decision like in the boy I think about it is when I heard an interior designer to help me remodel the best part about hiring her is that she met me at the tile story and gave me three choices yeah totally had been there that there are strange and she said, ok, you can do this in this you do this miss you do this in this any of those air work it's up to you just like you know every penny yeah that's what's not moment and now three would work perfectly well they'd all of grain and it was just up to me and it was hard between this three not yeah, I never done that before. Yeah, right so I think you're absolutely right. I think in a lot of creative fields you're being paid for your expertise you're being paid for your output but also your expertise and your point of view and that's where the point of view is really brought to bear I mean the cereal aisle classic example you want cereal, you go down the cereal aisle there so many free and cereals like what are you going to pick? You want something sweet but it's like it's easy tio to get confused when there's too many choices around you and as a creative professional it's your job to have a point of view you may design, you know, ten different layouts for a book or something like that but you're not going to show those ten layouts to your client it's no good for you and it's no good for them it's difficult enough to manage and a one to one relationship where maybe your client is actually, um a kn individual right and so it's just you guys but it's way worse in a business environment where there's multiple decision makers than those ten options are like released toe like an audience of you know, even three or four or five people and so that's just I mean it's like a multiplication that that you don't want to do it is very difficult to manage as an individual um you know, I think that there's definitely philosophical um differences in the creative world about you know, showing your process and showing all of those options or narrowing the focus and I'm definitely a believer in the narrowing the focus part of a side of that approach yeah um so low approvals um so ok, so now you are you are not the designer anymore you are the business person and your your client advocate right? So your client you're going to ask the client for that for feedback and now it comes time to get that stuff approved. Um, it is important that you let your client know the consequences of their feedback, right? So so they might not actually no if if you get teo a place in a project where you've designed this beautiful logo and you made it blue and you realize later through the client feedback that you just haven't even talked about the fact that that color blue is not what's in there brown guidelines right so you've used the blue that you thought was their blue but it's really not their blue um the consequences of changing it at that point in time it's going to have impact right maybe you have a secondary color palette that's there and and the the blue that you were using the secondary color palette is in harmony with that but now that you have to change tio to this different shade of blue made it stronger lighter whatever it is uh is going to have consequences because you're gonna have to go back through and investigate the secondary palate again right so your client isn't going to know that you know necessarily and so you have to say ok, we can do that but here's the impact right so you know if the approvals are good you're all good but but if there's something where where their choices air impacting the project on bits likely something that that they're not aware of your client advocate at that point in time and your own advocate to because you know there may be time consequences to that it's like maybe it's actually a lot of work for you you know and maybe maybe you feel that that that that was not your responsibility or even part of the scope at which point there's like you know some terms or like a contractual thing that that you might want to broach um so yeah so I think that during the approval process, you know you have a responsibility to to making sure that your client understands what they're proving onda impact that that's going to have, um so here's a protest on feedback in approvals so you might get a client that says you just you can't, um you just can't talk him into what you want, you know, they're a good client, but they're like not hearing you, you know? And rather than trying to convince them verbally that what they are convinced of that they need is something that that they don't actually need you're going to say, ok, fine, you know, good idea I'm going to make it read you like, great you wanted to be read, I'm gonna make it read you might even tom, hey, I wouldn't make it read because, you know, it's going toe fact, the rest of the layout and it's too strong and, you know, it's, we said that we wanted something that, um that was, you know, an overall subtle experience, and I just don't think that is the right way to go, right? Um uh and they may system like you have, and I really want to see it and you're like, oh, right sometimes showing them that is the best thing that you can possibly d'oh because they're going to realize then and only then and you could have an intellectual discussion about color, harmony and color theory and this that and the other thing and that just might not be the way to convince them, you know, that just might not be it. So so I like to give a client what they ask for on dh then show them something that they didn't know that they wanted, right if I really want to take them in a different direction and I know it's going to be a hard argument to win just in a conversation I'm going to make the thing that they didn't know they wanted, you know, I don't think people really thought that they needed a frappuccino, you know, until until starbucks mixed all us yummy things together and then started selling frappuccinos right if I said, hey, hey, out there people like, do you need another coffee drink in your life? You'd be like no there's like starbucks and pete's and there's all this you know, all these like amazing coffee beans and and artisanal purveyors out there like no way. So, you know, there is that kind of show don't tell philosophy and that can also be very effective and managing your clients who make the local beer who hates that I think the logo vigor, right? So this is like a classic designed joke right because everybody always wants their logo to be bigger. Um do you guys know who michael brune is? Yeah, so michael brune is a partner at pentagram and he's you know, a design leader and he's absolutely a brilliant designer on dh he's also extremely charismatic and and you know, he gives a lot of design and talks and and I have heard that that michael has some awesome client management tactics and one of them is that is that when the client asked to make the logo bigger um you don't actually make the little bigger you print out three copies of the logo one with the current sized logo and then to smaller logos and then you say to your client which one do you like right? And they're obviously gonna pick the biggest one um and what that's mastery trickery you know, whatever whatever you want to describe that as but the point is that you're really the expert and sometimes winning or convincing your client you know, of something that talking your client out of something that they really believe is very difficult and you have to get creative about the ways that you that you hear what they're asking for and, um and manage them through that right? So I mean, I'm just like, man, I wish I could think that way that is ah amazing to me, that is a crafty, brilliant stuff, right? So you have to get you have to get creative about that. So, um, you know, think about that.

Class Description

You need more than technical skills to make it as freelance designer. You have to know how to land projects and keep jobs over the long haul. Becoming a Successful Freelancer with Arianna Orland is your guide to managing the logistics of freelance life.

Arianna is a freelancer doing business in the saturated market of San Francisco and knows exactly what it takes to get and keep clients. In this class, she’ll cover the tips, tools, and strategies you need to have in place to be successful as a freelancer. 

This class covers:

  • Branding: Guidelines for creating a design language that’s right for you
  • Collateral: A roundup everything you need – website, business card, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Clients: Building your client list and keeping them happy
  • Finances: Keeping up on taxes and budgeting
  • Management: How to stay on top of your projects and time

Freelancing gives you the flexibility you won’t find in a 9-5, but it comes with a whole range of responsibilities. Find out how to prepare for those in Becoming a Successful Freelancer with Arianna Orland.


Will Vu

I watched the free live and can't help myself by purchasing this class. It's a valuable lesson from a humble and humorous Arianna. I love your presentation very much. Wish u the best. Thanks or bringing us this course, CreativeLive. !

Cherice Pope

Arianna gives real advice on deciding if the freelance lifestyle is right for you by describing what it's like, business skills you will need to learn, doing a gut check with yourself, how to get clients and promote yourself, and discussing a variety of experiences with other designers. She also goes in depth on differences between working at a company versus working with a company as a business. Her information is clear and wonderful. I greatly appreciate the time and effort put into making this valuable course.


Thank you Arianna for an informative course. Its heartening to know that there are other designers like me that don't come out of design school :) Your guests were a wealth of information as well, specially Peter's bulleted list.