Why You Should Treat Your Client as a Friend :: UXmatters

Establishing a friendly relationship can help you bypass some of the formalities that often attend a newly formed client-designer relationship. Certainly, simply knowing that you have access to your clients’ personal line and need not hesitate to contact them a few hours before or after work hours can provide a great degree of comfort. Another thing to be aware of is the trust factor: when you’re on friendly terms with your clients, they’ll believe more in your work, as well as your process. There’s no need to demonstrate how beneficial a client’s trust can be to any designer.

Greater Freedom of Expression During Ideation

Another benefit of being friendly with your client is that, as a designer, you can be more creative, pitch outside-the-box ideas to your client, and implement them through your work. When working with new clients, designers naturally have a tendency to play it safe with their suggestions rather than risking possibly alienating a client by presenting something too fresh and new.

Figure 2—Freedom of expression during ideation
Freedom of expression during ideation

However, it need not be this way. Once you’ve established a certain degree of comfort with your clients, you can feel much more comfortable bouncing more innovative, previously unseen ideas off your clients—and so can they. Some of the most creative design solutions would never have been possible without a client-designer relationship was inherently friendly. So establishing a modicum of shared affability is a cornerstone of achieving good design.

This feeling of creative freedom is always a two-way street. Within a friendly relationship, clients can also feel more comfortable communicating freely with designers. Your friendship could result in a more collaborative approach, with your client offering more articulate and specific feedback, as well as suggestions from an industry-perspective that could propel your product and design solution even further.

Loyalty and Maintaining Post-Project Relationships

One amazing benefit of having an amicable relationship with your client is that this incentivizes them to extend their professional relationship with you, which otherwise might have had an expiration date. Because of your relationship, your client might extend their work agreement with you—for example, by asking you to further flesh out a design or add more functionality. Your clients might request your assistance on other projects they’re working on—all as a result of the bond you’ve created between you.

Figure 3—Loyalty and your post-project relationship
Loyalty and your post-project relationship

While the quality of your work and the power of your designs do play a massive role in extending your work relationship with a client, without the proper personal relationship and understanding between you, it’s unlikely that you’d be seeing much repeat business from your existing clients. In fact, if you have a poor relationship with your clients, you might even be pushing them toward your competitors. You can build long-term professional relationships more upon amicable human interactions than on spiffy design deliverables—although they do certainly play a part, too. So, if you struggle to hang onto your clients, do what it takes to build meaningful relationships with them.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

As with the previous point, the quality of your designs does play a major role in determining whether your clients promote your work to others. But, if you have friendly relationships with your clients, they’ll be far more likely to recommend you to others who might require your services.

Figure 4—Word-of-mouth marketing
Word-of-mouth marketing

Having a unique, empathetic communication style with your clients can certainly set you apart from the pack and encourage a past client to recommend you to others. Plus, clients with whom you are friendly are usually a lot more receptive to any requests you might make of them—for example, asking them to provide a review on an aggregator or contribute a testimonial on your Web site or for your portfolio!

Conclusion

As all of these points make clear—and as all designers everywhere in the world have experienced, having friendly relationships with your clients is one of the easiest ways to consistently produce better results.

Most designers have endured at least one difficult relationship with a client, so can attest to the fact that a bad relationship can have catastrophic impacts on a project. Conversely, a friendly relationship eases not only the ideation stage of a project and your ability to toss around ideas with a greater degree of freedom, but the design and prototyping stages as well. Once you’ve developed good relationships with your clients, communicating with them flows much more naturally. So, if you’re struggling with a project, I recommend your taking steps to build a closer relationship with your client. The results could surprise you. 

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