Join Sean Adams for an in-depth discussion in this video Presenting previous projects, part of Running a Design Business: Selling Design to Clients.
- When you're sitting in front of a potential client or talking on the phone, he or she may want to see some of your work. Typically, much of your portfolio will be online, either on your own site or another site such as Behance. The potential client has probably looked at that before deciding to consider working with you. Now he or she asks, "Do you have any work you'd like to share? "What do you do?" Let's go back to the architect analogy.
If you're deciding on whom to hire for your house project, you'll want to see other houses the architect designed. You won't care too much about the wonderful shopping center he designed. The same is true with you and your potential client. Tailor which projects to cover based on the client's needs, not the work you think is best. If the project is a branding job, show similar projects. Even though your personal photography is wonderful, it isn't relevant here.
Limit the amount of projects you show to three or four. If the client wants to see more, have a couple in your back pocket. I start by verifying how much time we have. Once I know that, I can pace myself. Then I present the work and answer the questions relevant to the project. The client wants to know what was the problem? How did you solve it? What were the challenges? Did it succeed? I don't talk about the specific design issues, such as the typeface or colors unless I'm asked.
Explain the problem in broad terms. It's not enough to say the logo is ugly. That's a matter of opinion, and neither here nor there in regards to business. What was the real issue or issues? For example, the client was losing audience share to its competitor. They needed a clearer message. Or the previous design materials were cost-prohibitive, and the client needed a streamlined approach to reduce costs. When you explain how you solved it, discuss the collaborative process with the client.
The potential client wants to know they will be heard and respected. Designers have a bad rap for being temperamental. You're not. There were challenges, as in all projects. This can be a fine line to walk. This is not the time to ever say, "It would have been better, but the client was dumb." Never blame anyone for a problem on a project. And finally, explain how the project succeeded. You can't make up wild claims.
It's perfectly reasonable to say that the results are hard to pinpoint only to the design. Clearly, any success is a mix of many issues, but explain what worked. As you present the previous projects, stop, look, and listen. Stop and take time going through the work. Look at the client's body language. Is he looking at his watch, yawning, or smiling broadly? And listen. If she asks a question, think about the answer and respond honestly, as long as you aren't throwing someone under a bus.
This is a chance for the client to understand how you work, not just what you can do. It's also a way for you to have a dialogue about the process to determine if it's a good match. If someone tells me they hate to collaborate, it's their way or the highway, and they love to fire consultants, I'll probably pass. But if we seem to be on the same page about the goals of the project and working style, it's time to write the proposal.
Instructor Sean Adams shows how to begin a working relationship with a potential client, explaining how to sell yourself, present previous projects, and set appropriate expectations. He also provides tips for communicating during the design phase, crafting and delivering an impactful presentation, and dealing with a variety of common conflicts. In addition, he discusses how to maintain lasting relationships with clients, create more work, and determine when it's time to part ways with a client.
- First contact
- Setting expectations
- Beginning the work
- Developing criteria for approval
- Communication during the design phase
- Crafting and delivering a presentation
- Dealing with conflict
- Clients who want to play designer
- When a client plays mix and match with a solution
- Choosing your battles
- Maintaining a relationship over time
- Determining when to end a client relationship