Monday, 26 March 2012

5 Questions to Ask Potential Clients.

As designers, we are interviewed by potential clients each day, hoping that we pass the test and get awarded the job. But something that is rather uncommon really shouldn't be. Do we interview the clients? Do we take the time to ensure that they are the type of client that we want to (or even can) work with?

In the current economy, many designers feel that they do not have the luxury of turning down jobs, or simply dont know how - see: Saying No to Clients - Part 1: Taking the Job. But  working with the wrong client could cost you more in the long run than not working with them at all.

I have 5 basic questions that each designer should ask potential clients to make the decision whether or not to work with them.

1: What is your budget?

This should be the very first question asked. Many designers are afraid to talk about money so early on in the relationship, but why waste everyones time. After all you are in business, and the bottom line is business is about making money. If the clients budget isn't consistent with the services that you supply, then you may just have to let them go.

2: What is the deadline?

This is a tricky one. You have to fit the clients expectations into your schedule. Some clients may want the job overnight, while others are willing to wait. Some companies charge extra for rush-jobs, it requires a rather delicate balance and I will discuss how to deal with timeframes in a later post (it will be a pretty long one). But at the end of the day, I can offer this: Make sure that you aren't over-promising with regard to time. It will set you up for a very stressful time and a very unhappy client.

3: Have you worked with a designer / agency before?

If the client answers "yes" this can raise some additional questions (or alarm bells). you may be comforted in the knowledge that the client is not a complete novice when dealing with designers, but you need to ask Why is the client changing designers? If the client has alot of bad things to say about a previous designer, it is quite likely that they will soon have other issues with you (unless the other designer was exceptionally unprofessional and basically ruined his reputation in the industry). Be aware of these red flags while you can still walk away from the job.

4: Who is the decision maker on the project?

It can get very confusiong (and really annoying) when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Knowing who the ultimate decision lies with will save you alot of time on revisions or stop you from doing unnecessary work, and will help the project move faster and more smoothly in the long run.

5: How did you hear about me / our agency?

This is a kind of selfish question. It will help you know what marketing channels are and aren't working, but it will also let you know if the client is just testing the waters and fishing for a quote. Referrals are typically best, it lets you know that the potential client has seen some of your worked and enquired about it, but second best is an online portfolio or your website, it means that the client has researched your work and is some what familiar with what you do and who you have worked for previously.

In conclusion, knowing a clients expectations and budget will go a long way into helping you decide whether or not you want to enter into a business relationship with them. If it is not mutually beneficial or realistic, it may be best to walk away early, rather than having to deal with the implications of a rash decision later.

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. - Nelson Mandela

Do you have any questions that help you decide if you are going to take the job?

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