How To Determine What Your Clients Really Want
The world of freelancing is host to many complicated skillsets. Artists and graphic designers are constantly trying to match their talents with the numerous demands pouring out from clients. Project work can be exhilarating, yet also very stressful if you aren’t prepared.
In this article we’ll go over tips to figuring out exactly what your clients are looking for. At times it can seem like communication has fallen through and all is lost. But the ranging issues of a freelance project should not stifle your creativity. Once you understand how to effectively ask questions it’s not so difficult to get your clients on the same page.
Build a List
A great way to kick start the planning process is with a list of ideas. You can’t go wrong with a bulleted list since it’s easy to skim and provides a bare-bones outline of the project work. In this way the client can peruse what you’ve made and possibly suggest changes if needed.
Try not to get descriptive with the first draft. Put down only the ideas which need attention and explain them in 2-3 sentences. This should be enough for your client to gauge if you understand their thought processes. If it’s beneficial to include examples of other websites with similar traits(design patterns, navigation, etc.) then create a sub-list underneath each of your examples.
This list may consist of any number of ideas – UI features, page elements, graphics, or even functionality. It can become a working draft that you and the client may edit. Furthermore it allows collaboration between a single set of achievable goals and the project isn’t so wishy-washy from the start.
The best way to clarify details with your client is through examples. Whenever you are discussing the project it will likely be difficult for the client to explain what they mean in technical terms. This can relate to design, but also interface effects with jQuery.
If you have a portfolio of works then maybe you’ve previously built similar functionality you can showcase. Otherwise try to keep a handful of websites in mind as you can utilize them for references. Clients will provide more valuable specs and you will feel confident when building each phase. If you can’t find a particular example try googling for better results.
With so many freebies on the web you can run into just about any pre-made open source script. There are plenty of great examples for image carousels, jQuery popups, navigation menus, and other page elements.
Keep Them Updated
Throughout the pre-planning and design process send your ideas over and communicate. Though in the end it is your client who has the final say in these matters. So pressure is on for your to conform with their desires and build what they are paying you to build.
Why get started coding a website layout when you don’t even know if the design is properly setup? There are only so many times you can go back-and-forth like this. Plan out an “average” schedule ahead of time so you have the details fresh in your mind. Touch base once during the sketching/wireframing process and again after the design has been polished off.
Work With Newer Ideas
Some clientel are smart enough to understand the basics of a website. Many will try to suggest how you should do the job, but this can feel slightly backwards. Don’t be afraid to point out some of the new source technologies available to web designers.
For example, just because your client has never used WordPress doesn’t mean their website wouldn’t benefit from the CMS engine. This is possibly one of the greatest hassles since editing page content and website administration can easily be accomplished through WP. Yet when you have a client who insists on building in straight HTML it makes your job a lot tougher.
Even other code solutions may help with smaller-scale concepts. Check through resources like Github which are host to thousands of scripts in PHP, Ruby, Python, jQuery, and SQL. Working on top of these newer code libraries will speed up development time tremendously. It also eliminates the issue of buggy code since most authors scrutinize their work religiously.
Talk About Services Upfront
It’s certainly best to discuss your services before even accepting any project work. Often times you’ll find clients who are looking for a jack-of-all-trades and will push these expectations onto any freelancer. Even finding a sole web designer & developer together can be tough, let alone other services such as marketing and copywriting.
Be sure that you clarify what can be accomplished and what you cannot do. It’s not worth the extra stress tackling excess work in the hopes of making your client a bit happier.
However I would be wrong to tell you to stay away from new ideas. If you have the motivation to help with a new project or Internet marketing plan then go for it! As long as the client understands you are not an expert they won’t be looking for expert results. It’s also a great way to expand your freelance portfolio.
Freelancing is far from the easiest job in the world. Although it can be very rewarding there are plenty of challenges to overcome. When you start working on freelance projects you need to consider a handful of strategies for dealing with clients. Networking skills are vitally important for your success.
Remember that you both need to stay focused on the same goal and communication is key. I hope these ideas can influence your process of pitching and creating new projects. Everything ultimately boils down to simplicity. Keep all the details on a very understandable level and you shouldn’t run into any problems.