The truth about that client you’re mocking…

I know a colleague who keeps a “wall of shame” for emails he gets from clients — moments of confusion on their end that (for better or worse) are also funny. The thing is, we know how to answer these questions because we’ve heard them all before: Why does this look different when I print it? How do people know to scroll? To a certain extent, making light of the usual “hard questions” is a way of blowing off steam — but it’s an attitude poisonous for an agency.

Orr Shtuhl has a great article on A List Apart which talks about the issue of confused or unhappy clients. It’s easy to mock them and send around cartoons about how a “bad client” can take a great design and turn it to crap.. but the fact of the matter is in 20-years in business I’ve very rarely seen “bad clients”.

Sure there are abusive/sexist/racist or just plain mean clients out there, but they’re a lot rarer than you think. Nine times out of ten:

  • If a client meddles in your design, you messed up. Sorry it’s true. If you haven’t reached their vision and proved that it “works” (converts, sells, inspires, whatever), then you failed.
  • If a client is asking other people for opinions… yeah you messed up. You didn’t articulate your vision, or you didn’t frame in the terms of *results*.
  • If a client doesn’t seem to respect your opinion… well you didn’t earn that respect.
  • If a client is changing their mind… you probably dragged out the process to long, or you missed the mark. Pull up your big boy/girl pants and take that energy you had to complain and fix it fast.

If you’re mocking your client or sharing “funny” emails they sent you… it’s time to check yourself. I’m sorry you’re only level 2. I’m sorry you’re insecure about it. I’m sorry no one has taken the time to tell you. But the harsh truth is the problem is with you, not with your clients.

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