The Secret to Winning & Understanding Clients | Rose Sprinkle | Skillshare

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The Secret to Winning & Understanding Clients

teacher avatar Rose Sprinkle, Designer & Entrepreneur

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (1h)
    • 1. Class Trailer

    • 2. Introduction

    • 3. The Biggest Mistake Designers Make

    • 4. How to be the Guide

    • 5. Creating Meaningful Work

    • 6. The Rubberband Principle

    • 7. Buyers Remorse

    • 8. Mistakes, Oh My

    • 9. Upselling Work

    • 10. Conclusion

    • 11. Bloopers

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About This Class

In this class we'll be discussing how to create better client relationships and how to get customer buy-in for your work. You can be a talented artist, but if you haven't mastered working with clients, then ultimately you business will suffer. So in this class we'll be covering the following:

  • How to effectively communicate with stakeholders
  • How to clearly set expectations
  • How to position yourself for success
  • How to pitch work that resonates with clients
  • How to be accurate and present work well
  • How to better understand the creative process

I'll be talking mainly in the context of working as a graphic designer, photographer, and interior designer, but this class applies to all beginners, intermediate, and expert level designers. 

Some great design resources:

Graphic Design

Realistic Mockups


Client Gallery

Meet Your Teacher

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Rose Sprinkle

Designer & Entrepreneur

Top Teacher

Hey friends! I am Rose and I am so excited to have you here and to join over 20,000 students that have already taken my courses. I love teaching interior design, but am kind of a serial entrepreneur and jack of all trades kind of gal which means I'm always up to something :) I've done everything from Amazon, to owning my own bath and body company, to publishing children's books, and learning alongside the interior designer that designed Edward Cullen's home in the Twilight movies. Yes, Twilight. But teaching and design has always been my first love so I can't wait to share with you all my tips and tricks and get to see the interior design magic you're about to work!

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1. Class Trailer: You can be a truly talented artist, but if you haven't developed the skill set of knowing how to get clients buying, then ultimately your business will suffer. But no worries, I'm here to help you find your voice and your confidence. Clients are different than customers in the sense that creative projects often take longer and require a lot more involvement. In this class, we'll be talking about how to dive into the psyche of your client so you can effectively communicate and ultimately pitch more meaningful work that your clients will love and positively respond to you. A Skillshare, I'm Rose Sprinkle, a designer and entrepreneur and I'll be sharing all the knowledge that I've learned over the last 11 years of working with clients. I'll be talking about my experiences mainly in the context of graphic design, but also as a photographer, interior designer, and children's book author. The wonderful thing about this process is it can be applied to any type of medium because ultimately, the most important factor is you. How you partner, collaborate, communicate, and sell your work. If you're ready to up your game, whether you're trying to find new clients or retain existing ones, then you're definitely in the right place. 2. Introduction: Hey, guys, welcome to the Sprinkle lake house. We're just going to have a little chat and I'm going to share with you all of my embarrassing stories, my wins, mistakes, and essentially, how I started to crack the code to client management that really started to change my business for the better. But real quick before we dive into the good stuff, let's first talk about your class project. You'll be creating a vision board. It can be about how you want your clients to feel when they work with you or maybe who your dream client is, or how your life would change by securing better client relationships. It's a really inspiring exercise that would help you start to become more self-aware and conscious of how you can influence your clients to have a positive experience. Your vision board contain both words and pictures and you can construct it in any way you like. It can be a physical or digital piece and as large or as small as you want. But most importantly, a board that inspires you and kept in a place where you can see it regularly. This is an example of my vision board that I made for myself for 2021. It's about a different topic, but it's the same exact process. I usually prefer to just buy a bunch of magazines, double-sided sticky tape, sit on the floor, and put in a really good movie. I think slowing down and physically crafting helps me get in a really good flow state and really absorb what I'm trying to do. Now I know it may seem like Rose, does this really help? It absolutely does because it'll help you get out of your head. Two years ago, I did an entire vision board on lake houses, and now I live in a lake house. It's going to subconsciously make you think every time when you're interacting with clients what your end goal is and spur new ideas for interacting with them. Once you're done making your masterpiece, be sure to upload your project in the link below so the rest of us can get inspired. 3. The Biggest Mistake Designers Make: Back in the day when I was first graduating from design school, I knew very little about how to effectively walk clients through creative projects. I graduated with an art degree and first started in graphic design. So I knew a lot about color theory and composition, but had tons of questions like, what's the best way to interact with clients? How often should I be talking with them? How do I stay in budget and how do I manage my time? That's not something that you really start to learn until you're actually working and gaining real life experience. There were some patterns that I started to notice of things that worked well and things that didn't. But one observation always fascinated me, and that was that not always the best designs were chosen, but just because your work was technically sound or that you're an expert, that that didn't always please the client or land the job. This happened to me, it happened to other designers and I remember being really confused, like, why is this happening? Why are clients spending thousands of dollars hiring us or me personally and then not taking our recommendations? Or there's the hurting cut issue where you have a million different opinions and clients get sidetracked like, I don't like this color or can you make this bigger? Does this sound familiar? I kept seeing and hearing these things happen over and over again, and so I knew I wasn't being as effective as I wanted to be. I wasn't confident managing clients and I had a huge fear of rejection or being micro-managed. It felt like I was just guessing a lot of the time and hoping something would stick. That made me doubt myself as a designer or shy away because I felt so overwhelmed. I remember thinking there has to be a better way than this. If I don't figure this out, then I'm going to get nowhere fast. So I started spending a lot of time observing, observing other designers and their process, how projects were initiated, how revisions were done, and I started to notice this pattern. After working on many different creative teams, there was one essential narrative that they all had in common. The designers believe this idea that the client needed to be protected from themselves. Of course, I believe this too, because essentially I was taught this idea over and over again. I'd hear things like, they just don't know what good design is or they don't know what they really want, and then we'd fantasize about how much easier our jobs would be if we were working with our dream client. Now for sure, there are easier and harder clients to work with. Some are way more demanding or some are really ambiguous, and yes, it is important to know what type of people you want to be working with. But regardless, I learned that playing the blame game was never going to solve the problem. When it came down to it, this top-down approach was completely ineffective, damaging, and always lead to riffs between designers and clients because it was all about control and lack of responsibility. So me and the client, we're rarely left satisfied. This dynamic doesn't just apply to creatives, it happens in business, and personal relationships, and I had to understand what is causing this dynamic, and how do I fix it. Here's the actual shameful truth. It took me a long time to understand this, but I subconsciously wanted to be the hero. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, not my client because I thought it was my job to be the hero. Now I always thought I was just trying to do great design work, but sometimes it was at the expense of my client, and it took me a long time to consciously understand that. It's not like I was being a monster or a terrible person to work with, but my methods were misguided. So to help explain what I mean, let me give an actual example. Occasionally I'll do wedding photography for friends because few things in this world make me as happy as a wedding. They just make me ridiculous [inaudible] , and I had a really good friend ask me to be her photographer to which of course I was like, yes. I photographed the wedding. I felt really good about it, and I was trying to edit down like 2,000 photos that I've taken, and so I did what I was trained to do. I looked for the best lighting, the best angles, the most flattering poses, and I delivered them feeling that they were portfolio worthy. You can imagine how disappointed I was when she called me and she's like, hey, I really like the photos, but did you happen to have that one you took of me and my brides maid where we were doing our handshake? I knew exactly what she was talking about because I remember taking this candid photo where I actually almost like caught them in the act of doing this handshake. I had no idea what it was or what it meant, but I remember intentionally deleting it because I felt like it wasn't good work. It wasn't beautiful, it wasn't stunning, and it wasn't magazine worthy. So I didn't think twice about deleting it. Again, I thought I was just showing awesome stuff, but what I was actually doing was basically saying, this picture isn't going to make me look good as a photographer, so it needs to go. I had made a decision for my client based on my criteria instead of hers. I can still remember the disappointment in her voice when she said, "That's our secret handshake we do anytime there's a big event in our lives, and we've been doing that handshake for over 20 years. " This broke my heart because I know that every time she looks at her pictures that she's thinking about this one missing photo. This was the first time that I started realizing that the clients attachment to my work had very little to do with my lectures or definition about great design. In the end, what mattered to them always trumped. Why am I sharing this example? Because this is the most important principle I've had to master when it comes to winning over clients. You have to make them the hero and you have to become the guide. Instead of being Luke Skywalker, I needed to be Obi-Wan. I needed to wear the hat of the mentor. People inherently want to create, and no matter how much they love your work, they want to be empowered to call the shots. They are coming to you to solve their problem, and they are going to be emotionally attached to their ideas and want to have a lot of say. So if I wanted to be a good mentor in the previous example, I simply could have not deleted the picture and put it in the gallery. It was such an easy solution, but again, my need for control and perfection didn't allow for that type of flexibility. But flexibility is absolutely necessary to be a good mentor. I realized there were super successful companies that had already figured this out. Think of Airbnb. Their entire business model is centered on the client being the hero. You get to decide how you want to decorate your property. Your place can be a yard, a boat, a teepee, a tree house, basically anything you want. You get to check in guests at whatever time you'd like. The client is empowered to do what they need to do. Now I'm not saying just like clients go wild and do whatever they want. Mentoring means, guiding and forming, nurturing, but ultimately letting them make the decision. Obi-Wan didn't interfere with Luke when he went to meet Darth Vader, I mean, he was dead. But if he had intervened, then Luke couldn't have become a hero. How did becoming a mentor change my business? Well, it changed everything. It changed the way I listened, it changed how I reviewed work with my clients, and it changed the quality of my design work. My clients and I had so much more fun because we ended up becoming such good friends. I knew all about their families. We'd visit each other's homes, and the more we got to know each other, the more honest our conversations were, and then the more synergistic our work became. So don't be afraid to go deep or remove the business versus personal life. My life became so much richer when I was no longer afraid to see or be seen. 4. How to be the Guide: I'm sure it's like bar froze. Lovely. But how? What does that actually look like? Give me some tangible information. I'll share some of the things I've implemented. But I'm going to be talking about this in context as a graphic designer. Know that some of the things I discuss, may or may not apply or may need to be tweaked depending on the nature of your work. But regardless, there should still be some valuable takeaways and overlap. Essentially, the biggest change I made, was stripping away an arbitrary framework that really limited me from becoming a true problem-solver. I understand that in order to meet budget, timeline, and scope, we try to work within certain guidelines, like doing three rounds of design, or showing three concepts, mild, medium, and spicy, or having a client fill out everything perfectly in a creative brief before trying to work with them. Or maybe as a photographer, you're trying to put together your perfect packages for your clients. But after a while, I realized that none of the things I was doing above, were actually customer-centric or strategic. I had to stop setting myself up for failure because I was trying to force the creative process, and did this perfectly linear path, that always gave me a false sense of hope. We're on our third round of design so they really shouldn't have any more changes because this is our policy, and they've agreed to it. Shocker, they want changes. No shocker, we're still going to make those changes, because ultimately we want our clients to be happy. I think for me it became a mindset shift. It was less about staying in my comfort zone through these arbitrary rules and becoming more comfortable trusting my instinct of what actually needed to happen, for me to do my job well. I mean, you wouldn't follow a general who was just like, well, we're going to do three rounds of battle today, because that's what we decided on, three. No. You need to be strategic. You need to identify issues, propose real and tangible solutions, and be flexible. I was less worried about being perfect and following a protocol than I was about getting into the weeds. I became way more proactive and involved. You can't be afraid to ask questions, to follow your gut, and to speak up and challenge decisions. Ironically, the more I leaned into the ambiguity and discomfort, the more confident I became about knowing what to do. I spent my wheels less and less, and I ultimately earned more trust from clients and co-workers, because I was thinking about the relationship more than some contractual agreement. Here are some of the mechanisms that I put in place. First, I made sure that I had access to the full context of every project I was assigned to. I made sure that I was on every kick-off and progress meeting with the client, and that I understood who was involved, and how we planned on communicating. I stopped allowing, oh, you don't need to be in this meeting, or everything you need to know is in the creative brief, or as the project manager, I'll let you in on what we discussed. There were so many times where we'd meet together and clients had filled out a brief asking for one thing, but then by the end of the meeting, the entire scope had changed, because we collectively realized, they needed a different solution. A video would turn into an actual live event, or a website would turn into a landing page. To truly understand the need, you first have to have context into why the client's approaching you and then work backwards. A brief or intake form is really nothing more, than a formal means to initiate a project. It's basically a handshake. Please don't use it as a crutch to understanding the project, or getting to know your client. That process takes many conversations or a long length of time and can't be solved, simply through a piece of paper. Second thing is I started talking less about my concerns to clients and more about theirs. I really understood this so much better when the role was reversed. My second children's book, Little Brave, I hired an illustrator. I could feel the frustration as I was trying to work through her to bring what I had in my head to life. It was a really good learning experience for me, because I recognized my own voice, and how she'd project manage. Then I fully now could empathize with how my clients felt when I was the designer. We were close to a deadline of wrapping up this book, and it's been about a year and a half. As the product was getting closer to completion, this is where I wanted to really nail down these details and make sure it was exactly how I wanted. Because once it's done, it's done. The book is now there forever. I was asking for some changes and she responded in a very normal and common response. She said, "My concern is that if we keep making changes, that we won't hit our original deadline." I remember just thinking, well, my concern is that if we don't make these changes, that I'm going to be disappointed in this book, and all this work and money will have been wasted. Now, there are valid things to her response, and it's not a bad response. I've actually have said this hundreds of times. Yes, you want to inform clients if changes pushback deadline. They need to be made aware of that. But in this particular project, I was driving deadline. The most important thing to me was creating something that I absolutely loved. This was more about her expressing her worry, not mine. If she had said, "Rose, I really know how important this book is to you, and I want to get it right. If these changes take an additional two weeks, would that still put us on time for deadline, and are you okay with that? " Do you hear the difference? This slight change is the major difference between comforting your clients, and making them feel empowered, versus opening the revolving door for constant back and forth. Always lead first with your client's concerns and then your own. If you don't know what your client's concerns are, then that means there's more communication and discovery that needs to happen. Third thing is I learned how to design and communicate in a way that took out all the guesswork. This applied to both vendors and clients. Miscommunication will always happen in every creative process. The reason why is because whenever we hear a word, we immediately picture a reference image. It's easy to assume that what we're picturing in our head, is the same as what our client is picturing, or vice versa. Let's do a simple exercise. I'd like you to think of the word dog. What immediate image came to mind? Did you think of a dog like this, or like this? That's how powerful and fast our brain interprets information. You need to spend the time making sure that you and your client are understanding the same definition of dog. The more similar these pictures become, the more successful you'll be at pleasing your client. Here are some methods to do that. When I pitch work, I'm always sure to show my designs in context of the environment that it's going to be living in. Packaging, for example, I'd showed the flat label or dieline, as well as a 3D mockup, so they can see how the design wraps the material and the scale of the design. If I'm doing an interior design, I show the 2D floor plan as well as a 3D rendering. If I'm doing something like swag, I show the design on the actual swag item. Having photorealistic images, or showing work in context, really helps the client visualize what it is they're actually agreeing to. They want to know the details. They don't want to guess. It also makes you a better designer because you become more aware of all the different factors you have to solve for when designing on different materials. If it's swabbed, I need to know how many colors we're paying for and how to convert my artwork to PMS. If it's on packaging, I need to know how that folds so I can understand placement and orientation of my artwork. I also need to understand how heavy the packaging needs to be to support the contents inside. If it's a website, I need to know what's above and below the fold. Showing that you're thinking about the client's product and its end state, and solving for that is what the client wants. It's not just about making something pretty, it's really also about solving function as well. This also applies when working with other creatives and vendors too. When I was first designing, I felt really intimidated and shy about giving direction because I was just like, they know what to do. These guys are designers, I'll just leave them to do what they do best. I had been proven that wrong time and time again. Agencies only have so much time to devote to you as their client and so any heavy lifting that you can explain upfront or be direct with, they're beyond appreciative. This applies to working with photographers too. They want to know your shortlist. They don't want to be guessing. They want to be equipped so that they can be successful in making you happy. Here's a personal example. I created a wedding style guide for my party and venue. I really don't like micro-managing and verbally explaining myself a million times. I decided to spell it on paper so I could be left alone to enjoy my day and so that it was less stressful for everyone else too. I included instructions for wardrobe for my bridal party so that they didn't have to be scared about choosing the wrong dress. The venue knew exactly how to layout tables and chairs and put together centerpieces. Creating a source of truth allows for a ripple effect, where the venue can now delegate to their workers by divvying up the projects, making copies, and assigning tasks. It's honestly a win-win for everyone. Now, managing this amount of detail is time-consuming, but not more time-consuming and certainly not more stressful than having confused workers and everything unhinging the day off. It is always worth it working through the granular details. By communicating effectively through pictures and step-by-step instructions, I could relax knowing people didn't have to guess about what they were supposed to do. To communicate effectively, you also need to be accurate in your designs. The less of a surprise the final design is as to what you showed digitally, the better their experience will be for the client. Showing physical samples or physical mock-ups is really effective. When I'm designing a brochure, I always printed out on cheap printer paper and fold it for a client to read. This verifies if I've laid out my file correctly, if it's in the right dimensions, and then they can see how it physically feels. Then I'll typically show them the actual paper sample from the printer that it will be printed on so they can feel the weight and texture and put the two together in their mind. Or if it's packaging, I print out a mini version, cut it out, and tape it together. I one time made the mistake of assuming that the dieline sent to me from the printer was correct only to find out that the flaps were completely backwards and it wouldn't fold correctly. This is to protect you as a designer as well. For interior design, whenever possible, I'm showing physical samples of tile paint swatches, an actual flooring that I use in my digital model to help the client really start to verify details. It's always best to verify physical samples, sizing, and if possible, pricing of an item that you're proposing in your design. Make best friends with your sales reps and printers. For interior design, I work really closely with all of my material vendors to ensure I'm understanding how to properly use the materials like, can I install this flooring in the bathroom? How waterproof is it? I just pitched some wallpaper in a design and then the client was like, "I'd like to make sure this is removable wallpaper." Leveraging other people's expertise will help you serve your clients in a much more positive and effective way. Another game changer, I learned how I was saying no to clients. I learned that trying to say no in a different way or a kinder way was still not positive. Things like, I don't think that would look right, or I think we could spend our time better on something else. In photography, this seemed to be a little bit more effective because it's a client's worse fear to look terrible in their photos. If I said something like, "We could shoot over there, but then you'd have harsh shadows of your face, that would really make you look terrible." They'd be like, "Okay, yeah, let's not do that." But with graphic design, it wasn't ever that simple because the stakes weren't as high. I learned to stop wasting my breath to convince my clients. If they wanted to see something instead of just assuming me telling them my opinion or to convince them otherwise, I just mock it up. If they wanted to see an orange, if they wanted to see it in black, I'd simply just say, "Let me mock it up." Because I realize that people need to visually see something for themselves before they feel good about it. They just can't visualize it. Even if you know it's not going to look great, let them be the one to decide that. Then once they've chosen a direction, always verify the plan moving forward in writing. Email multiple stakeholders if possible so there's written verification to confirm what's on record. Great. You love concept A. Well, here's our next steps. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You need to be a good record tracker, because if you do things verbally, the project can easily blow up, where it's like, I never said that, or there's huge misunderstandings, and then you're playing the he said/she said game. Always verify specifics and action items after big milestones or important information. Another form of communicating clearly is to be thorough and consistent in visual details. Not to keep throwing this illustrator under the bus. But there was a point where from spread to spread, all these details get getting lost. Things like the horns on the dragon suddenly went missing, or little Brave's ears were now pointy, where before, they weren't. These small things add up to mounting frustration, especially if they're not easy to fix or costly, and especially if the work gets more sloppy the closer to the end of the project. It's your job as the designer to proof-check and assess the quality of your work. I typically take a break and walk away from my work multiple times so I can look at it with fresh eyes and prevent burnout because it takes a lot of energy to do creative work. I'm probably on the 10th revision of the script, just to give you an idea. Please make sure you're being thorough, that you're reading client feedback all the way through, and that you slow down when it comes to reviewing any communication with them. I know that was a long section and a lot to cover, but I hope that was helpful and some useful takeaways so you can feel more confident in leading your clients. 5. Creating Meaningful Work: We're communicating well, we're putting the client first, but there's still one missing piece. Now we need to create work that our clients love. Well, the better you know your client, the more successful you'll be at creating work that deeply resonates with them. That is a very big distinction than simply having a positive client experience. If you can learn to create work for your client that speaks to something within them, then you will cut through any noise and gain their loyalty and trust. The relationship between your design and how it represents the client is just as important as your relationship with the client. Let me give a personal example of how powerful this is. This example right here is a logo that I designed for a company that sold supplements, things like vitamins, and their whole mission is to make people's lives healthier. Typically, I would have mocked up the logo and then showing it in application and basically called it good. But I kept asking myself, how is that really going to convince them that this should be their logo? Instead, I mocked up this simple page that explained what the symbol meant and how that reflected their mission. I tried instead to tap into their deepest desires. Now, this logo isn't the best logo in the world, but to the client, it became a symbol that they could tell a story to. It became a means that they could connect to their client with. That idea was so important to them that unbeknownst to me, they had contracted out multiple agencies to compete over this design, and they chose this logo over 130 others. It was crazy and I remember being so dumbfounded. I didn't spend hours putting together a presentation like I had always done before. I hadn't done a huge amount of design work, but I had designed with crazy focused intention, and I think what happened is that the design felt comfortable to them because it felt familiar. It was telling the same story that they were trying to express to their customer. The better I got at this, at focusing on telling their story through my work visually, the less and less I was confused about my designs. Another example is Days For Girls. I absolutely love this org. They host these amazing sewing events to create these hygiene kits for young girls all over the world. This wasn't a company that had created this sophisticated menstrual panty. They're not having celebrity endorsements from the Kardashians. This is a company that's about creating a sisterhood that's just as important as the product itself, and that's what made them so unique and special. It's how they wanted to be seen in the world. I partnered with them to update their branding and before showing any visual assets, I spent probably 25 minutes explaining to them how I understood their company and their mission, identified their core principles and what that actually meant, and how they conducted their business. I talked about how their behavior influenced their customers. I talked about their tone and personality and what was their motivating desire. It was all about defining how it felt to interact with Days For Girls. Now, I know this may seem like overkill or a ton of work just to design a couple of deliverables, but I can express how this approach saved me so many hours of twiddling my thumbs, because when it finally came time for me to actually design, it just flew out of me because I had such a deep understanding of what they and their customer would respond to. During the actual presentation, by the time we were finally ready to look at the design work, there was a sense of trust and a feeling of being understood. They were completely relaxed. This was the difference between positioning me as the hero and focusing a majority of the time talking about best design practices, and why this design was amazing, and instead, showing them that, "Hey, I know what you're trying to do and I'm going to do my best to express that visually for you". Another way to effectively create work that resonates with clients is to marry the right words with your visuals. You have to accurately nail down the client's message in order to get their buy-in. I've had beautiful concepts get rejected simply because the client didn't like the headings. I used to get annoyed like, well, we could just easily switch that heading out or that word, but just like the photography example, the client now felt negative about that concept. Even if it was an easier simple fix, the opportunity had already passed. Learn to be strategic with your words or partner with a great copywriter. Biscuit decided to join as we're filming. Here's an example of why this is important. This product Slim, is a weight-loss drink, but we notice that a lot of customers would say things like, "Well, I ate a pizza, but it's okay because I had my Slim". We'd throw these stories back and forth all day and just be cracking up, so I decided to create this poster, "Don't Kid Yourself." These words are what make this poster. If it didn't have that, it would just be a picture of a man, eating doughnuts, but now, it accurately portrays what our customers are struggling with. The self allusion that they would still magically lose weight no matter what they were eating, as long as they had their Slim. You want to make sure that your words feel strong. I just got done designing this logo for a religious conference and we were trying to decide on the wording, and someone said, "Grow with Christ," and it just didn't feel quite right, what does that mean? But instead, I had the idea, "Rise with Christ", which gave it a completely different context that was so much more powerful and had a much stronger association with the imagery. This idea that Christ resurrected, He rose, overcame, and because He did, we can now rise too. This imagery was much more meaningful and a motive to the audience than the word "grow". You know that you're close with your words when you can start to picture it visually. Once I heard Rise with Christ, I was thinking about new beginnings, sunrises, light, and it just flowed so well and easily together, and ironically enough, the client had the same thought as well. This principle applies both to your creative work, as well as how you're talking about your creative work. In your presentations, be intentional about what you choose to write about your concepts. If you've done your homework well, you'll have no problems speaking to it, but if you find yourself using fluffy terms or you feel like you're stretching, then it's most likely that the depth just isn't there. 6. The Rubberband Principle: For every design project, I pretty much use the same approach and formula. I spend about 75 percent of my time ideating and narrowing the concept, and only about 25 percent of my time on actual execution of my work. This is to ensure that I'm not going down a rabbit hole and wasting time on a concept that the client wouldn't be excited about, or simply isn't feasible. In the discovery and exploration phase, there's usually a lot of communication back and forth and just clarifying details and ideas. To do that, I stop deleting every imperfect design or not showing what I assumed that they wouldn't like. Remember how Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star with that one perfect missile? Well, that's essentially what I was trying to do: save the galaxy with my one perfect design. Instead, I show lots of viable concepts that solve for the problem. I show my thinking about why those concepts are valid and I also show the pros and cons for each concept too. I basically give my clients every bit of information they need, so that they are empowered to make a conscious decision of what's best for them. I try to stay as objective as possible until I hear them express their opinion. It might be more information that they didn't disclose previously that helps inform me why a concept works, or doesn't work, or an adjustment, or sometimes even an opinion, like, ''Oh man, I love that concept.'' This gave my clients a lot more deciding power instead of me. The irony of letting clients see more concepts is that it only gave them more confidence about what they liked. I don't know why it's human nature to more easily know what you don't like versus what you do, but it's true. So I show as many concepts as I see fit that help solve for the problem. My only goal is to narrow the direction. That's my simple rule. But that still doesn't answer the question of, how did you take all of that thinking and put it into a visual language? How did you actually solve for the design? That's where the rubber band principle comes in. Designing is a lot like a rubber band. This rubber band already has a shape, and this shape represents a client's boundaries. Essentially, they've hired you to stretch the rubber band to bring fresh ideas. They want to be delighted and they want to be excited. The thing that you're trying to figure out is how flexible is this rubber band, and how much are you going to stretch it? I think that depends on the nature of your client, project, and industry they're in. We don't want to do something so untrue to the client that the rubber band breaks, and we don't want to do something so underwhelming that the clients feel that they could have done it themselves. Typically with most creative projects, the rubber band comes to rest in this state, a hybrid of the client's original thinking, with your input as the designer. It's stretched, but it's somewhere in the middle. This synergistic approach is usually when the best work happens. It answers the client's need and it reflects good design thinking, best practices, and is typically work that you can be proud of. So how do you get started? In the beginning of a project, if there's not a lot of detail, or I hear client say something like, "Well, I'll know it when I see it." That means that's a cue for me to cast really wide. I'm just trying to figure out my clients' tolerance and taste and see what they react to. That means I'm showing lots of low fidelity concepts. I'm not spending hours pixel-perfect creating work. Instead, I'm just doing minimal viable product. Basically, I'll only render our work enough to effectively pitch an idea until I get verification that that's something they're excited about, and then I can start working on a higher fidelity renderings. We just need to make sure that the client understands what it is that they're looking at. Vicky, why is this important? Because clients don't want to guess what they're looking at, or worse, have you go through a ton of work, and then they say, ''That's not what I wanted.'' The second reason I like to work flexible is because typically there are so many factors in a creative project that it's impossible to anticipate them all. There can be changes in scope, budget, we can't use this word in our industry, or this color has a negative meaning. Not to mention that sometimes clients aren't just representing themselves, but also their supervisor and other stakeholders, so designs typically see 10 or so of their eyeballs before they get back to you, and there may be differing opinions. So you have to learn how to navigate designed by mob. In my experience, I rarely find that there's going to be one solution that can blow up the Death Star. There's usually a couple good concepts, but giving the client the flexibility to choose their favorites is what typically works best. 7. Buyers Remorse: Okay, great. You've kicked off your project, you've been empathetic and pitched a winning concept, and they love it initially. Then we run into what I call buyer's remorse. What's so fascinating about humans is that no matter how elated they are in the beginning, the euphoria will start to wear off. The reason is because the more time they have with it, the less enchanted they become. It's like when you buy a house and you're so excited and then when you move in, you start noticing all the flaws that you overlooked. Like, "Oh, I want to change this color" or "I wish we had rocks for grass". It's just because it's human nature. Pitching design work is no different. You can only make a client so happy, but eventually, that curve will start to come down. So I always go into projects knowing that this phase will occur at some point. The other side of that is that a client's negative experience with you will always override how beautiful or great your design is. Bottom line. Nothing ingrained is in me more than photography. I can show clients all day the most beautiful wedding pictures with rim lighting and landscapes and flowing vales. But sometimes I'd send them their pictures and I could just tell that in their response, they weren't super pleased. It would boggle my mind because these were gorgeous photos, and they looked absolutely stunning. I discovered that the client felt stiff or uncomfortable while I was photographing them. Then when they looked at their pictures, it reminded them of that terrible feeling and so they didn't get excited about their photos. No amount of bokeh or backlighting was going to change that. So that meant that I needed to shift how much time and energy I was putting into editing and instead, focus more on prepping my clients and making them feel comfortable so they can loosen up. I knew that the first 20 minutes of my two-hour sessions, were going to either make or break the entire experience. That was a huge profound and big learning moment for me. Instead of rushing into the appointment, I spend probably 20 minutes just talking with the client, in the beginning, to just help them relax and decompress from their day. I'm not in this hurry like I was before. It'll be like, oh my gosh, the sun's going down or I'm losing light or we need to find this location. I was just focused entirely at smiling with my client, creating a connection, and totally being present-minded so they could feel at ease. Then the rest of the session I was just focused on reinforcing this, I compliment them and give them instant feedback the entire photoshoot. Think about it. It's not very typical you'll find yourself standing in a field somewhere. If there's a lot of silence, their minds are going to start wandering like, am I doing this right? Even if they're not, that positive reinforcement is just going to help them feel more confident and in turn, create better and better photos. So always ensure that your clients feel like you're guiding them and exceeding their expectations. 8. Mistakes, Oh My: It's easy to go through a course like this and then just make it sound like I've never made mistakes, or I just have this process completely down, not true. I've made 11 years worth of mistakes, and I continue to make them. This is why I can teach a course about it. What do you do when you mess up a print job, or ruin your film during a photo-shoot, or working with a difficult client, all three of which I've experienced. I think the nature about dynamic changes over time. In the beginning of my career, because I felt I had so much to prove, I would take really cheap jobs or take them for free. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that if the experience is valuable and serves a purpose to you. I just had a friend last night reach out for a logo design and I gave her my price. She simply said, "I didn't know it was going to be that expensive. I may need to think on it," and to which I just said. "That's fine. Just let me know any updates." That was it, a two-line email I didn't try to convince her because I know that she's going to do her own research and I wasn't willing to do it for any less. It's definitely depending on your circumstance. But I've learned that until clients have a paradigm shift of their own, it's really difficult to convince them differently. Sometimes it's just a matter of learning and timing until they're ready to work with you. Another thing I've learned is that it's a lot easier to find clients if you first form partnerships. When I started doing interior design and staging, I partnered with a really experienced and well-known real estate agent in the area. She was actually my real estate agent, so I worked with her personally. I completely trusted her and I simply called her up and said, "Hey, I'm interested in doing this. Is this something that you would find valuable partnering together?" Because she's so well-connected, I have now, by association, made tons of connections with all of her friends and family and coworkers and the community and so on. That is so much easier than me having to spend budget or time on marketing, social media because I'm simply doing word of mouth. Now, not to say those other things aren't important, but it's a lot easier to work with people who are already convinced that what you do is valuable versus trying to convince them yourself. Now, what happens if a mistake is made? It's unfortunate, but it does happen. I tried to have as many checks and balances in place to catch myself before something like that happens. Like I mentioned, looking at physical samples or verifying measurements, printing things out, mock-ups, making sure I have extra equipment. But when a mistake does happen, my best advice is to take responsibility. That's really all you can do. Don't make excuses or don't blame other people. That will only infuriate everyone around you and burn bridges. I have made printing blunders. I've chosen wrong pink colors. I've had to suffer loss of humiliation. But taking responsibility is so important when it comes to preserving positive client relationships. They may be frustrated, but if you have a good working relationship, they understand and they just want to get it fixed. Here's an example of how impactful this principle is that I went through. My client was a recycling plant and Earth Day is one of their biggest days, and so they always run this huge print ad in the paper. Somehow the wrong ad ended up getting run. I remember, of course, the panic my client was in and, of course, the panic I was in because I was like, "How did this happen? Did I send the wrong ad to the printer?" I honestly didn't know. She was one of 27 clients that I had. I remember like, what do I do? I took a moment and instead of panicking and trying to blame it on someone or something, I just said, "I'm so sorry. I very well could have sent the wrong ad. Let me figure out what happened and how we can fix it." Now, thankfully, for me, this was not one of those times where I made a bobo. Turns out I did some the right file and the error was on the printer side. I kind of breathe a sigh of relief. But I learned something really valuable from this experience. When I asked her to write me a testimonial later, this is what she said. She said, "Rose Rose a very honest person with integrity. At one point there was a big disaster with the printed advertisement. She went above and beyond what could be expected to help figure things out. She never once tried to place blame on anyone, and in the end it was clear the mistake was not hers. I was very sad when she left the company I was contracted with." I didn't ask her to write this testimonial until almost two years after this had happened and I was at another job. But this is what she mentioned; not my design work, not how creative I was, but this. I had no idea that I had left that impression on her. As terrified as I was during that moment, I was probably barely until my second year of designing. I am so glad that I was able to just calm myself and just say, "Hey, you might be right." Either way, if the mistake had been mine or someone else's, owning responsibility, disarm someone immediately. If you make a mistake, as scary as it is, own up to it, and if you don't, then it's okay to say that and figure out how to best move forward. Now, if you have a client who's just being an absolute jerk, my advice is, if you haven't already fired them, to limit one on one conversation as much as possible. Have a third person there to act as a buffer and simply keep asking the question, what needs to happen in order for blank to finish the project on time, to be equipped with what you need, to stay within budget, whatever it is, don't give them ammo or enable any of their poor and unprofessional behavior. Eventually, life will return to normal and you'll never have to work with that person again. 9. Upselling Work: An important part of a business is to ensure that you can upsell clients, and the easiest way I've learned how to do this, is to first prove a business need. I used to waste time mocking up designs and then pitching them thinking, "for sure they're going to want this. This is beautiful. It's so much better than what they have." But I wasn't thinking like a business owner. I'd pitch something, or I want to hear hear like, "we don't have budget," or "that would be nice, but it isn't a priority right now." There I do all this work for no compensation, and unless I was planning to use it in my portfolio, it was basically wasted. One of the best natural side effects of having great client relationships is that they'll naturally keep coming back to you for more work. At first it's like, "hey, I need this bathroom redesigned." Then, "I need you to do my master bedroom," and on and on. Doing a good first job is the first offense in securing future work. But if you do want to upsell work, the best tactic is to make it seem like it's their idea, or is in their best interest. I'll give a recent example. I had a client call me to originally do an office redesign, and she takes me downstairs to what is a completely gutted basement down to the scaffolding. As we started discussing the nature of trying to design this one room down there, I was like, okay, if you're knocking down walls and putting in new windows and renovating part of the basement, we might as well start with the concept that addresses the whole floor. So you can budget more effectively, make sure you're getting the right permits, and structurally not doing anything out of line. In the end, it'll save you a ton of money, and you can prioritize your timeline for what rooms are most important, and which ones you want to start on first. But I had to convince her why it was in her best interest for her to do it that way versus just one room here and there. Once you start addressing things like saving cost, time, and getting permits approved, you're talking in a language that the clients are like, "yeah, why wouldn't I do that?" My dad is a structural engineer, we partnered together and came up with this awesome design that has all the functionality she wants, and now she has a clear vision in her mind of what she's actually trying to accomplish, and she's beyond thrilled. Because it's stressful looking at empty spaces and trying to visualize it differently. It's stressful looking at a blank page or a creative brief and wondering, how you're going to get from point A to point B. Again, it just comes down to effective problem-solving. Upsell easy wins, upsell things that go hand in hand together, and propose practical solutions that you know clients are going to easily digest. This will ensure more money in the bank, a stronger portfolio, more experience, and happy clients. Now if you're doing photography, this also applies. The easiest upsell when I do weddings is to take family portraits. During happy hour, I yell out to everybody, "Hey, I'm going to be over here and if you want a free family portrait, come on over." Think about it. You have all your family visiting from out of town, they're all dressed up and look really nice, and they haven't had portraits done in like 10 years. Not only was I selling prints to the bride and groom, but also to all the people who attended their wedding. I would always see more sales in my prints, when I use the strategy because it was an easy win. Be thinking about how can I create a service or offering that's going to entice my clients to want to spend more. 10. Conclusion: That wraps up the secret to winning and understanding clients. I hope this class has been helpful for you, and I'd love your feedback for how I can make it better. Please leave a review or reach out to me directly. Don't forget to upload your class project below, and if you want to check out my other courses or follow me on social media, just check out my teacher profile for more links. Thanks so much and happy designing. 11. Bloopers : Bill, you're going to help me read the script. Are you a Skillshare fan? Because I'm the instructor now. I'm taking over, don't kid yourself. I can't because you're making me laugh. Let's go, we got this. I just got done designing this and it just didn't feel quite right. What are you laughing at? [inaudible]. Could you be serious? Look at Billy, they're kissing each other. Oh no, they are kissing each other. May we? No, no no, not my mug.