Designing Relationships Part Two

Think dating is tough? Professional relationships can be just as daunting. Continuing our list of the perils and parallels between personal and professional relationships in the creative world…

4. Mind Your Manners
The surest way to not get asked out a second time is to forego good etiquette and politeness. Not saying “thank you” after a dinner date or being rude to your waiter or waitress are leading indicators as to what someone is like at their core. Always make it a point to include a hand-written note or a kind word along with the final invoice to a client, letting them know how much you enjoyed working with them (assuming you did of course.) It never fails to surprise me how favorably clients respond to a genuine word of appreciation for their business. You would be shocked to learn how infrequently this happens.
5. Be Honest If It Isn’t Working
Everyone has either said (or heard), “This was great, let’s do it again sometime.” And very often, it wasn’t great, it was dreadful and you have no intention of doing it again. So don’t give someone the false impression that things are going well and you want to continue the relationship. If a client (or designer) is not a good fit for, let them know that and part ways amiably. Be professional, be polite, but be firm and let them know specifically what about the working relationship is problematic.
If they are an ethical and upstanding client, but just not appropriate for you because the work is unrewarding, either financially or creatively, it’s fair to part ways. If you know a design resource more suited to their needs, make the introduction, as it will help out both parties and leave them with a good feeling about you and your firm.
6. Be nice to your exes. They have friends.
Breaking up is hard to do according to Neil Sedaka, but staying on good terms shouldn’t be. If there have been challenges that have caused you to sever professional ties with a client, ill feelings do not have to be an inevitable consequence.
We developed a corporate identity and collateral campaign for a client who had different expectations of the design process than what we were accustomed to. It was when his wife began faxing us her ideas and sketches that we knew it was time to part ways. The client was clearly looking for a set of hands to execute his ideas. At that point in time, it was time to say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Which always means, “It’s you”.
We had a long chat and settled up with the fees that had been incurred to date. Upon handing off the files that had been created, we shook hands and pleasantly parted on good terms. Since then, he has referred three clients to us, none of who has a budding designer for a spouse. Just because someone is not the right partner doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay friends. Similarly, just because someone is not a good client doesn’t mean they’re not a good person.