Navigating the world of brand design brings excitement but can also bring challenges. As designers, we’re passionate about crafting visual identities that resonate with our clients’ brands and make a lasting impact. However, not all clients are created equal, and it’s essential to be vigilant about potential red flags that could impact the design process and outcomes.
Let’s talk about some key red flags that brand designers should keep an eye out for when looking to work with potential clients. From incomplete inquiry forms to resistance against your process, each red flag holds important insights that can help you make decisions about the projects you take on. By recognizing red flags early, you can better navigate client relationships, maintain your creative integrity, and deliver your best work all while avoiding burnout.
When a potential client fails to provide the information we ask for on the inquiry form, it’s more than just a minor oversight. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest red flags to spot and can be managed before you have even onboarded the client.
As designers we need to establish whether the potential client is a good fit for our skills and creative style. To make this decision, we need complete details and when clients don’t take the time to explain their requirements, it can lead to misunderstandings and designs that don’t meet their goals.
A lack of detail within the inquiry stage can also show a lack of passion for their business and a sign as to how this client would communicate throughout the project.
If this was to happen to you, you can reach out to the client for clarification. Politely request the missing information and emphasize its importance. Evaluate their responsiveness as it can provide insights into their level of commitment to the project.
Another onboarding stage red flag is when a potential client is unclear of their goals. It’s crucial to gather this information during an introduction call before the project begins.
As designers, we do our best work when the client has clear business goals. It ensures we can craft a brand identity that is directly connected to their brand strategy and business aims.
If the client is unclear on their goals, whether for the future vision of their brand, the visuals or design preferences — it can create problems.
Unclear directions often lead to extra design changes, burnout, and struggles in creating impactful branding.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether a client has no idea about their goals or whether they’re unsure on the way to articulate them. Start a conversation with the potential client to discuss their future vision, target audience, and design preferences. If the client remains uncertain it’s okay to offer guidance. It’s important to know that some potential clients simply are not ready for the investment yet — that’s okay too.
We have processes in place to make projects run as smoothly as possible. Having a consistent brand design process is like the secret sauce – it keeps things clear, maintains quality, brings everyone together, handles more work when needed, and maintains professionalism in your work.
When a potential client expresses objections to a designer’s set pricing structure, upfront payment expectations, or express doubts about the contract terms, these signs can indicate possible disagreements throughout the entire project.
If clients push back against a designer’s creative methods, it can disturb the natural flow of the design process. This resistance could be due to a lack of appreciation for the designer’s specialized skills or a tendency to test the limits of creative freedom.
Ultimately, this can put a strain on the relationship between the designer and the client. It places pressure on the designer leading to burnout and less desirable results. If one of these issues happens to be a refusal for placing a deposit, it can also lead to financial strain down the line.
If this red flag begins to arise, communicate to understand their worries. Talk to them in a respectful way, explaining why you do things the way you do. If they remain resistant, it’s okay to decline the project.
If a potential client consistently insists on reducing project costs, it could serve as a huge red flag.
Clients who heavily prioritize cost-cutting may not fully recognize the value of your professional design services. This can cause them to fail to take you and your work seriously.
Sticking to your established rates as a designer and resisting discounts is crucial to maintain the value of your expertise and communicate professionalism to clients.
It’s okay to approach discount requests with transparency. Explain how maintaining your rates ensures top-tier quality. If the client persists, be prepared to decline the project. If their budget cannot move and they are not ready for the investment, accepting a low ball offer could compromise your ability to deliver your best work. It can also de-value the entire design industry.
Clients who disregard a designer’s specified working hours, communication preferences, and project timelines can be a huge red flag. These issues can show a lack of respect for a designer’s professional boundaries, potentially leading to burnout, increased stress, and a compromised design process.
As designers we are best served by collaborating with clients who understand and respect our creative space and availability.
Remember to stick to your boundaries! When boundaries are questioned, be sure to reinforce them politely yet firmly. It’s okay to remind the client of the importance of mutual respect and effective communication for a successful project outcome. If the client continues to disregard your boundaries, don’t be afraid to politely decline the project.
As brand designers, our ability to spot red flags is just as important as our design skills themselves. Incomplete forms, unclear goals, resistance to our processes, discount requests, and boundary issues offer a look into potential challenges ahead.
Being able to recognize and address these red flags early protects our creative integrity, maintains our professionalism, and builds productive relationships that result in your best design work.
Remember, as much as we’re passionate about design, it’s equally important to be passionate about the types of clients we work with. It’s all about the process and the experience, not just the design work itself.
We teach more about your boundaries in your business in Design Biz Academy University. Click here to learn more!