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Design Cuts

“Appreciate the genuine, real conversation – seriously chocked full of value. Looking forward to the next episode!”

Episode 8: Client Relationships

If you work with clients today’s episode is for you! We get into some great discussion about how to develop meaningful, positive relationships with your clients. Learn how to attract the best quality of clients, how to retain your favourite clients, and how to avoid any potential client headaches early on in the relationship.

Show Notes for This Episode:

[1.00] Why clients get a bad rap within the design community.
[2.00] Communication is crucial when it comes to clients.
[3.00] Clients can often make or break a project and how enjoyable it is.
[3.45] Lisa’s experience of fostering a great client relationship.
[5.00] Why client’s are just people, and why relationships matter.
[6.00] How long-term client relationships build and get better over time.
[6.50] When you really know your client, they begin to trust you more.
[7.30] Dustin had bad clients early on, but why he blames himself.
[8.30] Great client relationships = more recommendations.
[8.55] Why referrals lead to higher quality clients.
[9.40] Why you should have an idea of how you want the relationship to pan out over time.
[11.00] Face to face interaction and an initial honest meeting can really help.
[12.00] Why you should outline crucial details of your client relationships in writing.
[13.40] Being completely transparent with your clients, from the start.
[14.45] Ian’s builder strikes again!
[15.45] Using an initial gesture to disarm people.
[16.50] Why you should think about customer service when dealing with your clients.
[17.20] Doing nice gestures to impress your clients.
[18.00] Why Lisa was practically a therapist for some of her past clients!
[19.00] Try to make your clients day.
[19.30] Keeping balance, and establishing your limits.
[20.10] Point out when you’ve gone above and beyond for your client. They may not realise otherwise
[21.50] Why you should never neglect deadlines. They are important!
[22.30] Why you should sometimes hold back work though.
[23.40] Realise that your client isn’t a designer, learn to talk their language.
[24.50] Don’t assume your client has any design knowledge.
[26.00] Explaining why you made design decisions.
[27.00] Hand-holding your clients to lead them through a project.
[27.45] Don’t feel shy to lead a project. You are the expert.
[28.30] Why it’s so important to care
[29.30] The importance of getting a crystal clear design brief
[31.00] Being clear on what both parties want
[32.20] Getting your client to think emotively about the type of design they want
[35.40] You’ll start to see patterns after interviewing a lot of clients
[36.00] Defining your ideal type of client
[37.00] Why you should be looking for long-term clients
[37.50] Why you don’t want a string of ‘one night stands’
[39.40] Lisa wishes she’d known more in the early days
[40.40] When you should dump a bad client or toxic client relationships
[42.00] Analyse when you may be at fault, to grow as a designer
[43.00] Dustin is now the client, so seeing things from the other side
[44.50] Dustin being sneaky and pretending to be a client, to spy on how the best companies deal with clients
[47.30] Closing advice from the four of us

“A must for every creative freelancer (or those aspiring to freelance). Thank you for being so… honest! Such a wealth of information from people I admire who have ‘been there and done that’. Listening to the podcast every week feels like I’m among friends. Can’t wait for more episodes!”AG_GD

17 Lovely Comments from our Community:

  1. Alex says:

    Hey there! So I purposefully didn’t read any of the comments before leaving my comment here because I figured if I did I would talk myself out of bing the total fangeek that I am of you guys. I just wanted to let you know that i think it is incredible how you all relate to designers and clients. How you (tom specifically) care so much about the simple act of being kind and showing thanks and having superb customer service. I’ve learned so much just listening to this podcast over the past couple of weeks and it makes me feel a little less alone and isolated. I do graphic work for a church. Not a huge one or anything. I spend most my days making posters and sermon series slides and welcome center hand outs and honestly I LOVE it. I’ve started freelancing a little mostly to other churches and that’s great but sometimes it’s a little hard to try and figure out exactly what I am… am I designer? Am I just a chick who has a good eye and can not totally screw up a women’s dinner poster? Anyway it’s just me. And sometimes there aren’t a lot of answers to the questions I have had. When I discovered design cuts about a year ago I will say it changed the way I design. It’s affordable and it’s inspiring and the customer service is AMAZING. This podcast doesn’t disappoint. Thanks for being out there and doing what you do and inspiring and helping people design better and run their business better and thanks for promoting kindness. It goes such a long way.

  2. These podcasts have been so helpful! Seriously, every subject you guys have been discussing have been on-point with something I’ve dealt with in these first 2 years as a freelance designer/illustrator. I look forward to the next one!

    And, yes, a book would be a great idea … although, I have to admit, I do enjoy listening to these podcasts while I’m working rather than taking away the time to read a book. Plus, you’re right – freelancing can be lonely, so it’s nice to hear you guys talking while I work. 🙂

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks Carol, I really appreciate the feedback!

      I have heard from several people that the topics discussed cover more than just design, so it’s awesome to hear that they’re resonating with you as a farmer/writer too. If you need any specific tips or help with anything, please let me know, we’d love to help :).

      • Tom Ross says:

        Hey Andrea, so great to hear from you! 🙂 Definitely don’t be silent, we always love hearing from the community, and I’m so glad you left a comment on this episode.

        I think it’s definitely a misconception that designers make no money. Most designers I know make a great living doing what they love, and Ian, Lisa and Dustin are all living proof of that. It sounds like you have plenty of talent to offer the world, and it’s great to hear that you’ve circled back to design in recent years :).

        I’m so glad the show is connecting with you, and you are definitely part of the posse of fellow designers! 😀 If you need anything at all, please do get in touch with us, we want to provide as much help and value to all the listeners as possible.

        • Andrea Court says:

          Thanks Tom. I definitely will do.

          Currently busy trying to find suitable places online where I can sell my stuff – hold thumbs and maybe one day I’ll be good enough for Creative Market. I’ve never displayed any of my stuff publicly and on the rare occasion I’ve temporarily posted a drawing or sketch it’s always been under an online user name, not my own, so this is bridging a brand new divide for me from a world of self doubt into the public eye.

          It’s a brave new world.

          • Tom Ross says:

            Thanks a lot Chris, that’s awesome to hear :). I’m excited that the topics have been aligning with what you’re working on so well.

            We’re definitely planning to do a few guides and supporting types of content to back up the show. But don’t worry, audio will continue to be the main format :). I’m glad we can keep you company while you work, and if you would like to hear about any particular topics, please do let us know.

  3. Andrea Court says:

    Long time fan but also creepy silent stalker type shy so never comment anywhere. Been a designer, artist doodler my entire life but was told from childhood that artists never make money to suppressed it all to the extent that I ceased to do art in any form for a solid 15 year stretch from 20 odd well into my 30’s then struggled back from the brink with long lapses of non-creativity in between trying hard to un-learn a lot of the art education railroading I did get. I had won regional art awards from age nine so must have had tremendous potential as a child. Nothing like a suffocating environment to put you on the wrong track in life and after working in fields such as engineering, education etc. for 25 years or so – yes, I’m really quite old – I have come full circle returning to my core passion: art and design. Your podcasts are incredibly helpful for me as I am forging a new future of self reliance and because of this it feels as if I am being spoken to directly when I listen to you all – all the information thus far is incredibly useful for me and I find it immensely reassuring to know that I’m not a single oddity but rather part of an “Oddity Posse” as many of my own idiosyncrasies and even lateral thinking seem to align with yours 😉 Thank you! I look forward to your next one with great anticipation.

  4. Carol says:

    This was an awesome listen…I am not a designer, but a small farm farmer/writer. The comparison of your experiences to mine are closely related…I have learned so much from this podcast and will be able to apply your wisdom to some of my situations 🙂 I will be listening to more of your podcasts…thank you.

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks for the awesome feedback David, we really appreciate it :).

      Congratulations on taking the plunge into freelancing, that’s so exciting. I would definitely recommend listening to our episode on getting started with freelancing if you haven’t yet. That gives plenty of tips on drumming up those crucial initial clients: There’s no easy fix, but just getting out there and pitching yourself is effective. Lisa started out by calling hundreds of people in the Yellow Pages. Ian was more about sharing himself on social media and building up a name there. Even just approaching everyone you know personally and asking if they need design work, or know anyone who does. Running adverts against your portfolio. There’s lots of avenues to explore.

      In terms of cold-calling, I’m a firm believer than calling, or visiting in person is more effective than emailing. A big step is just overcoming the dread and doing it. If you post on social and tag #honestdesigners and @glanzgraphics on Instagram, I know Lisa would be willing to help with some more concrete details on her approach for cold-calling back in the day.

      There’s no need to feel overwhelmed, we’re all here to help :). You’ve made the first step, which is putting yourself out there and getting started, so well done!

  5. Carol says:

    Thia was an awesome listen…I am not a deaigner, but a small farm farmer/writer. The comparison of your experiences to mine are closely related…I have learned so much from this podcast and will be able to apply your wisdom to some of my situations 🙂 I will be listening to more of your podcasts…thank you.

  6. David Howard says:


    I discovered this amazing podcast a few days ago and I have not listened to all of the podcasts yet but so far I love it. After having some issues with my previous job and also the need for flexibility in my work schedule I have decided to recently attempt to freelance. I have gotten some small clients through job sites such as upwork but I am really wanting to get clients outside of a job site and on my own. I finally made the big step of setting up a website portfolio (I attached it to this message I know it’s not a ton of work on my site but hope it’s a good start) I was wondering what is the best way to find new clients without any real connections? Also what is the best way to approach cold calling a small business in the hopes of getting work from them? What are good sources to finding new clients? To be honest I know there is a lot of information out there on these subjects but I just feel overwhelmed when I research these things. Know that may be a lot to answer but if anyone could help I would be gratefull Thanks 🙂

    • Tom Ross says:

      Thanks Tracey, that’s so fantastic to hear! 🙂 I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the show, and our marketplace :).

      We’re working hard on some organisational techniques from within your account. This pack may help, with a better folder structure: The .PDF and Image Gallery Guides also provide a great way to navigate your bundle resources.

      Thanks again for the great feedback.

      • says:

        Hey Carol,

        Thanks so much for your comment- that’s great news!

        We totally agree, these topics can definitely be applied across the board and we are super glad that you can take something from these episodes too 🙂

        • says:

          Hey Alex,

          Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such amazing feedback!

          I cannot tell you how much we appreciate your kind words and support and I know that this means the world to Tom and the rest of the Honest Designers team too.

          We are so happy to hear that these podcasts help you feel less isolated and there is definitely no shame in being a fangeek as we are definitely all fansgeek’s here at DC 🙂

  7. Tracey says:

    These podcasts have been so phenomenal, especially for a new designer like me! I am also so glad you offer them through your site. That way, I can listen to them while I shop your marketplace 😉

    Perhaps, you already plan on hosting a podcast on this subject, but I could use some advice on how to organize all the resources I am purchasing through Design Cuts, so I actually use what I buy. Do folks split up the files into big files of fonts, vectors, brushes, etc.? Or do they organize them by style or some other way? Thanks!

  8. Kari says:

    Yes! Book! Please!

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