How to Handle Common Objections From Prospective Design Clients

Handling Objections

The fastest way to lose clients is to ignore or sidestep they raise. As a design professional, handling client concerns will make or break your business. You might be incredibly talented, but if you can’t work well with clients, you will not make it as a freelancer or in a small agency. Some professionals choose to work in a bigger firm where they never have to deal directly with the client (or at least, not without the support of the project managers), so there are options if you don’t like dealing with client objections. But for the most part, you should learn how to address objections as a professional designer.

When Clients Balk at Price

You really need to decide what is worth your time and stick with it. There is always going to be a client that thinks they can get something for cheaper than what you are offering. Make sure you are confident and base your pricing on the current market and competitor rates.

Often, the client isn’t paying for your actual time spent on the project as much as the expertise and education it took to get you where you are. Rates for web designers can run $75 an hour, but much of that is paying for the skills they have worked for years to hone. When you feel you have set a fair price, stick with it. If there are objections:

  • Clarify how you arrived at your price
  • Detail a bit about the cost involved on your end (experience required and time involved)
  • Clarify what you are providing
  • Admit that there are cheaper options and you might not be the right fit if they are going on price alone
  • Remind them (without arrogance) about what might happen with a cheaper designer

When Clients Offer Feedback on Work

If you went to school for design, you are no stranger to critique. Classes typically run critiques with most projects that can go on for hours at a time. These critiques happen in all stages of the process, but it is so much harder when you are further into your work! The more time and effort you put into a project, the stronger you feel about the direction.

Clients sometimes see issues that you don’t because they know their brand, language, and audience. If their criticism can be incorporated without compromising the job, make the changes. If you are within the range of acceptable revisions (whatever you agreed on with the initial project), then swallow your feelings and update the design. Some clients will nitpick and never feel satisfied, so once the accepted number of revisions is up, you can clarify fees associated with future changes (this can help slow their roll a bit).

But the worst is when the client is dead wrong. Some clients want everything flashing and screaming for attention all at the same time. Think about the car salesman on the radio and imagine that in website form. And when awful design requests come in, you have to decide how you are going to handle them.

You can be a for-hire professional and realize you are simply offering a service and a client is paying you to do it. At the end of the day, all that matters is the client is happy. In some cases, this is only an option if the client doesn’t care much about ROI and analytics.

You can completely object as an artist — feeling that you can only produce work in keeping with your professional brand. You may feel strongly about only allowing work out there that showcases your abilities. This is only an option if you can afford to walk away from clients and don’t need their services because some clients will balk.

You can find a compromise. The only other option is to address the critiques and find creative solutions to incorporate the client’s wishes as much as possible. Sometimes making a change and then voicing your own concerns about making the full change will help the client feel heard and value your advice. If your client wants a large CTA in red with a different font just as large in yellow with a second CTA, you might change one CTA and then talk about the hierarchy of actions. But this only works if the client is willing to trust you as a professional — and this often takes a relationship where you have proven yourself as an expert.

When the Client Questions Your Expertise

It is not uncommon for clients to question how qualified you are to handle their projects. Some will do it respectfully — asking where you went to school for design, looking at your past work, or talking to previous clients. Others will want you to prove yourself. It can be very hard not to feel irritated when a client isn’t willing to see your value for what it is.

Suppress any feelings of irritation and approach it at first with a reminder of your skillsets and specialties. Maybe you aren’t an expert in their field, but you are great at designing something eye-catching. But if the client continues to downplay your skills and question your input, they might not be the client you want to work for. There has to be a balance between the client’s understanding of the business and your knowledge of design, or the project is bound to flop hard.

When Clients Want Guarantees

Many clients are careful with how they spend their money. They want to know the project is going to do what they want before they shell out the big bucks. You can guarantee functionality, but you can’t guarantee a response. It is fair to go over objectives and set up plans with defined goals, but most design and marketing projects are more like big experiments. You are combining brand preference with industry standards and trying to mix in what will appeal to the target audience. It is not an exact science. You can promise beauty. You can promise a completed project by a certain deadline and within a certain budget. But you can only estimate potential growth, traffic, or ROI.

  • Go over what you can reasonably promise (functional product)
  • Talk about ways to measure success
  • Discuss future growth with testing, analytics and continuing to tailor the fit to the customer response

When Clients Still Feel Unsure

Sometimes you have to provide examples of your work, pricing, references, and clear project objectives before simply walking away. Give the client the time and space needed to decide. Occasionally, you will get to a point where you are out of ways to convince — and this is an important place to realize you can prepare to cut your losses.

Sometimes trying to convince a client can be a big waste of time. You are already putting a lot of time and effort into a pitch. Whenever you pitch, be prepared to walk away without burning any bridges as soon as it is over. The longer the pitch is drawn out, the more time you are spending without pay and no guarantee of a client. This includes long interviews, phone chats, conference calls, and emails. The more the client seems unsure, the more you should start to gently cut ties. Some clients will remain unsure (and those are some of the worst to work for), while many others will return when they see your confidence in your worth as a professional.

At the end of the day, it is confidence sans arrogance that will help you best in dealing with client objections.