I don’t know how it works for other web designers, but when I am first approached by a client, I usually insist that we have to talk on the phone before we move forward. There are exceptions to this – like the gal who wrote me a letter describing exactly what she wanted. I knew from the way she wrote the letter that we’d get along just fine (and we did…)
But, in general, I like to verbally speak to my clients.
The reason behind that practice is this: as we start talking, I start seeing pictures in my head. Usually not anything concrete, and it’s not like the site manifests itself, all completely designed or anything – just images. Images floating around as they talk. Sometimes it’s relative to something they’ve said, or sometimes it’s just bright colors.
If I don’t see anything, we aren’t a good fit.
When I first started out, I ignored this indicator. I took on anyone and everyone who wanted to pay me. I quickly realized this is not a good idea.
Ever single client that I took on who did not produce images in my head ended up turning out badly. This usually resulted in major feature creep.
If you’ve never heard of feature creep, it’s not a creepy guy like in this drawing, but it is the irritating habit of some clients to continually add more and more and more to a product or design.
If you hire me to design your website, you can rest assured that I will work with you till we get something that is beautiful and functional.
But I’m done working with people who believe they have a good sense of aesthetics, but their vibe is all chaos and difficulty. People who just keep adding things to the project. People who are trying to force me to make ugly websites. (Check out this illustration from The Oatmeal to see what I mean.)
Which isn’t to say that all the clients I walk away from are difficult and chaotic. Some just aren’t a good fit.
And that doesn’t make either one of us wrong or bad – it just means that someone else would “get” that client better than I do.
So, give me some tips to gracefully bow out of a situation that I know just won’t work. How do you avoid working with people who aren’t a good fit for you?