Charles Peters

Designer / Developer

An Enemy Among Us

I think of when the work I do typically goes bad. The pull-out-my-hair/I-am-over-this-project part of client services. Everyone goes through this moment at one point or another, it’s a matter of when & a matter of how well we can bounce back from it.

For me this moment is when the client requests a change about something I thought was pivotal to the design I made or was given a lot of emphasis in the planning, or worse when I wrote what feels like a wealth of code to make that thing happen. Or once a project has gone live, and they wanna get creative with something in the Wordpress Dashboard beyond what they said their needs were.

My natural reaction is, gosh this person is so stupid. Or more accurately, why I expend all that energy working on that, if they were going to change for less that satisfactory reasons? It feels like the client is out to destroy everything and negate my hard work.

Those thoughts are all too easy to have. But in reality those aren’t terrible things to ask for or even desire.

The truth of the matter is the problem isn’t the client (usually); the problem is that I haven’t articulated well enough the complexities of using a CMS or Responsive Design, or (dare I say it) the value of what I’m bringing to the table. It’s either that, or we haven’t planned well enough in the beginning and the client wasn’t heard and/or expectations weren’t managed well.

So let’s get back to the frustration.

There’s this climate on the web that clients are obviously stupid and trying to ruin the Internet at large. It’s easy enough to accept and grit your teeth at client work. But that can’t be the end of all client service.

What I’m starting to realize is an obvious thing: the client didn’t come to me because they could execute the best solution alone. They reached out because they needed help doing whatever they hired me to do: new eyes, expertise & someone to guide and collaborate with them.

Your client isn’t a developer or a designer; that’s why they called. When you remember that it becomes ridiculous to think you’re on the same page 100% of the time.

As a designer, fifty percent of your work is communication. Probably even more. If you don’t enjoy communicating with your clients, then you’ll really struggle to succeed in client services. If you think that working freelance and remotely means you’ll be left to work for days without disruption, you’re not just wrong, but you’re going about client services in the wrong way. — Laura Kalbag

The fix for when projects go terribly is really communication, understanding and patience. Those things are hard when we’re wired to find an infinite number of answers with a Google search or deploy sarcasm faster than we can think of it on Twitter. Because we’ve made communication instant, the time it takes to communicate well seems much more labor intensive.

Taking time to help the client understand what you’re doing, why you’re choosing the solutions you’re implementing, and what level of control they’re going to want and need over their CMS, is so invaluable. Sometimes I need to remind myself that these things aren’t just assumed.