Why clients are not lining up at your doorstep

The truth is not always fun to hear.

If you are one of those people who have a hard time facing the truth, you might want to stop reading right now. Not everyone is looking to hear the truth about themselves.

I found that out when I was in design school: I thought I was giving people feedback that will help them grow and improve, but a lot of people don’t care about improving. They just want to be patted on the back and hear that they are “so talented!” and are already doing great work.

So if you want to be congratulated and told how fabulous you are, you better call mom. This post might piss you off.

Still here?


Where are tho clients?

There are only two possible reasons people are not currently waiting in line to work with you and pay you shitloads of money:

  1. Your work is not as good as you think it is, and it does not bring immense value to your clients.
  2. Your work is great and valuable, but you do not know how to communicate that value to your clients.

I know you are telling yourself right now that your problem is problem #2. I fantasize about this at night too. The reality is – that for 98% of you out there (me included), the problem is #1.

The thing is, we live in a world where it’s so easy to get your work online and have all of your friends comment about how talented you are and LIKE your work (hey, liking is free!)

We sometimes get the feeling that we are all a bunch of superstar designers, and the only conclusion can be to ask, “how come my clients are so stupid that they don’t understand it and argue with me about prices?”

But the truth is we are not so talented. Actually, what people call “talent” is usually about making a really pretty design, which is not what our clients are willing to pay for. Most of us are not really solving our clients’ real problems, the ones that are so important to them that they are willing to wait in line and pay lots of money to solve.

Good design is valued more than ever

Maybe you’re thinking that most clients don’t value design and are not willing to spend money on good design. The reality is quite the opposite: there are many clients that value design and are willing to pay. They think the problem is that there simply aren’t enough good designers who can help them.

Companies like Facebook and Google are paying huge sums of money to recruit design talent, and the global competition for good designers is pushing design rates higher every year. If you do not currently have clients filling up your inbox begging to work with you, you have to ask yourself why that is.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: “I CAN do great work! If I can only get in front of those clients, I’m sure I could do great work!” (Just like it’s obvious that your driving abilities are above average, exactly like everybody elses). But you are lying to yourself. Your problem is problem #1 and not problem #2.

Here’s the positive point about all of this: once you are aware of the fact that you are not as good as you think, and that you have a lot to learn and to improve, then solving your problem becomes much easier.

All you have to do is go learn and improve. Here’s where I would start:

  • Learn to listen. When your clients come in for a logo design, they have a deeper reason for doing the project – fear, ego, hope, etc. You need to help solve THAT problem.
  • Understand what your clients really value. It might not be your design skills. They might know nothing about design. Maybe it’s fast execution, or great service.
  • Become an expert in your client’s business. The more knowledgeable you are about their business, the more value you can bring, and also charge for.

Don’t worry about setting up your Facebook page or updating your portfolio right now. Some of the most sought-after designers don’t even have a portfolio, because they never need to look for a job – clients are already competing to work with them. Worry about becoming the best designer. The clients will find you.

Post by Ran Segall

Ran is head of product, designer and co-founder at the nuSchool. He's also a freelance designer working with Startups, the author of Value For Money and a mentor at The Designer's Pricing Class.

What’s Next?

Want to further learn how to create more value for your clients, so they line up at your doorstep? Check out our upcoming book – Value For Money.

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