The best ways to keep your clients happy and returning for more work

Joanne Amos's Layout avatar

As a web designer, your job is to design websites that are beautiful to behold, functional to use, and that fit the needs and requirements of your clients, right?

Well yes, but that’s only part of the story.

Web design is a service industry, so delivering the goods is merely one element of the package you should be offering. It’s also about how you deliver those goods.

Imagine going to a beautiful restaurant and enjoying a delicious meal, or spending the night in a luxury hotel where you sleep blissfully between soft Egyptian cotton sheets. Regardless of how wonderful these experiences are, you’d think twice about repeating them if the waiter or concierge was rude, offensive, or simply made you feel uncomfortable, wouldn’t you?

a person garnishes a bowl of soup with fresh herbs

It’s no different with our industry. If you want to build and retain a loyal client base, you need to work hard to make your clients feel comfortable working with you and make them happy with the service you provide.

Here are our top tips for keeping your clients happy.

Ask the right questions

Some clients won’t be used to working with web designers, so it’s your responsibility to ask the right questions.

Don’t simply ask them how they want their site to look. Instead find out who their target audience is and what they want their website to achieve—this will give you a much better basis to work from.

If they have a current website, find out what they do and don’t like about it. And if they’ve worked with designers before, see if you can find out why they don’t want to work with them again.

Asking the right questions will help you to identify exactly what problems your clients face with their site and enable you to design with that in mind.

a laptop being closed

Be a great listener

Asking the right questions is only half the process. You also need to know how to be a great listener.

Listening is a skill. Don’t just jot down answers to the questions you’ve asked. Demonstrate that you’re listening by repeating important points back to them to clarify, and don’t forget to read between the lines—sometimes what they omit to say can be just as important. They may not want to say what they didn’t like about their previous designer, but the clues will be there somewhere. It’s your job to pick up on them and ensure you don’t make the same mistakes.

What’s more, it’s not especially professional if you have to go back to them a week or so later to clarify some points because you zoned out as they were talking.

Explain the process

When you’re clear on the job you have to do, you need to explain the process to your clients. There’s a fine balance to this, especially if they aren’t particularly tech-savvy.

As a professional, you know what you’re talking about. But they possibly don’t, so you don’t want to blind them with lots of technical explanations that will leave them scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Explain what you do in simple, laymen’s terms, without being overly patronizing or too simplistic, and note their reaction to check they fully understand what you mean.

a woman looks pensively out a window

Maintain communication

Good communication is paramount in a designer–client relationship. Keep them updated with progress as you work on their project and be sure to warn them if you hit upon any unexpected hitches.

It’s important that they know the lines of communication are always open so they can approach you for questions if they need to. Of course, you need to maintain a professional stance on this—no answering phone calls at 4 a.m.—but be prompt when answering emails and always make time for meetings or calls.

Good communication is an important factor in building trust, and trust is a crucial element to building long-term client relationships.

Be honest

Honesty is another integral element of building trust. If a client asks you something and you don’t know the answer, don’t quickly fudge a reply and move on. Say you’ll do some research, then get back to them when you know all the facts and can provide a proper answer.

Likewise, don’t agree to a tight timeline if you’re not certain you can deliver it – letting people down is not going to make them happy. If you can’t do the work, be honest so they can find somebody who can (if you can suggest somebody from your contacts, go ahead—they’ll be doubly grateful to you). And if you can, make sure you deliver on time, and you will have one grateful, and loyal, new client.

On the subject of honesty, if you’re recommending a certain piece of software or new method to use on their site, don’t only focus on the positives. Everything has its pros and cons, so make sure you explain both so the client can make an informed decision and you don’t set them up with unrealistic expectations that you probably can’t fulfill.

Learn when, and how, to say no

If your client approaches you with a bad idea—to use cheesy stock photos or a fancy new design technique that’s completely unsuited to their target audience—you need to say no.

But don’t dismiss their idea with a wave of the hand. Explain to them, in simple, professional terms, why that won’t work on their site. They may be disappointed, but they’ll thank you in the long run.

“Sometimes, the most honest thing you can do is to say no. ”

Add a personal touch

Designer–client relationships can be a long-term thing, so your relationship can benefit if you take a little time to get to know them on a more personal level. Of course, this does depend on the client—some people like to keep things strictly business and, if that’s the case, you should respect it.

But taking the time to see if you have any shared interests or common hobbies can give you something to chat about, and bring a sense of ease and familiarity to your relationship.

two people converse while drinking tea

Promote their brand

Clients love it if you’re as enthusiastic about their brand as they are. So promote their brand and website when your project is complete. Share their good work (by default, you’ll be promoting your good design work, too) on social media and include it in your design portfolio.

This will help to boost their profile, and will also maintain your good relationship.

Deliver the goods

Our final tip to keeping your clients happy is simple: deliver what you’ve promised, to the agreed timescales. Make sure your design is beautiful to look at, easy to use, and that it meets your clients’ requirements and appeals to their target audience.

If you complete the task in hand while offering an excellent service and making your clients feel comfortable, you’ll be well on the way to keeping your clients happy and building trust for a long-term working relationship. Our jobs are more than simply designing and coding; we also deal with other people, and our ability to do this on a respectful, empathetic level is equally as important as our technical skills.

What do you do in your web design business to ensure your clients are happy? Do you have any tips and tricks to share with us? Tell us below.

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