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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Communication: According to the dictionary, communication is the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs. But that definition doesn’t do it justice. Communication is so much more than that.

Without communication, conflicts could escalate. Governments would collapse. Businesses fail. And loved ones may never get together.

Communication is one of the most crucial reasons for our species survival. I know. I’m getting a bit heavy here. But I want to emphasize the importance of communication.

Your design business will grow or fail based on communication. How you interact with your design clients can drastically impact your success.

But is there a right or wrong way of communicating with your clients? The short answer is no. I don’t believe so. But there may be some ways that are better than others. Better for both you and your client.

Let’s list some ways of communicating with your clients to get started.

  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Text
  • Social Media DM
  • Chat Apps (WhatsApp, Messenger)
  • Video Chats
  • Video Messages
  • CRMs
  • Mail
  • In-Person

I’m sure I’m missing some, but you get the idea. There are many ways of communicating with your design clients.

This past week, I posted several polls in the Resourceful Designer Facebook Group asking various questions about communicating with design clients. I know this isn’t a very scientific study, but I figure you may be interested in the results nonetheless.

Phone Calls

Let’s start with phone calls. I bet that most designers have a phone of some sort at their disposal. But there are different types of phones and various phone services you can use.

According to my poll

  • 50% of those who responded use a cellular phone for personal and business use.
  • 33% Use cellular phones but have a separate business phone number through a third-party service or app, such as Google Voice or eVoice.
  • 12% have a dedicated landline for their business
  • 5% responded that they don’t use a phone at all.

Personally, my cell phone is for friends and family only. The only clients who have my cell number were people I was acquainted with before they became clients.

I still have a landline for personal family use, but I also have a dedicated business number that rings through my landline. It’s a service called Ident-A-Call offered through Bell Canada.

When someone calls the home number, my phone rings like usual, ring, ring, ring, but if they reach the business number, it rings differently, ring-ring, ring-ring. These distinctive rings let my family know who the call is intended for and whether they should answer it or not.

The service comes with two voice mailboxes. When someone calls, they have the option of pressing 1 to leave a message for the Des Cotes family or pressing 2 to leave a message for my design business.

This system has worked well for me for over 15 years. I like having a separate phone number for my business that I can ignore if I want.

Although if I were setting things up today, I would probably take advantage of my iPhone’s dual SIM option and have two different cell numbers, one for family and one for business.

On the Facebook poll, Dustin said he uses Hubspot to forward his landline to his cell phone, which I think is pretty cool.

And Col said not only does he use a landline for his business, but it goes to his virtual assistant. Then his VA decides if he needs to take the call.

Text Messages

With the invention of smartphones, text messages, or texting as it’s commonly called, surpassed phone calls as a way of communicating. Heck, sometimes I think my kids forget they can make calls on their phones.

But what about clients? Do you text them?

I do not text with my clients. It makes sense. If I don’t share my cell number with them, there’s little chance of them texting me. But according to the Facebook poll, I’m in the minority.

  • 58% of respondents said they communicate via text message with their clients.
  • 24% said they don’t
  • 12% said they communicate using Watsapp.
  • 4% said they do use text messages but with some exceptions.
  • 2% said they don’t use text messages except for a few exceptions

What are those exceptions, you ask?

Suzanna says she tries not to but does have a few clients who use text. However, she never accepts work over text.

Tammi, on the other hand, uses both text and WhatsApp. She likes the quicker responses as compared to waiting for an email.

Greg said absolutely not. It’s too easy for vital communication to get lost or forgotten. Plus, he likes to unplug from work, and if clients can text him, he’s never truly away.

Minja said not for changes, pricing, or other project-related things. But texts are ok for other communications, such as scheduling meetings or sending verification codes.

I feel you, Minja. Verifications codes are the bane of all web designers.

How do you accept changes or approvals?

Next, I asked how people accept changes or approvals for design projects from their clients. This time around, I allowed them to select multiple answers.

  • 54% accept changes or approvals via Email
  • 21% use marked-up printouts
  • 6% use Video Chat
  • 5% over the phone
  • Text Message, Face to Face and CRMs such as Basecamp, Asana and Trello tied at 4% each.
  • Finally, 2% use Social Media DM.

I’m with the majority for this one. I only accept changes or approvals via email. My clients are welcome to tell me over the phone, video chat or in person, but I always ask them to write down their thoughts and email them.

And like Nick, Rafael and others in the comments pointed out. They like email because it’s easy to find and refer back to in the future.

How do you prefer presenting to your clients?

I also asked about presenting concepts or proofs to clients. This would be for print work such as logos, posters, business cards etc., not websites. Once again, I allowed people to select three options from the list I provided.

  • Coming in first with 35% was emailing a PDF or JPG of the design to the client.
  • Second, 30% is presenting over a live video chat.
  • Third, 17% prefer presenting in person.
  • Next at 13% is emailing a PDF presentation explaining your designs.
  • And finally, with 4% of the votes, sending a pre-recorded video to the client.

My favourite way to present to a client is in person. I like to be in the room with them when they first see the design. This lets me see their reaction and interject should I see any doubt in them.

When do you allow a client to see a web design project

My next question was in a similar vein except for websites. I asked when do you allow clients to view a web design project.

  • With 72% of the votes, setting predetermined stages during the design process wins this one.
  • A distant second with 20% showed the client a mockup or wireframe before starting the actual website and then at predetermined intervals during the build.
  • And rounding things out with 4% each were
    • Showing the client a mockup or wireframe and then again at the end of the build.
    • Allowing the client full access throughout the entire build process.

Troy posted a comment that mirrors my method. I show my clients their site once I’ve completed the home page. Once they sign off on it, and If it’s not that large a project, I finish the entire thing before showing it to them again. If it is a big site, I may show it again once large sections are complete.

The one thing I would never do is allow a client full access throughout the build. That seems like asking for trouble. I know they would keep critiquing stuff I was not done working on, and it would cause more problems than it’s worth.

Do you use a CRM?

The final question I asked is whether or not you use a CRM, a Customer Relationship Manager. A platform that lets you communicate with clients. You may be able to send proposals and invoices, and most of them allow you to share files with clients.

  • 77% of respondents said they do not use a CRM
  • 15% use a CRM but only for internal use. Clients do not have access to it.
  • And only 8% said they use a CRM to communicate and share things with their clients.

I use Plutio as my CRM. I use it to keep track of all the projects I have in progress. Plutio allows me to grant access to my clients, but I don’t use that feature. I use it as a replacement for the old leather-bound notebook I used to use to keep track of projects I’m working on.

Col mentioned that he uses Basecamp.

Fraser said he’s currently setting up SuiteDash as his CRM. Zack, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, also uses SuiteDash and likes it.

Minja, who’s in New Zealand, uses Workflow Max, which according to them, is quite popular among New Zealand businesses.

There’s no right or wrong answer.

As I said initially, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to how you communicate with your design clients. As you can see, many people do different things.

The one thing I want to point out is consistency and limiting options. If you use text messaging, WhatsApp, or a CRM to communicate with your clients. Be consistent. This way, you will always know where to look if you need to refer to a conversation.

What you don’t want to happen is a client emailing you one day, communicating via your CRM the next, all the while texting you while they’re on the go and later messaging you via social media.

This could get very confusing, very fast. When you finally sit down to work, you’ll be stuck searching through various communication methods to find the one where the client asked you to do a particular thing.

And what happens if they text asking you to change something to blue and then later send you a DM on Instagram telling you to make it green? How are you supposed to keep track of which one to implement?

My suggestion is to set boundaries right from the start. Let them know you would prefer to receive changes or approvals via email. If you don’t want to communicate with a client in a certain way, inform them of your preferred method.

Every time she has a new project for me, I have a client who reaches out to me over Facebook Messenger. That’s fine, but I ask her to take the conversation to email as soon as she does.

This is the whole point. To get you thinking about how you communicate with your design clients. Because the easier it is for both you and your clients to communicate, the easier it will be for you to do your job. And in the end, isn’t that what matters?

Resource of the week

I’m not sure if you know this, but Adobe PostScript Type 1 fonts stopped working in Photoshop 2021, and Adobe announced that they will stop working in other Adobe apps in 2023.

This could potentially leave you with dozens, if not hundreds, of fonts you can no longer use in your favourite design apps.

Luckily, there is a solution. TransType 4 from FontLab works on both Mac and Windows to easily convert legacy Postscript Type 1 fonts into rock-solid, high-quality modern Open Type fonts that you can use in any app for years to come.

TransType 4 makes it so easy. I’ve been using it to convert fonts for the past few months. Whenever I discover a font that doesn’t work in Photoshop, I launch TransType 4, drag the Postscript Type 1 font onto it, and voila, I have a new Open Type font I can now use.

TransType 4 does more than just this, but this feature alone is worth the purchase price.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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