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3 mistakes to avoid before starting a new design project

You just landed a new lead. It might be a web app, a mobile app, or maybe just a simple one-page website. The contract is waiting for signatures, and in your head you perhaps already see the final product. It’s going to be great.

But there are things you may not be aware of that are crucial to keeping your new design project on track, on a budget, and in line with your client’s goals. Lucky for you, I’ve got your back.

1. Ignoring client interviews

Jumping straight to closing the deal? Not so fast. It pays to ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers. Before leading your client to the dotted line, make sure to interview them properly to determine:

  • Why is this project important to them?
  • What sort of goals and aspirations they may have?
  • What kind of results do they aim to achieve?
  • What are their fears and worries?
  • What sort of budget are they looking at spending with you?
  • Are they able to afford your services?

Believe it or not, but these questions can give you a tremendous amount of insight into the company you are looking to work with, from how healthy is their business in the first place, to who will be involved in the decision-making process. There’s a lot you can and should learn from your prospects, so ask questions and listen intently and carefully.

2. Treating discovery as an afterthought

Most designers just take the brief and start working on it straight away, treating it like a project specification. They don’t stop to determine what that particular customer’s business needs are.

Usually, even a short conversation can reveal that they came to you asking for a new website, while in reality, they need to work on their inbound marketing, because they have little traction on social channels, and their company blog is in tatters.

Even if you have to turn down a client because their actual needs go beyond your range of competencies, they will appreciate your honesty and the money you saved them in the process. After all, you have not charged them for something they do not even need. Also, they will now have a clear picture of what to do, which is far more valuable and may come back to you in the future to engage in the type of work you are an expert at.

3. Trying hard to impress your clients

A prospect getting in touch with you and asking about your services is not a green light for you to start showing off. You already have their attention so instead try asking about their business, what are they struggling with currently, and why they have decided to come to you.

“If you were no good, the client would not have come to you in the first place.”

Working on a project is never about you or your goals. If you have an agenda, it will certainly backfire at some point. Honesty and transparency will get you much further in business than you can imagine. There are no shortcuts here, and there is no need to show how good you are once you’ve got one foot in the door. In business parlance this is called “overselling” and only makes you sound overconfident or even desperate. If you were no good, the client would not have come to you in the first place.

It is surprising how many agencies and studios turn a blind eye on such important topics as proper diagnostics or strategy. Inherently, these things will shape the future of your client’s business. If they do not know enough or have misleading information about their needs, they will only waste their resources. Having a fancy new website is meaningless when there is no one to see it, is there?

As designers and business partners, we want to see our clients thrive, and by ignoring valuable information, or potential sources thereof we would be doing them a disservice. What I want to convey here is to forgo your ego, your sense of accomplishment, and focus entirely on the client’s wants and needs.

Before you begin your next project, make a list of critical business questions and listen carefully to what your clients say in response to them. You will learn a lot about their business and this knowledge will help you deliver a robust design solution worth every penny.