As both a graphic designer and photographer, I used to think that working with clients was no fun.
Then I realized that all clients weren’t the problem — just a certain type of client.
I call them “amateur” clients. This is to distinguish them from the clients I do enjoy working with — “professional” clients.
Here are the two client types as I see them. See how these descriptions compare with your experiences.
The Amateur Client
Amateur clients are usually entrepreneurs, businessmen, store owners, etc. They require your services only on rare occasions.
Because they have little background or experience in what you do, they don’t understand your work. But because their business is so important to them, they feel compelled to micromanage you anyway.
Amateur clients lack professional distance; they are too close to the product. With them, business is personal.
Here are four characteristics that most amateur clients share:
- They are terrible at briefing you on their needs or what they expect from you.
- They are slow at making up their minds or on giving you feedback on your work.
- They frustrate you and waste your time by changing their minds frequently.
- Even though they run you in circles, they resent paying you for your time.
The Professional Client
By contrast, the professional client has experience working with photographers, graphic designers, writers and other creative people. They understand the nature of what you do, and they are clear about their role and yours.
They respect your time. They are also busy themselves, so they don’t have time to micromanage you. They give you excellent creative briefs and trust that you know what to do with them. They know what they want and rarely change their minds.
Professional clients tend to be employees of large companies; they have budgets and deadlines, and as long as you meet them, they won’t haggle with you over every penny.
Most of us have to work with amateur clients early in our careers; it’s called paying your dues. Once you have some success, you graduate to a more professional clientele.
Fortunately, that’s what happened for me.
But I do value the lessons I’ve learned in my dealings with amateur clients — principally, patience.