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5 Unexpected Secrets to Add Value to Your Client as a Designer

Imagine this, you’ve got a rave review on your latest project and you’ve been referred to a new client. This client calls you excited to meet you and wants to know EXACTLY what you have to offer.

It feels like a done deal. Passionate about your work you dive into the details. The user research calls you’ll do, the ideal customer avatars you’ll create. By the end of the call the client looks confused and says: not for me.

What went wrong? You focused on what you have to offer instead of what the client values.

As a freelancer, chances are your clients have small budgets and tight schedules. If you can’t clearly show them the value your work adds, they’ll stick to what they know to stay safe.

Chances are when you think of value, you think of money. While money is a clear measure of value, there are only so many discounts you can offer. Instead, talk to your potential clients about these 5 unexpected sources of value to make hiring you an easy decision.

Focus on Their Deadlines

Clients don’t set arbitrary deadlines. Your piece of work is one element of everything they are orchestrating to create their product. They need your designs to be built by developers so they can pitch the concept to investors. That all needs to be done before they are able to launch and make money! Understanding your clients deadline shows that you not only care about the “deliverable” but the value it will bring. This makes you golden!

This might mean you need to compromise on some of your work. You know the value of the ‘dream house’ you can build your client. But that won’t count if they can’t get money from investors and the product to market.

If you can deliver high-quality work on time then you are on your way to build your dream house. You are setting a foundation for future engagements.

How to focus on their deadlines and keep quality at the core of your delivery:

    1. Set expectations early on the project – and be confident you can meet them!
    2. Sign off on deliverables for the expected deadline – it might not be the dream house yet – that’s ok!
    3. Communicate and check in frequently with your client for a status update.
    4. Show value now means you can show even more value with the big things!

So what’s the value? Speed and quality because you care about their deadline! If you can apply the same human centered approach to your clients as you do to your users you are on your way to success!

The Power of Prioritising

This might all sound great but delivering quality work on a tight deadline is not ideal for proper human centered research! Let’s get back to reality quickly, you are not going to do EVERYTHING. If you promise the dream house and build only the foundation, then it’s likely your client won’t be happy even if it’s a solid foundation!

See the importance of setting realistic expectations? Now what? Are you going to just abandon the project because you can’t build the dream house? No of course not! You are going to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) solution. Maybe it’s the first room in the house. Something that shows what is possible and the value you can add.

The key is to understand your clients most immediate problem and the potential value this will generate.

Let’s put this to practice with 3 scenarios:

  1. My app is built but doesn’t look like other apps on the app store.
  2. I need to build an app quickly to pitch to the investors.
  3. My app is built and looks somewhat nice but no one is converting.
1. My app is built but doesn’t look like other apps on the app store.

Immediate problem: Credibility and pleasantness
Valuable deliverable: Design a visual reskin

Potential value: Attract sign ups

2. I need to build an app quickly to pitch to the investors.

Immediate problem: Require basic prototype of the idea
Valuable deliverable: UI flow of main goal of the idea

Potential value: Investors money to build out the entire idea

3. My app is built and looks somewhat nice but no one is converting.

Immediate problem: Invested money in building and launching but no one is converting into $$
Valuable deliverable: Conduct a Usability Analysis of current conversion flow

Potential value: Income and profit!

Improve something important right now with low effort and high value to the client.

Most of the time it’s possible to do this without getting knee-deep into research, developing personas and ethnographic studies. It’s about understanding your clients problem so you can create value fast. If you help your client succeed, they will understand your value and have the cash flow to hire you again. Then you can get all dirty with research and testing.

Ask Don’t Tell

Hopefully you are interested and invested in the clients idea or product. When you are aligned with the product vision you are more likely to ask questions and be curious. Be honest with yourself if you are not fully committed to the cause you probably won’t add value. Give it a skip and move on!

Let’s say however you are 100% onboard with the product, the only way to find out everything you need is to understand their problems by asking. Remember they are the experts, it’s their business. Clients might actually share more easily than you think!

Venturing into unknown territory might be uncomfortable but you have to start somewhere, get started by asking for more information about the following:

  • Investors pitch deck
  • White paper
  • Marketing strategy & Research
  • Projected revenue
  • Product roadmap
  • Development framework
 You might be surprised by the amount of research and information available to you before you start your own in depth research.

Freedom in Flexibility

When you have deeper insight into your clients business you can create value by becoming a strategic partner. 

To do this, you will most likely need to leave some of your principles behind. Design principles that is. Strategy is all about knowing where to compromise. When you can see the big picture you can see where best to adapt your work to suit your client. 

While words like discipline, consistency and complexity might be ringing in your mind right now, there are ways to balance principles with flexibility. Remember, you’re working towards a common goal: your clients success. 

While start-ups are notorious for having little structure, this gives you an opportunity to lay lasting foundations. However, the first goal is to prove the product is viable. Userfriendly only counts when there are users. 

Be the Teacher

When you have built a good relationship with your clients there is an additional way to add value. Ideally you’ve met their deadlines, delivered quality work and added value. Now you are in the perfect situation to educate your clients on what you do. 

As either your own business or your clients business starts to grow it may get harder to do all the work yourself. This is the perfect opportunity to share your expertise. Instead of telling your clients what you do, show them what you do and how you do it! 

Once they understand your value they are more likely to invest in your knowledge to conduct workshops, buy books or consulting sessions. You could even get to the position where you help your client grow and train their own team of designers.

Final Thoughts

The ultimate secret to add value to your client is to move from a freelancer to a business owner mindset. Conduct your own user research on your clients as they are your customers. Ask questions to understand your clients strategy. Partner with them to help them achieve their goals. Build long term relationships. Show your clients you are an investment not an expense. You are a vital part of growing their business. While you help your clients grow their business, they can help you grow yours. You can take on new roles for your clients like providing training for them. Your clients are your best referrals, but first they must understand and experience the value you add. 

About the co-author

Leigh is an Agile Coach and Copywriter. She uses a product mindset to support small business owners in launching and writes for start-ups by sharing her agile insights. With over 10 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company working with executives, world-renowned agile coaches, and consultants, Leigh left her high flying career (traveling between Aberdeen, Azerbaijan, Angola, and the Asia Pacific) to live as a minimalist nomad.

For more ideas on running your services as a business follow @bizclaritycoach on instagram.

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