We’ve had the good fortune to have some amazing clients at Standard Beagle. These are the clients we absolutely love working with — the kind we would bend over backward for because they are such a joy to work with.
I wrote recently about how to hire a digital agency, but once you’ve hired one, what do you do? Be a great client, that’s what! Being a good client leads to a partnership that creates a great product. It’s in your best interest as well as the agency’s. So how can you be a good client?
Fortunately, all good clients tend to share the same set of qualities:
1. They set realistic expectations
You’ve likely already decided on a budget and the timeline before working with an agency, but if you haven’t, make sure to be realistic. Ask your agency how long something will take, and expect development to take some time. Allow them to take the time they need to complete the work. A good agency will work hard to complete the project on time and under budget.
At Standard Beagle, we have weekly check-ins with our clients to demo what has been completed, update them on the time spent, and explain what priorities will next be completed. This is an ideal time for clients to ask questions about time, budget and priorities. You should always ask questions, but be realistic when making requests. It may be out of scope or take more time than you expect.
2. They trust our expertise
Good clients respect the people they hired to do the job. You hired them for their special knowledge to help you plan and execute a project. By all means, ask questions if you don’t understand a particular direction they are taking or feel they are going down the wrong path. A healthy relationship thrives on a strong partnership between the agency and client. Give frequent and honest feedback. A good agency will explain their thinking and negotiate with you to provide the solution that works best for all parties involved.
However, it is quite a different matter to tell a web designer how to design a website. If an agency explains that your requests may lead to a poor user experience, listen to them! Take their advice, and understand it comes from a place of understanding and good intentions.
3. They are active participants in the process
The clients I speak with frequently are my favorite clients. These are the clients I know I can ask questions of and who are actively working with us on their project — through information gathering, check ins, reviews and more. Clients who actively participate in a project:
- Communicate richly
They respond to questions with answers that are more than one or two words. They maximize phone calls or video meetings to ask questions and provide feedback.
- Keep us up-to-date
When things change, these clients let us know as soon as possible. They don’t keep us guessing if business requirements have changed that might affect our work.
- Provide timely feedback
Good clients respond to emails and phone calls within a few days — sooner if possible! They review our work within a week or two rather than sitting on our request to review and blocking us from continuing.
- Have a single point of contact
Good clients give us a single point-of-contact in order to reduce confusion. When more than one person directs an agency, conflicts can take place and conflicting tasks.
- Show up for meetings
Good clients don’t schedule meetings and then show up late or not at all. Look — I understand that sometimes traffic or other meetings will delay us from time to time. But if you are chronically late — it’s just rude. Don’t expect people to wait for you without giving them a heads up that you will be late. Manage your calendar to pad meetings and time for travel so you don’t keep people waiting.
4. The pay us on time
Good clients don’t expect work to be done for free.
You would think that this would be a no-brainer, but sadly, it is not. Missing a payment because you didn’t see the invoice is one thing — intentionally not paying on time for months on end is something very different.
Unfortunately, we have experienced clients who think they can not pay for months and months on end. I am not trying to be mean when I ask my clients to pay us. As a small business, I rely on my clients’ payments in order to make payroll and pay for other expenses as part of our daily operations. Many companies operate the same way.
Please remember that we have families we are trying to support.
Similarly, good clients also don’t demand a minute-by-minute report of how we spent our time with every invoice. Accountability is one thing, but you should be able to trust the agency you hired to work hard and in your best interest. Question time spent on a project, but act as a partner, not as the police. No one likes working for someone who doesn’t trust them.
5. They speak well of us
Did we do a good job? Please, tell the world! We deserve it! Your testimonial helps send us more referrals, which keeps us doing good work.
Similarly, say thank you. Recently I had a client get up in front of a bunch of people, including my team at Standard Beagle, and tell them all what a great job we do. That was huge for my team. They more than appreciated the kind words from our client, and made them want to work even harder. Remember, you catch more flies with honey.
We love good clients. Please, learn and be a good client for the agency you’re working with!