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How Do You Deal With Overstressed, Irrational Clients? An Entrepreneur’s View


Before getting into the decisions that entrepreneurs make, let’s look at some of the factors that motivate these decisions. Setting the scene will shine a light on the thought process of entrepreneurs and give you a better idea of how to deal with them.


You’ll notice I use the terms “entrepreneur” and “client” interchangeably. Even if your client works within the confines of a corporation, as opposed to at the top of a new venture, it would not be unusual for them to act in an entrepreneurial capacity. And even if they aren’t entrepreneurs, but middlemen who were assigned the project, chances are they will still behave accordingly.


"How do you deal with clients who often come up with weird, irrational requests?"


First, let’s think about the person you’re working with. They believe in an idea. They believe in it so much that they’ve left a paying job for it. They’ve worked nights and weekends for it, alienated their spouse, friends and family for it. They’ve begged, borrowed and stolen for the opportunity to pursue it while you are having fun studying your UX Design Diploma. They’ve put everything on the line for their idea, their vision. And you know what the most important part of their vision is? You.


It’s not them. And to be honest, it never really was. The first question investors ask after hearing someone’s idea is, “OK, who’s building it?” Your client knows that their creative team is the only thing that can make their idea a reality.


You’re the most important piece of their puzzle, and, despite what they tell themselves, what they know about you before starting the project is often limited.


So, how did they find you?


Clients turn over every stone in search of a designer or photographer, because, by that time, the necessity of a good creative team has settled in. Entrepreneurs might look harder than others because of the pressure of their particular situation, but the importance of a good creative team is lost on no one. And this isn’t like finding a lawyer, a doctor or even a girlfriend.


It’s way harder.


The Leap of Faith

There are three gigantic problems with the process of finding a creative team. First, the client has probably never done this before. Secondly, finding a creative team is tough. Products such as Elegant.ly will help, but because clients generally don’t speak your language, assessing the strengths of a firm and how it would mesh with their product is difficult.


When the team I picked told me they were experts in Ruby on Rails, my first thought was, “Is that a train or a restaurant?” Thirdly, and by far the most important point, for those of us not in the Web design or development community, feeling comfortable with our evaluation of creatives is impossible.



This is a relatively young industry, one with very low barriers to entry. Heck, my designer took his first client when he was 13. There are very few, if any, metrics we can use to evaluate a creative team. We can look at its past work, speak with the head of the team and maybe get some sort of sample or mock-up, but for the most part, we are flying blind. There are no requisite degrees, certifications or guarantees. If you go to a physician who hasn’t finished college, you probably wouldn’t be willing to let them operate on you. A developer who hasn’t gone to college could build you the next Foursquare.


The Search

In our search for a creative team, we come upon cousins and uncles of acquaintances, people who have designed investor-relations websites for Fortune 500 companies, people who wait tables but build iPhone apps on weekends. We have absolutely no idea what to think of all this.