Dear Sean Low,
I get a lot of phone inquiries from prospective clients wanting me to share my pricing structure. When I follow their lead and tell all, I often hear nothing back. Do you recommend sharing everything during that first phone call, or do you wait until you meet them face-to-face? What is the best way to handle this first interaction?
Dare to Overshare Designer
Dear Dare to Overshare Designer,
In today’s instant-everything society, clients want to know the “details” right away. So you are left feeling trapped into oversharing about your work and your process on the telephone (or, worse, via email), or risk losing the client by asking them to come in for an initial consult.
The trap is of your own making, though. If a client needs to know how you work to make a decision, it likely means they cannot see past your visual style and whatever you might have put on your website or social media to support that style. The real way out of the trap is to exhibit radical authenticity, far beyond your design style, to the depths of what drives you as a designer. Answer questions like: What do you stand for as a designer? What do you care about and what do you not care about?
A great place to begin this dialogue is with a design statement. It’s not about your style, but your perspective, your approach and your intentions as a designer. What do you think about when you begin a project? How do the layers come together? What are you trying to achieve? Where does your work belong?
When a potential client can look through the window of your soul as a designer via your design statement, they can better decide if you are the right choice for them—not because of what you cost or how you work, but because they know you will “get” them and they, you.
Establishing a design statement (which is all about you and your art) gives you the permission to ask a potential client what draws them to you—to turn the tables, so to speak. From there, the investment in both the cost of the project’s production and in your design business (which are two separate things) will become apparent.
To paraphrase author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, if a client can understand and deeply care about why you are the designer you are, they will do what it takes to allow you to do the work they most want from you and your design business.
People appreciate it when information is presented authentically. They pay for the authenticity with their trust as much as they do with their money. Standing up for yourself is not only its own reward today, but it is also the prerequisite to great client relationships and, ultimately, great design.
Sean Low is the founder and president of consulting firm The Business of Being Creative. His clients have included Nate Berkus, Sawyer Berson, Vicente Wolf, Barry Dixon, Kevin Isbell, and McGrath II.