If you’re a designer or creator or whatever title you give yourself, you’ve probably heard a phrase similar to the title of this post. Unquestionably, It’s a huge bummer. You’ve spent hours crafting work just to have it discounted with such a simple phrase.
If you’re like most designers, this is oddly familiar. That feeling I’ve just reminded you of is something we all struggle with and, good news for you, it’s totally normal. No matter your experience or skill level, there are still going to be people out there who don’t like what you’ve created. The reality is that you just can’t please everyone. That’s ok. Keep reading and hopefully you’ll have a better idea of how to avoid this and what to do when clients don’t like your work.
“No matter your experience or skill level, there are still going to be people out there who don’t like what you’ve created.”
Before we can figure out what to do after someone tells you they don’t like your work, we have to explore how we got to this situation in the first place. More often than not, we can pinpoint the root cause to something as simple as communication (or the lack thereof).
As a designer, visual communication is your bread and butter. But what about verbal communication? Are you explaining your thought process? Are you showing the evolution of your work that led you to the concept you’re presenting?
If you’re answering ‘no’ to these questions, then you’ve been on the receiving end of negative feedback. Don’t feel alone here - this happens all the time. We’ve all had that one concept or design we sent to a client with nothing other than a single sentence: “Let me know what you think!”
“We’ve all had that one concept or design we sent to a client with nothing other than a single sentence: “Let me know what you think!”
If you’re reading this before you’ve sent your work, you’re in luck. Instead of simply asking your client what they think, request a meeting with them where you can present your work verbally. If that’s not an option due to location constraints, or any other reason, I’d recommend recording a screen capture video of yourself talking through your work. If you’re a Mac user, Quicktime makes this really easy! This method will go a long way in helping you sell your work and hopefully avoid negative feedback.
If you’re reading this after receiving negative feedback, then this section is for you. The first step is to reflect on the feedback as a whole. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and try to understand where their opinions/thoughts are coming from.
If the negative feedback made you upset or react negatively towards the client, it’s usually best to take a step back and relax. Approach the feedback later with a clear head. After you’ve had a chance to analyze the feedback and digest it, it’s time to take action.
Spend some time coming up with answers or explanations to the points in their feedback. This will start the conversation on a good note by letting your client know you are listening to them.
Next comes the most important part: it’s time to start asking questions. Most likely, you’ve gotten yourself into this mess by not asking enough questions in the beginning of the process. You need to understand the details and goals of the project, but you also need to understand your client personally. Ask them about what they like from a design standpoint. If it’s a website project ask them which sites they admire as well as which sites they don’t care for.
“Asking questions is the only way to truly discover your client’s wants and needs for the project.”
Make it a conversation by talking about the things you can appreciate about your client's’ opinions. Find common ground and the trust will begin to grow. Asking questions is the only way to truly discover your client’s wants and needs for the project. Once you’ve done that, it’s smooth sailing.
Lastly, if this isn’t obvious by now, you should leave your ego at the door. At the end of the day you are being hired to do a job. The person hiring you will have opinions about your work, and it’s your job to understand those opinions and respond professionally.
But keep in mind that you may just end up with a client who doesn’t respond to professionalism. Some people are just mean and disrespectful. Learn to read the signs early and avoid working with those people.