How to make your web designer your business partner, Pt. 1

Collaboration, feedback, respect

How often do you complain that your web designer doesn’t really have your best interests at heart?

He’s not responsive.

She’s not putting your needs first.

He doesn’t take initiative when he sees items that require attention (even if you didn’t ask for a change).

She doesn’t circle back to make sure you’re satisfied with the work delivered.

Sometimes the issue is that the web designer just isn’t really that good at his or her job, or is not the right person for the project – your project – to begin with. That could go back to a less-than-optimal hiring decision. Or maybe the issue is that you’re an annoying pain-in-the-tush client. Well, let’s assume you’re a model client, and you’ve hired someone well-qualified for the job.

If you really want to get the best out of your web designer – or any contracted professional – you need to treat that person like a business partner. A trusted, valued, critically important business partner.

Whether or not they have a stake in your financial success, you want that person to feel as if he or she is contributing to it.

Make your web designer a collaborator in your success

Your web designer can be an excellent resource to help you with strategic planning and ideas, in addition to creative execution. Build a stronger relationship by treating your designer as a collaborator in your success — not just as a contracted worker — and share your successes with him or her.

You’ll need to trust your designer on many fronts, and you want this person to:

  • tell you the truth
  • be honest and upfront about issues or changes, as soon as possible
  • propose the most cost-effective methods and processes to get the work done – even if it means that he or she might wind up with less billable work on your project

Engaging in behavior that demonstrates your trust and confidence encourages the behavior you’re seeking in return.

By working together to set realistic expectations up front, you can minimize the frustration that results from miscommunication or misunderstanding. When the client doesn’t clearly articulate expectations, the designer may need to request additional information to get the job done. If under time pressure and lacking clarity, he or she may also feel cornered into guessing or making assumptions. This can result in frustration on both sides, as extra back-and-forth conversation is required to achieve resolution when the client isn’t happy with the originally delivered product.

Expect the best and help make it happen

If your web designer provides work that you don’t consider “good enough,” let him or her know, and specifically explain what needs attention. You’re paying for this work, so don’t accept anything that isn’t up to the requirements set forth for the task. A professional will want to keep clients happy and will go the extra mile to rework and deliver what you need.

If no one has offered constructive feedback that would lead to improved results, how will he or she even know that there are opportunities for change? Opening with “this is a fantastic start, now can we add/change/improve….” will more likely result in a willingness to make improvements.

Respect your web designer’s time

If you truly believe that your designer is also responsible for making your organization successful, make sure his or her time is available for you. Small updates can often be completed quickly, but larger projects will likely require advance scheduling of a large block of time. Give as much warning as possible when you need a project done so he or she can allocate resources and schedule time appropriately to accommodate your needs. If an update must occur at a specific time or on a specific date, it’s best to get that scheduled early, to make sure your trusted resource is available.

Clients who routinely wait until the last minute may unknowingly encourage the web designer to be less responsive, given their frustration level with the client’s clueless behavior. Be known as the client who always plans ahead, gives plenty of notice, and makes it easier for the web designer to get the job done.

Listen to your pro, and take his or her advice seriously

If you’ve hired a trustworthy professional with a verified track record, then you should be able to take his or her advice seriously, and believe that it’s grounded in experience.

If you ask a question and then choose to ignore the answer your web designer gives you, you might be the one who regrets it later. If you’ve hired a web designer you trust, then you can be confident that the answer he or she gives you is well considered and in your best interests (assuming you gave him or her all of the necessary information to make a good decision).

If you don’t understand the answer or need clarification, ask away. Any professional who has confidence in their knowledge and abilities will be happy to provide the rationale in a way that clients can understand and trust.

It’s up to you, so take the lead

In the end, you’re the one responsible for building a working relationship of open and honest communication, trust, respect, delegation and partnership. Put a few practices into place, nurture the relationship to make sure this happens, and watch your partnership grow.