Last week I shared a thought/challenge on social media for web designers to stop bitching about web design clients and be thankful that we have a business because of them.

Turns out, this is a hot button topic!

The engagement and response on this post far exceeded what I was expecting and it made me realize many of you needed this reminder, are also tired of seeing web designers complain about their client woes or completely disagree with me.

In this episode, I’d like to encourage you with how to empower your clients so you can avoid the common trap of complaining about them with 3 big tips and a super important bonus tip which I sure wish I would have expected when I was a web design freelancer.

If you have a thought on this topic, leave me a comment! I read them all 🙂

– Josh

In this episode:

00:00 – Introduction
00:31 – Controversial post
02:53 – Turns to resentment
04:07 – Why it’s your fault
04:31 – 1) Setting boundaries
09:20 – 2) Empower clients
12:54 – 3) Funnel good clients
15:45 – Bonus – Templatize
20:22 – Recap

Follow Josh on Instagram!

Featured links mentioned:

Episode #237 Full Transcription

[00:00:00] Josh: Hey friends, welcome into the show. This is episode 237, and it’s just me with you. In this one, I wanted to share with you some thoughts around a very, very common web designer trap, and that trap is complaining about your web design clients. This actually stemmed off of a recent post that I just put up on my Instagram and Facebook as well, which if you’re not following me on Instagram or Facebook, you can hit me up both of those places at Josh Hall Co.

[00:00:31] And I just typed a little note into my phone and took a screenshot of it and shared it and it said this, if you have yet to follow me on the socials, it says this, web designers with a hand wave. Let’s stop bitching about our clients and start being thankful that we have a business because of. Now I did not think too far into that.

[00:00:49] I just kind of posted it and shared some thoughts and come to find out, this is a very, very hot topic right now. And I say that because I thought maybe I’d get a few likes in a, a few comments, but particularly on the Facebook side of things, I got way more engagement and way more response on this than I thought I was going to, which tells me this is something that a lot of people either needed to hear to be reminded of.

[00:01:13] People who are also fed up with hearing other web designers complain about their clients, or some people actually disagreed with me and said, there’s a right, like I have a right to be, uh, complaining about my clients if they’re overstepping down boundaries and stuff like that. So, first off, I wanna say this.

[00:01:29] As a web designer of over a decade, I understand that side of things. I understand the mentality and I understand being a freelancer and a solopreneur for a very long time. I remember how lonely it felt and when I was going through a tricky. Client situation en unless you have like a group of close colleagues that you vent and are able to share some things with naturally, the first place you go to complain is like another group of web designers.

[00:01:57] So I am very understanding of that. However, my big message for this episode is to remember that complaining is a. And complaining about your web design clients is gonna feed into so many negative things in the long run that you may not even be anticipating. For example, luckily I caught myself pretty early on and I think I had a couple mentors and people who said some things that made me step back and realize like, yes, I should be thankful that I even have clients cuz I am able to not go to a regular job cuz I have my clients, even though they’re driving me crazy.

[00:02:30] But I needed to hear that message and I want to relay that message to you. as soon as I started complaining or venting and I think those things are probably similar. They might be a little bit different. There’s a time and place to like vent something and then there’s, you know, there’s, the complaining might be a little bit different with venting, but it’s still taking challenges with clients and then dishing it ’em out publicly or on a forum or somebody else.

[00:02:52] But the problem with that is, I personally found when I did that, suddenly I started resenting clients. And suddenly I started not enjoying showing up for my work and suddenly I wasn’t excited about getting new clients. Cuz all I could think about was all the potential challenges and struggles I’d have with them.

[00:03:09] Potentially all those kind of things will happen if you either one off or consistently especially start complaining about your web design client. So I can’t encourage you enough just to reiterate this post that I posted on my Instagram and my. At Josh Hall , if you wanna follow me over there, let’s stop pitching about our clients and start being thankful that we have a business because of them.

[00:03:33] Now, I wanna take this a step further in this podcast and share with you a few things you might do to help kind of reduce the, the challenges with clients that might make you want to complain, because again, I understand, I totally understand wanting to complain, but here is a really important thought that dawned on me and met with and, and hung out with a lot of web designers who are experienced, a lot of them have come to this same realization that more often than not, it’s your fault and it’s our fault as web designers that clients are driving us crazy.

[00:04:07] Why? Because we have not empowered them. For example, my first tip for like empowering your clients to not complain about them is boundaries. I can’t believe I didn’t think about this. It’s such a simple thought, but when you’re in the business and you’re growing things, it’s, this isn’t something that’s widely talked about, but you’ve gotta set communication boundaries.

[00:04:31] I say I wanted to make this point number one, because this is the thing that drove me the most crazy, and that was when clients were calling me at like Friday night at like 9:00 PM or calling me on the weekend or texting me.

[00:04:45] Doing all these things. That was like way outside of Monday through Friday, nine to five type of situation. But I learned and realized over time that number one, I didn’t specify when they should call, and I also didn’t specify how they should contact me. So the big point on this one is you need to set your communication boundaries and you need to make sure all of your clients know that.

[00:05:09] Now, if you’ve been through my business course and some of the resources I’m continuing to create, right? I’m really recommending that you do this in the like onboarding process that way. A big part of it is here’s how we communicate, here’s when we communicate. So for example, if you want all communications about the project itself.

[00:05:28] Then that’s gonna go into Basecamp, for example. That’s how I did it. And you are welcome to use Basecamp anytime you want. If you’re working on, uh, for a client, if you’re working on website copy and you want to do it Friday night at like 10:00 PM by all means post it in there. But I’m not gonna respond till Monday.

[00:05:45] I, I’m sure I’m not alone in having that client that messages you on like Friday at like five and then Monday morning at nine, they’re like, Hey, so how, how’d it go? Uh, How did it go? I, it was the weekend I wasn’t working this weekend Like that is very common. But again, you have to set those communication boundaries.

[00:06:02] So if you do not want clients calling you, if you don’t want clients text, texting you, you need to tell them that, which is why I recommend having your project. Conversion or, uh, conversations inside a place where they should be like base camp or Asana, et cetera. Now, email can be fine too, but again, just let clients know I’m only gonna respond during my hours.

[00:06:25] You gotta set those communication boundaries cuz that’s what drove me crazy. And then again, it dawned on me that I need to set these communication boundaries.

[00:06:32] Now, one little point of empathy I might recommend that you think about and remember is that your clients often are not gonna be working on their website stuff Monday through Friday during the nine to five window. Why? Because they’re running their business.

[00:06:50] So it’s very, very likely that your clients will be working on their website stuff on weeknights and on weekends. So just remember, like they may not be workaholics, it’s just you’re asking for content within like a two week span, for example. And they have two weeks, but they’re working nine to five in their job, are running their own business.

[00:07:10] So nights and weekends are when they’re working on that. So that to say it doesn’t mean that they should step outside of the communication boundaries, but it. It just as an empowering note to say that you gotta be empathetic towards your clients as well.

[00:07:24] Now if they want to communicate during those times, what I would do and what I would recommend is if your client absolutely needs to talk to you outside of your normal window, maybe make it like one call every two weeks kind of thing.

[00:07:36] Or a special call, like a special sort of, um, project call where they get all their thoughts lined up. And if you need to do it on a Thursday night or something, or a Saturday, Maybe it’s something you pay, ex they pay extra for, I don’t know. But if you are gonna do something special for them, particularly if it’s a really good.

[00:07:54] Do it, but do it in an organized fashion that has limitations and constraints. So that way if Saturday is the only time they do have time to go through something, if you need to do it that way, then make sure it is like organized and scheduled and constrained. That way you don’t get the calls and the texts on Friday nights and and et cetera.

[00:08:14] Now you also may not give out your personal number, which is fine too. They may only have access to you through your. Or if it’s a business number, potentially something separate from your personal number. So you’re always welcome to do that as well. Either way, communication boundaries were the things that absolutely drove me crazy, and it dawned on me that I just didn’t tell my clients when and how to contact me. So that was on my, it was my fault. That was on me. That was my fault.

[00:08:40] We actually talked about this in a podcast episode with one of my dear awesome colleagues in the web design world. Emma, Kate, I would highly recommend, um, going back to episode 151. I had Emma on, Emma on, and we talked about setting communication boundaries and this was a large part of it.

[00:08:59] So episode 151, she is an just a, a really incredible mine and has an awesome experience with being a designer and web designer, working with clients and learned a lot about communication and boundaries. So that’s episode 1 51. If you want to go revisit that with Emma. Highly recommend that one. And in the case of, let’s move on to the next point.

[00:09:20] I’ve just got a few points here for you. In the case of like taking that one step further, when it comes to what and how to communicate, especially when it comes to content collection, revisions, et cetera, that is where the majority of your struggles and challenges will likely come from. And I’m guessing right now, if you’re a little frustrated with clients, it’s probably a matter of waiting on content from.

[00:09:44] It’s probably a matter of you haven’t heard from them in a while, or it could be a matter of you’ve got like revisions that you’re waiting on or some feedback you’re waiting on, and they just haven’t got back to you in the amount of time to get the project done and out the door. Those are most of the, the issues now.

[00:10:02] There’s a lot of ways to combat these. I talk about this in my business course, but one thing I will say, and a free resource for you is I have a whole blog series about client documentation that I used for my clients, and I’m gonna make sure that’s linked in the show notes for this slash 2 37.

[00:10:21] but back when I was a, a blog author for Elegant Themes, I wrote out all my documentation tips for empowering clients, everything from getting, uh, like a getting started page, which has onboarding processes, moving forward page once a project is done, creating custom resources for your clients and like a custom website page for videos if you.

[00:10:42] That’s gonna be available again, linked on the show notes for this episode, but either way, you need to empower your clients on what to do and how to do it. So for example, with content collection, if you tell your client, send me the content for your website, can you guess what’s gonna happen? You can probably guess what’s gonna happen because you might be in the middle of this, right?

[00:11:05] You’re gonna be getting a bazillion emails at all times and hours of the day with like three images per email. You’re gonna get people texting you. With like content and stuff, you’re gonna get people calling you, telling you stuff. You’re gonna get clients who will send like a PDF or a document that has images in there.

[00:11:25] I know I’m making all web designer French. You know you’re shaking right now. Terrified of that prospect. That’s what happens. And I learned this because this is what happened to me until I told people, here’s how we collect our. Like the written content versus the images. If you have a lot of images, we’ll set up separate Dropbox folders per page, that kind of thing.

[00:11:45] You have got my friends to empower your clients and tell them what to do, when to do it, and often how to do it. So what, when, how. Those are the three biggies when it comes to content collection. I do have a, a separate podcast episode on this note that I also highly recommend you go back and check out when it comes to content collection.

[00:12:05] If you’re having that. That was episode 57 with one of my good friends, Jimmy Rose of content snare. So Jimmy, another dear friend of mine in the web design space, he actually had such a problem with collecting content that he created content snare a tool to collect content from clients. So go back to episode 57, if you’d like to hear from, uh, Jim slash James.

[00:12:28] We call him Jimmy or James. About content collection. Another great resource for you that dives into that in way more detail. But what, when, how Those are the biggies when it comes to content collection, revenge revisions, feedback, et cetera.

[00:12:42] Now really that, and then the communication boundary thing, that should probably get rid of like 90% of the challenges you’re having right now that lead to negativity in complaining about your clients.

[00:12:54] However, the other big one is you may start encountering personality types that you. Do not jive well with and are just driving you crazy and then make you want to complain, which I want you to avoid. So the third aspect of this, kind of the big three, the final one here is you gotta start funneling.

[00:13:12] You’ve gotta funnel good clients, like get really good clients to you Now. You could funnel by industry. We’ve been talking a lot about nicheing down. In fact, this week on the podcast we just talked about counterintuitive ways to niche down, niche down. So this will help with getting better clients because they’re gonna be, they don’t necessarily need to be the same type of person or the same type of personality, but they’re gonna be probably a, a good client in a variety of different ways.

[00:13:38] But that does get you to the personality thing, which you could have a client with the exact same type of business and the same industry. If their personality is challenging, that may be a challenge for you, an issue. The thing with that is you can also use some of these counterintuitive ways to niche down by personality type.

[00:13:56] So you might have messaging in your website that’s more about like results, so then you might get people who are numbers oriented and results oriented. You may have. Stuff in your messaging about the type of feeling of a project, like you want your clients to have fun, you want your clients to have a great experience.

[00:14:13] You want your clients and, and you’re a loyal person. You wanna be there for them. That may draw different types of people than the numbers people who will work with somebody they don’t like just to get a really good result. Those are just a couple different ideas for you to maybe consider tweaking your message in your website, your messaging in your.

[00:14:31] In order to get clients who fit your personality type, and again, you don’t need to get the carbon copy of yourself as a client, but just remember if you are somebody who does thrive on like really deep relationships and you take things slow and you’re loyal and you’re more interactive, the person who comes through the door and is like, I just need to know how much this is cuz we need to turn a profit and we need to get results in three months.

[00:14:55] Maybe that person isn’t actually the best type of person for you to work with and maybe you’re not the best for them and that’s fine. So funnel the clients who are good fit clients for you. This is definitely a whole nother episode, but I think the last two episodes of the podcast will really help you when it comes to funneling because it does get into to nicheing down.

[00:15:14] So the last episode was Steve Shram, 2 36 and 2 35 with Katie Sand. Um, both of those episodes are great precursors to how to like funnel good clients and, and how to make sure you’re getting the best clients for you and your business.

[00:15:27] All of those things, my friends will help you with avoiding complaining about your clients because again, it’s so, it’s like planting negative seeds that are just gonna spread and, and before you know it, weeks go by, months go by and you’re resenting your clients, and I want you to avoid that.

[00:15:45] Now I have one final bonus point here. This is perhaps the most important, this bonus point is to expect struggles and challenges with clients and when they happen. Keep record of those and templatize it. So templatize responses to common issues.

[00:16:05] For example, late payments. Late payments, if you are in business, are going to happen. Late payments or no payments, or if you have any sort of recurring income, you’re gonna have payments that, uh, expire. Don’t go through, do not be personally offended by any of that.

[00:16:25] Just expect that those are gonna happen. Expect that, you know, those are gonna be issues. So, , you could do what I did for years and be personally, you know, caught off guard by that. And then personally respond and yeah, you’re gonna be cool, but you’ll find yourself generally getting frustrated as those things tend to mount up and happen over and over again.

[00:16:45] Or like my friend Emma Kate said in episode 1 51, what she learned to do was to templatize and create canned responses for things like that. So when a payment is late, you don’t think about it. You just send, or you can automate this with a variety of tools too. You could just send, Hey, your payment didn’t come through.

[00:17:05] We understand things happen. We have a 30 day window. If the payment doesn’t come through, then the project is void, and you know, Your website will go down or something like that. You can literally templatize all of the major struggles that you have with customers and clients. So you don’t need to complain with them. And the best part is you don’t need to think about it, it just, it’s the policy. It is what it is.

[00:17:26] I was actually just having this conversation with somebody in my web design club. And that’s open to you right now that that may change because I’m about to put some filters in place for that. And, uh, anyway, as of right now, at the time of this episode, releasing, anyone can join, but I am probably gonna make that a application process here soon.

[00:17:43] But one thing we were talking about in there is somebody was having an issue with a late payment, or it was actually a no-show, like they signed on, but they just never paid for this. And they were like, should I take the site down? What should I do? And we mapped it out to where we basically, on that live call, created a policy for the business that says, you know, if you don’t pay within 30 window, 30 days that window, then since we built your site and we’re maintaining it, the site is gonna go down.

[00:18:13] Now you don’t need to necessarily like take the site off the server. In this case, this gal, she was actually hosting them, so they hadn’t paid her. So I said, by all means, you have the. To take their site down or at least put up a page that says, you know, site down for maintenance. You don’t have to say, this client won’t pay.

[00:18:29] That’s a dur , that’s a dirty move that some web designers have done in the past. I would not recommend that, but you 100% have the right to do that if a client doesn’t pay. And in this case it was template tie, like we created a template for this. That way if this happens again for this particular, , she doesn’t need to think about it, and it doesn’t need to be personal.

[00:18:48] She just, you know, employs the, the policy and that’s it. And generally, if you put a landing page up or a maintenance page up, or you take a site down, your client will pay you immediately. Uh, but again, I only recommend doing that if that’s the case. But anyway, the point is, if you have the, and when you have these situations, have a plan for.

[00:19:08] Now I understand if you’re new to web design, you’re probably wondering what plans to have in place. They’re gonna be tailored to your services into what you offer. So what I would do, my recommendation to you as your coach, in this case, free coaching time. Is to keep track of these common issues and then set up a policy form and, and again, make it standardized that we don’t need to think about it.

[00:19:30] So I hope that helps. That is, that is the biggie, is to expect these struggles, uh, uh, whether it’s late payments or whether it’s NoShow, anything like that, just keep track of it and then that’s really, really gonna help. And the same thing for like content collection. You could say, if we send you what we need and you don’t give it to us within a two week window or whatever it.

[00:19:52] It doesn’t mean that the contract isn’t void or, or isn’t gonna move forward, but maybe it’s like you’re bumped back to the list. You’re in the back of the list now, and, uh, maybe after a certain time you have a percentage that gets applied to like a late fee. Basically, all of those things you can have in place and that will help you avoid complaining about them because if you complain about your clients but don’t change anything or don’t, you know, adjust your system.

[00:20:17] Guess what, friends, it’s not gonna get any better. It’s just gonna start replicating. So you gotta make these changes.

[00:20:22] Let’s recap these real quick. Number one, set communication boundaries. Ideally in your contract. Definitely in your contract. This is something I have my business course communication boundaries are in your contract.

[00:20:34] Make somebody sign off on that. That way they adhere. And then o obviously in your, um, onboarding process as well, cuz they’re not gonna read the entire contract usually. So when you get started, let them know, here’s how we communicate, this is when we do it. Number two, empower your clients with the what, when, and how.

[00:20:52] When it comes to content collection, project management, revisions, et cetera. And number three, work on funneling your best type of clients. You could do this again with messaging, with design, with style. All those things will come into. Um, head back to the past couple of episodes in the podcast, which will help you out with that.

[00:21:09] And then finally, the bonus tip is to expect struggles like this and templatize your responses, automate those things. That way you don’t even think about it. It’s not even a problem, it’s just I know it’s gonna happen. Like, I know with my web design club, I know I’m gonna have failed payments and I, not everyone who has a failed payment did that maliciously or intentionally.

[00:21:29] It was just like their credit card expired or, or whatever. Like it’s not a. But I have to be prepared for that, and I recommend that you do the same. So there we go, friends, I hope you enjoyed this one. I’m getting over a cold with the family, so I probably sound a little off today and that is certainly the case, but, I posted that on social media recently and I was like, man, that really, I hit a, I hit a nerve with this.

[00:21:52] I hit a chord. And again, last point on this is I understand why you complain in one event I was there myself, but I want to encourage you not to do that, especially publicly if you need to vent. Have a group of like dedicated web designer friends that you can talk this stuff through with. Don’t do it publicly in a forum where it’s just gonna spread other negativity and get other designers say like, yeah, clients, stupid clients.

[00:22:16] That’s just not good for anybody. I truly believe we should be thankful. For our clients, as I’m thankful for you because I have a business and I’m able to be at home with my family and, you know, do all the things with my daughter that she’s going through right now and, and provide for my little baby who, who’s awesome and chubby and adorable because of you.

[00:22:35] So I am thankful for you. I wanna encourage you to be thankful for your clients. Let’s stop the bitching. Let’s stop the complaining and, uh, replace that with gratitude and thankfulness. I think it’s probably a good thought to end this one, so I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks again for tuning in. Go to josh 2 3 7 for all the links in the show notes.

[00:22:53] If you wanna see that post I mentioned. Uh, ideally head over to Instagram. I’m most active there. Instagram at josh Hall co. So I’ll see you over there or on Facebook at josh Hall Co as well. And until next time, I’ll see you on the next episode guys. Cheers.

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