When it comes to earning a living as a freelancer of any kind, relationships are key. This doesn’t mean having to become friends with clients, but it does mean understanding how you can make the process of working together simple and stress-free.

Over my career in design so far, I’ve discovered some tips and wisdom that have saved me time and hassle, and helped me present myself at my best. Each client is different of course, but hopefully most of it will be helpful to you at some point.

Child helping another stand up after a fall

1. Value yourself

Know where you are in your career and price yourself appropriately. Almost every designer I know has under-priced themselves at some point, but over-valuing is rare. Turn down work if you need to – be honest about this and those who appreciate what you do will understand.

However, don’t be afraid to be flexible on prices if you think a project may be valuable to you in a different way. If you want to add a particular kind of work to your portfolio or get your foot in the door somewhere for instance. It’s all about knowing what your goals are.

2. Know your skills

Sometimes I am approached for projects that don’t really fit my skillset. If it’s not your area – and you know you can’t deliver the brief to the highest standard – then pass on it.

Bonus tip: If you know someone else who would do a great job instead – recommend them! It will create goodwill in both your fellow designer and the client and they might even return the favour in the future.

Borderlands poster example

3. Documentation

Before you start work, make sure things have been signed/agreed in writing. This can include – but isn’t limited to – terms and conditions, deposits and any additional costs (for instance, if the client decides that they want an extra design work).

Make sure all parties clearly understand their obligations to avoid any complications and disagreements down the line.

Jurassic Park poster example

4. Remember you’re the expert…but they’re the boss

Always advise your client (politely) if you don’t think something is a good idea. However, if they insist – well, it’s their money. Don’t attempt to just leave something out – nobody likes feeling ignored.

In the best case scenario, following their instructions may be able to show just why it doesn’t work or, even better – you might realise that you can pull it off. Always keep yourself open to learning from others – it can happen when you least expect it.

5. Create options

If you have a strong instinct that is contrary to what the client has asked for (e.g. you think the design will work better with a different colour palette) – create an additional option and send it over with the planned version. Seeing it brought to life may convince them. Obviously, this is only a possibility if it will take you minimal time and effort.

Freaks poster example

6. Make everything bigger

I design every project with a bigger file size than required. This ensures that the image is always high quality and gives plenty of flexibility if the client later decides that they need to create different formats of the work.

7. Add value

 Are there ways in which you can over-deliver without affecting your bottom line? For instance, you might able to negotiate discounts with other companies such as printers and web hosting – which you can offer to clients you work with.

Star Wars poster example

At the end of the day…

Ultimately for me, a successful client-designer relationship boils down to two things: respect and communication. If these can exist on both sides, then the conditions are right to create great work.


For consultation on graphic design services, feel free to drop me a line at adam@strelka.co.uk.