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The Art of Compromise: Tips for Working with Clients

The Art of Compromise: Tips for Working with Clients
Published May 14, 2024 by the Behance Team

Successfully collaborating with clients is an essential skill for any freelance designer. It’s often a delicate and difficult balance between fulfilling the client’s needs and staying true to your artistic vision. We asked experienced freelancers from Behance for their advice for mastering the art of compromise. 

Choose Your Clients Wisely

Just like a first date, an intro call is an exciting and essential step in learning about one another and determining the potential for a successful relationship. “If there are any early signs of red flags at this point or during the on-boarding session, then you could be in for a tough ride!” warns branding and identity designer Alan Cheetham

In addition to asking practical questions about the scope of the work, budget, and deliverables, freelancers should also use these early meetings to establish strong rapport with the client. “At the end of the day, you first and foremost need to acknowledge that you both gel, and that a collaboration is all about working with someone and not for them,” adds Alan.


Katoka by Alan Cheetham

Know When to Say No

Although it may be tough to turn down a new project, particularly when you’re just starting out,  it's important to consider whether the project aligns with your long-term goals and values. “Sometimes, saying no upfront is better than continuing with a project that will likely cause a lot of headaches,” advises brand designer Jose Manuel Vega

Communicate Openly and Frequently

Illustrator Tiago Leitao emphasizes the importance of clear communication throughout the entire process. “In the early stages, I try to be clear about what I can provide. To prevent problems, I ensure to be completely clear about what I can do, and I like to share every stage of the progress to ensure that I'm going in the right direction.”

Keeping clients up to date helps build trust, reduces misunderstandings, and allows for adjustments to be made early on, leading to a smoother and more successful project outcome.

Jose takes a similar hands-on approach: “I maintain constant contact with them throughout the entire process and guide them in every decision they need to make,” he shares.


Retro internet artworks + products by Tiago Leitao

Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes

“Customers have business needs. They call on me to meet that need. I represent an investment for them,” says branding designer Laurène Piet. She keeps her client’s goals top of mind as she’s designing. “You have to know how to extract yourself from the project to serve the customer's needs, while putting your own style into it. I adapt my style and vision to the needs of each request; everything is tailor-made.” 

Approach Conflict With Empathy

When it comes to bridging the gap between your vision and your client’s, a little empathy and flexibility goes a long way. 


Spicy oil packaging by Laurène odp

“There are times when it is necessary to explain to the client why some things need to be done this way and not otherwise. Because as a specialist you understand that this directly affects the result.” says Natalia Shakhaeva, head of design at ClickTime Company. “We listen to all ideas and wishes of clients, but thanks to building good communication, we know that, if necessary, we will be able to explain why we insist on certain design solutions.” 

“The best way to make sure that people listen to you is to listen to them first,” says digital designer Lorenzo Bocchi. “If you are able to prove that you can deliver the result that they’re looking for and have processes to showcase logical reasoning behind your design decisions, more often than not, they’ll buy into your vision.”


Menu Design Concepts by ClickTime Company

Provide Multiple Options 

Presenting a range of options can enhance client satisfaction and lead to stronger relationships. Digital artist Halit Benli often creates additional versions of designs beyond the ask to present to his clients. “When I start a project and if I'm having fun, I like to see a few more options for myself. While doing this, I've realized customers notice that I'm deeply invested in the project.” He has found that clients appreciate the diversity and this strategy has been effective in turning his first time clients into returning ones.

Tiago offers his clients unlimited initial sketches to give his clients the opportunity to choose their preferred direction. This also ensures that the final result is in line with their expectations. “I'm always open to experimenting new design forms and themes, as long as it aligns with my style,” says Tiago. 


Everydays, Second Half of January by Halit Benli

Stay True to Your Style 

Remember that your clients chose you for a reason — they were drawn to your unique perspective and creative approach. While it's important to listen to their feedback and incorporate their ideas, don't lose sight of what makes your work special. 

“I value the client's vision for the project, but my style is clear,” says Jose. “When clients approach me about a project, they know from the beginning how I'm going to handle the visuals and the expected output. They typically understand that they are not just hiring me for my skills, but also for my expertise.”


SOL by Jose Manuel Vega

For Halit, trust plays a crucial part in the collaboration. “I always listen to the clients, understand what they ask for and need, and then combine these requirements with my art vision. If clients trust my style and art vision, they're usually satisfied.”

Learn From Your Mistakes 

Even the most difficult clients can become a valuable lesson that can help you avoid similar challenges down the road and ultimately improve your overall client management skills. “It’s up to us to make something out of the lesson that we have learned with that experience so that we can build better processes and avoid that to happen again in the future,” says Lorenzo. 

Lorenzo evaluates each client project with a retrospective. “I highlight what went right and what went wrong, and for the things that didn’t work as I was hoping for. Did I set the right expectations? Can I fix this next time with a better contract? Was the project not profitable? Why?” 

Through this process, Lorenzo is able to improve his approach to future projects, refine his client communication and expectation-setting, and ensure that each new project is more successful and profitable than the last.


Hello Coach by Lorenzo Bocchi

Find New Clients on Behance 

Update your availability on Behance to let visitors to your profile know that you’re open to new freelance projects or full-time positions. You can also list a Creative Service for specific types of projects you’re available for. 

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Upgrade to Behance Pro to unlock 0% platform fees on all freelance hiring transactions, as well as advanced analytics and project settings, Adobe Portfolio, and more.  

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