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To give custom solutions to the client one must understand their requirements and expectations. Though every client has its own uniques needs but to better understand the rapidly changing client’s demands during the COVID pandemic, we asked Priyanka Bhasin, co-founder of Design Stack, for her recent experiences and learnings.

Q.
Client’s Demands, Have you witnessed any changes in the projects you receive now than from the projects from pre-pandemic days?

Priyanka. Yes, we most definitely have. The projects we have been approached for in the past few months have been far more focused and defined in terms of business objectives and timelines. Also, they seem to be largely based on immediate and visible client’s demands, which is in stark contrast to how things were earlier. Where people were willing to take more risks, today there is a lower scope for indulgence.

Another interesting new development includes work coming our way from large scale public sector companies that speak to the wider demographic, demonstrating a surprising yet encouraging the savvy understanding for strategic branding and appreciation for good design.

Q.
Apart from COVID impact, is there any other recurring theme that you can observe in the current commissions?

Priyanka. Some businesses have been hit very visibly in the past few months because of the way that COVID has impacted consumer spending patterns. It has led to a visible shift from ‘want’ to ‘need’ and once again, there seems to be little or no scope for indulgence. Businesses seem to be now investing in more holistic and purpose-driven brands.

‘Survive to thrive’ is also a recurring theme we are witnessing. The inability for businesses to differentiate between branding, advertising and digital agencies is possibly the industry’s biggest challenge which is further burdened with the need for agencies to stay afloat. Survival is dictating decisions and if we as a collective are not cautious, it could even impact creative standards.

Q.
Has there been any difference in project deadlines before and during the lockdown?

Priyanka. More than just deadlines becoming tighter, it is the intensity of engagement that is crazier; heavy spurts in short times. Often, there’s just about enough time left in a day to schedule the next set of calls. The lines between personal and professional are fast fading and balance has become critical to stability. We are at a whole new level of multitasking!

Q.
Has work from home impacted the projects/commissions that you receive?

Priyanka. Not really. The industry at large has been hit more by the economic downturn rather than WFH. And since we saw a similar downturn play out in 2008, our decision to build a diverse portfolio spanning most industries across both public and private sectors, has worked wonders and helped us ride this wave.

As far as WFH is concerned, our clients have been happy to have more access to us; and we think they secretly prefer it as well!

Q.
Has there been a general increase or decrease in the projects since the lockdown began? What would you attribute this change too?

Priyanka. Besides the initial few weeks of the lockdown where we saw not just clients but the entire country go into silent shock, it has been an extremely busy year for us. We did lose a few clients along the way which hit hard because the associations were long term and well established. On the other hand, we have a surge of meaningful enquiries coming from across emerging business categories, as expected, and completely new geographies which have been quite unexpected.

We would like to end on what has ironically been our most gratifying work this year. Pro bono work has become our creative investment towards that holistic purpose and hence closer to our hearts. It may probably be our only indulgence through these COVID times!

Creative Gaga - Issue 51

Published in Issue 51

Business, studios, agencies, freelancer all have different perspectives to handle the pandemic and hurdle it brings. While some find pandemic an obstacle which will soon fade away and on the other hand, few saw opportunities in the same. Many creatives used the past few months to reflect on their styles and horn their art. Many utilized it for collaboration opportunities with national and international creatives. This issue is a must-read if you are looking for insights, inspirations and ways to bounce back in this unlocking phase. Grab your copy and enjoy it on a sunny day!

 

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Freelance business is all about clients and your services to make their work easier. Clients have different requirements but dealing with their temperament can be tough at times. Freelance business can be compared to a double-edged sword where on one side your clients are indispensable and on the other hand, can make you frustrated if you haven’t chosen and managed them correctly.

Some clients can be quite needy while some turn up as a nightmare. Your clients are your assets, make them happy is all that is expected from you without compromising on your time, work or professionalism.

Selection of the client is also significant as you can’t please everyone, so try to know more about their history in your first meeting itself before signing the contract. Client’s management is essential as your living depends upon them. So, devise practical methods for them to come up with the best of the options and make working smooth for both the parties.

How to Manage Your Clients?

Retaining clients is as essential as onboarding them and holds a real test of your abilities for managing your clients and creating lasting relationships for many freelance businesses.

1. Agree on Timelines, Strategy, and Scope.

To know and manage client expectation is quite remarkable and it is advisable for the freelancer to take them seriously. Misunderstanding the project, decrease the chances of successfully reaching the goals of your assignment. Whether you are interested in picking up small or a massive project do remember to prepare scope-of-work document adequately. Try to use the report for communicating your client about the budget, scope, timeline and ensure that both the parties agree for the same before you start working on it.

Suppose if you have a freelance business like website designing, your clients can expect the stock imagery, and website hosting included in the pricing agreed before starting the project. Make sure of the services you will source to your clients and explain to him everything in black and white.

 

Because you can risk your reputation in the market if you tell your client about various out of scope things after starting the project and he might think that you are swindling his expectations and have poor management. While preparing the outlining of the project try to feel like the client and know what the things that should include in the plan and while the client can manage the others on its own. One golden rule for managing the clients are under promise and over deliver.

 


2. Communicate Regularly.

The cause for a majority of problems is directly related to the lack of communication or miscommunication at times. However, there are many ways to improve communication skills to resolve such issues. For example, providing a regular status update to the client about on-going projects will help you to adjust the relationship and better your perception in the eyes of the client.

Following up with your past clients’ on a regular basis and initiating regular meetings with your existing and potential clients will ensure your business continues to flourish in the long term.

 


3. Use Tools to Make Your Work Easy.

For managing your clients effectively and efficiently try using some tools for managing your relationships with them. There are various low cost and high-cost options to maintain your customers by keeping the contacts, documenting project status, tracking your interactions and prompting to schedule or following up for a meeting.

 


How to Strengthen Your Relationships?

Pursuing a good relationship with your client is considered to be a lucrative trait. As strong relationships can generate repeat businesses, referrals, and also create opportunities for promising work.

 

Humanely approach is the secret of handling the relationships and treat them as they have always wanted to get treated. Caring and nourishing is essential for the links in your life.

Initiate your relationships with listening. Try to hear more than you speak as this act of your will help you to know your client and identify their requirement that has got unnoticed by the previous freelancer or employees. And above all everyone loves for being heard give your client the privilege and allow them ample amount of time to express themselves to you.

Ask many questions to know your client well on a personal level. Try to find their hobbies, children’s, favourite pets, or they love to travel around. Identifying them in their capacity will help you in understanding their personality and the kind of work they like you to perform for them.

 

By being transparent and trustworthy, you can ensure that your client will come back to you again. But nothing can leave the strong impact other than your high-quality work and be delivered within budget and on time.

 


Feedback

Always ask your clients about the feedback. Another golden rule is never argued with them. If your client points out something in your work never show his fault and try to be as humble as possible. If you hone these traits, it will help in being calm and composed, and you handle secure and robust going clients simultaneously.

Never be afraid to walk away from your clients who are draining your time and resources. If you have already reached a point with your client relationship where he is causing you way more headaches as compared to their worth, be honest, specific and upfront and look forward to getting rid of him as soon as possible.

Freelance business is quite easy to start but taking it to another height can be tough if you don’t have regular clients. In your initial as well as advanced stage do know that your client is your asset and you should decide what he wants you to deliver at any given point in time. Try out different strategies to generate great outcomes for yourself and your client and make it worthwhile for your budding business.

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Creative Gaga - Issue 51