How to get clients to respond faster?
April 15, 2006 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Looking for strategies to light a fire under clients.

I do design work for small business owners and I'm getting frustrated by slow response times from clients.

Design revisions, mock-ups, requests for content - I often have to wait several days for a reply. Aside from using email less and making more phone calls, or building strict timelines into proposals, how can I speed things up without damaging the accomodating relationship I try to cultivate with all clients?
posted by davebush to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Phone calls.

People who run small businesse with employeees, etc. are stupidly, hideously busy and have tons on their mind. If something isn't screaming for their attention, it doesn't usually get attended to. So if you haven't heard from them in a few days and you need something from them, then pick up the phone and call them.
posted by SpecialK at 10:01 AM on April 15, 2006

Oh yeah, and expect them to take several days to make a decision anyway. A bare minimum of 3 days, probably closer to a week. When someone makes a design decision on something big like a logo, they're usually also consulting everyone from their mother to their girlfriend and testing it on their clients, which may mean that it takes a week to get all their feedback in.
posted by SpecialK at 10:02 AM on April 15, 2006

I would build that kind of response time into my project schedule. In my experience it takes that long to get a response on anything, more if they need to "run it by a few people". Most people don't make snap decisions, they like to think about stuff for a few days, especially something like a design that they might not have the tools or background to evaluate quickly.
posted by fshgrl at 10:04 AM on April 15, 2006

Set up your contract so that you can invoice at these milestones. It's not unusual for clients to run into delays. But you shouldn't be frustrated if you get paid up to the latest milestone. Note in your contract that your timelines are based on access to the client. Then you're okay to take on another project and be slightly delayed in getting back to the first client (within reason). In my contracts, I even tell the client what days by which they need to get back to me!
posted by acoutu at 11:22 AM on April 15, 2006

I run into the same problem. The strategy I use is to follow every request for a decision/information with a sentence about why I'm asking and when I'd like an answer by.

"Hey Client, I want to have your brochure mock-up ready by Wednesday, and I need the specifications of your Industrial Widget by end-of-day Tuesday. Let me know if that timeframe doesn't work for you."

During my initial meetings with a client, I usually discuss this issue, and make it clear that I can only work with what I'm given. I try to get as much of the information I might need right up front, and I always try to have at least two contacts per client company so I can double-up on my pestering when needed.

Another strategy is to make it seem like delays cost money, even if they don't. I'll happily tell a client he can get a printing discount if he approves a mock-up by a certain date, and then just charge him the normal rate and tell him it's a discount.
posted by chudmonkey at 12:52 PM on April 15, 2006

Several days isn't all that unusual. I'd expect that unless you were dealing with one decision maker.

I'm working on a project in which the client absolutely had to have prelims in their hands at the end of January. They didn't get back to me with revisions until mid-March, which I emailed to them in three days. Two weeks ago, I heard back that I might get some new revisions this coming week.

The only thing you can do is check up on them and wait for them to get back to you. If you are worried about having your money tied up (which is what's happening when work you did in January isn't being billed until April), start billing your hours as you go, rather than waiting for the job to be completed. That might light a fire under them.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:25 PM on April 15, 2006

I'm a copywriter/designer and I can relate. What's worked best for me is to simply change your clients. Small businesses have much less money to spend and less frequent need for my services (and yours) than larger enterprises. They're also much harder to collect from. Go for the bigger fish, dude.
posted by wordwhiz at 3:29 PM on April 15, 2006

Hurry-up-and-wait is standard in the business, but there are ways around it. The problem isn't so much the delay, as that when the client makes their decision they're likely to want it all turned around super fast. And since the delay's of uncertain length, you can't plan your schedule, not knowing when that rush will hit.

Maybe you should be telling clients something like "After you've made your decision, please understand that it will then take me X days to prepare the design for press/code it for the web/etc."
posted by zadcat at 6:22 PM on April 15, 2006

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