How to deal with clients who don’t know what they want

Mar 26, 2018

They seemed normal at first. Two eyes. Ten fingers. One design project ready for you to whip into good-lookin’ shape.

They even gushed over your design skills while they signed the dotted line and brought you on board as their resident graphic design guru.

But then … the red flags started to pop up.


Their design brief? Well, it was BRIEF, that’s for sure. Hello, one-liners. And getting more guidance and direction out of them was harder than convincing your kid to clean their room.

Because while your kid could be artfully persuaded/bribed/threatened … your client remained as unmoveable as a bloody rock.

“I trust you,” they said. “Just surprise me.”

So, reluctantly, you mock up a proof and, surprise …
They hated it. With the fire of a thousand suns.

And while they can wax lyrical on what they DON’T like, when it comes to telling you want they actually WANT it’s like they’ve lost their voice (slash the plot).

“I will know it when I see it.”

 “Let me just show my husband/wife/co-worker/delivery man/dog/house plant and get their opinion.”

 “I know I SAID ‘boho and free’ but what I meant was ‘modern and edgy’. You know?”

No, Dear Client, we do not know.

So how do you control these tricky clients? Is there a Dangerous Client Board you can report them to?

Alas, nothing that perfect, but through trial and error in my own design biz (which I’ve boss ladied for over 20 years) I’ve found five action steps that’ll transform indecisive clients into INSPIRED – and respectful af – clients.


Make it clear it’s not your business, it’s theirs. You can’t run their business for them. You can’t choose their clients for them. And you sure as hell can’t do their foundational work for them. They need to come to you with a thorough understanding of what they do, who they do it for and want they want from you.

Action: On the processes area of your website, add in a pre-work step that tells them it is their job to make sure they have a clear idea before they get to you.

Provide a solution for their indecisiveness. In my business, I offer a brand clarity workbook that helps my clients define their brand voice, target market and value proposition. PLUS it gets them thinking about their visual style, so by the time they come to me they have CLARITY, baby!

No umm’ing and err’ing. They know what they want and they are empowered to go out there and get it. Or, at least, hire me to do it for them. 

Action: Create a foundational offer to educate them and make them do it.

Make sure your client understands the importance of the brief.  We’re all busy and rushing to get our daily tasks done. So, when you ask your new client for a brief, she’s likely gonna be squeezing it in between appointments and commitments. Which means … motivation? Meh. Inspiration? Double meh.

But it’s your job to reinforce the importance of the briefing stage by making it clear this is a Big Deal. This is her brand. Her BUSINESS. It’s gotta be a priority.

Action: Make your clients sign on the fact that their brief is true & correct before you proceed. Yep, I’m talking about a check box, or signature!

Expectations.  Another thing that’s wholly within your control (yay!) is setting expectations for your time together. If your client is running rings around you, it’s because you’re letting her.

I know, I know. You don’t want to be mean. But being up-front and honest about how you work isn’t rude; it’s being transparent. If your potential client has a problem with the way you work, then it’s highly likely that you’ve saved yourself from a problematic client and project.

Thank yo’ lucky stars.
Action: Create a welcome kit that outlines expectations (from you and them) and make it clear that they are not permitted to share your work online to get OPINIONS before it is finalised & approved.

Constantly showcase your expertise. You know what you are talking about and it is your job to make sure your clients know that. For reals. Because if your client respects you before they even hire you, then you can better your cute toosh that they won’t waste your time or ignore your advice in favour of Dr. Google. Or that-one-friend-who-spent-a-night-on-Pinterest-looking-at-graphic-design-so-now-she’s-a-pro.

Action: One way to showcase your talents is to include testimonials on your website, newsletters & social media. You can also include case studies on your website showing them why you intentionally designed things a certain way.
Follow these steps and I’m positive you’ll sort your indecisive clients out … AND attract ‘yes boss, you know best’ (swoon) clients in the future.

Want more?
Join my FREE Masterclass below. 



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