A practical guide to surviving #2

So, this is our life now – working remotely and meeting virtually. So much seems to have changed but in reality most designers still have the same services to offer the same clients. The new skill is flexibility — understanding / identifying how your services fit the new world.

We’ve spoken to a lot of designers in the past week. Here’s the three most common topics:

1. Should I work for free/discount?

Yes, many clients are hurting but no, you shouldn’t work for free, ever.
It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your business:client relationship and it’s not good for the industry.

The problem is, once designers lower their prices (and their standards) they never really recover. Better to repackage your offer – cut the cloth to fit. Or negotiate payment terms.

2. How can I help my client?

Many designers are wanting to contact their clients but are unsure of what to say.
The first question could be

What can I do to help you right now? What part of your role/process/communication are you finding most difficult?’

Start the conversation and be ready to problem solve whatever direction it takes. It will differ for each client. The one thing in common with all is the remote working/talking/communicating, which leads to:

3. Offer help / tips for best ways to manage virtual meetings.

While working remotely is a default position for many designers, for some clients it’s a new and foreign world. This is a great opportunity for designers to take control and become a knowledge bank for clients.

We’ve put together a few pointers:

1. Technology.

There are many software solutions to virtual meeting, choose one or two that you understand completely so you can talk your client through its advantages. Share your knowledge, perhaps even as an annotated cheat sheet to help your client navigate the system: how to include others in a conversation, how to screen share, or even how to hook up an external microphone.

2. Share some ground rules.

There has never been a blurring of boundaries like we are experiencing now. I’m sure we’ve been involved in some hilarious virtual meetings recently: from kids ninja-ing through the background to dogs photobombing. In today’s climate, anything is acceptable, but there are still some relevant ground rules.

It’s about respect for others.

  • circulate an agenda prior to the meeting
  • ask that mobiles are turned off or in do not disturb mode
  • don’t check emails or multitask during the meeting
  • if the background noise is intrusive mute your microphone until you need to speak
  • whenever possible, use your camera – it makes such a difference if people can see one another.

3. Don’t stop building relationships.

Before the agenda items spend a few moments checking in with their life, just as you would in the walk from reception to their office, or in a lift. If there’s a few in the meeting, go around and ask everyone, “How are you guys doing?”.

4. Ensure everyone has a chance to have their say.

It can be hard to be heard in a virtual meeting. I know from experience the AI of some virtual meeting software programs is tuned on the deepest/loudest voice. That means if two people speak at the same time – which often happens in robust discussion – the AI picks up the loudest voice, which in turn focuses the camera on that voice and their face fills the screen. (and I can confidently say, that is rarely the female voice). That makes it important to manually check in that everyone has had their say.

5. After the meeting follow through.

Confirm decisions or document a summary via email or Slack to continue the trail of conversation.


Finally, be flexible. With how you work, with meeting times and with expectations.

Our guess is that we’re all playing a long game. Make it a great opportunity to improve the relationship with your client by offering stability and reliability in a fluid environment.

And, if you have a question, or a challenge, don’t hesitate to make contact with either Greg or I. Happy to help…


Carol Mackay

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After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, Carol pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry. Now with the Design Business Council she uses her experience, and research, to help designers build robust, sustainable businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design.

The core of the DBC is the building a design community – over 85% of designers work in businesses with less than 5 employees, many less than 3. That means designers don’t have the same support network of other professionals. The DBC’s solution is supplement paid gigs with mentoring breakfast meet-ups, informative UNseminars and practical workshops in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

An archive of her design work at mbdesign.com.au.
Her current work can be viewed at designbusinesscouncil.com and designbusinessschool.com.au.

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