No web design education prepares you for the wild cast of characters you’ll experience through your clients. Customers come from all sorts of different backgrounds and boast personalities that can either make you love your job even more or wish you never learned how to communicate with other living beings.

While there are plenty of fantastic customer experiences that make your job worthwhile, there are some archetypes of not-so-great clients you also need to learn how to deal with. The “pretentious customer” is the one who goes to a UX design agency or similar design firm and thinks they know it all. They have very clear standards and expectations that they demand to be met at all costs, and they never fail to criticize and correct someone before they even have a chance to explain their design.

The pretentious customer may also be cheap or completely underestimate the time, education and skill of the very same people they’re turning to for a product. They think web design “isn’t that hard” and they will always tack on additional requests that aren’t included in their original quote.

Here are some other warning signs and characteristic traits of the “pretentious customer.”

They Demand Instant Gratification

When you and the client agree upon a design, they’ll immediately start demanding updates and want to see your progress. You try your best to appease them and remind them of your proposed project timeline, but they’re adamant to have everything done here and now.

These clients add a ton of unnecessary pressure to your job; instead of being able to concentrate on creating the best design possible, you are fixated on churning out the work as quickly as possible so they don’t get irritated.

You cannot let these types of clients run your job. If you work for a UX design agency, you have a boss. They are the only person who gets to make demands about your work output. If you’re a freelancer, then you’re your own boss, and you have to work at a pace that is both efficient and effective.

It’s best to set up a timeline with clients ahead of time so they can expect frequent progress updates. This can help prevent them from harassing you day in, day out.

They Implement Major Changes Without Asking

You’ll be halfway through a dashboard design when your client messages you and wants to practically overhaul the entire thing. They may have found another competitor’s site or UI that they want to replicate, or they “brainstormed” and decided on taking things in a completely different direction.

Not only does this waste your time, but it also costs you valuable money. When you continually change your projects mid-design, you essentially do double the work for the same rate.

They Hate Your Advice

The ultimate pretentious customer will seek out a professional web designer only to shoot down and criticize every piece of advice they have to offer. They don’t want your vision, just your skills. This isn’t how professional design works, and you should not subject yourself to a barrage of insults, critiques or ridiculous requests. Pretentious customers think that design is nothing more than skills, and they consider professional designers to exist solely to bring their exact vision to life.

In reality, web design encompasses a vast array of skills, talents, and knowledge. From UX design and branding to dashboard design and interface layouts, a designer spends years honing their craft and deserves to have their consultation appreciated and, at the very least, respected.

You can’t expect a customer to implement every single suggestion you have; part of being a professional web designer involves accommodating your clients. But the best customers are the ones who actively listen to what you have to say, ask for clarification and heartily consider everything you have to offer even if they ultimately decide to go with their own design.

Dealing With The Pretentious Customer

You’re bound to run into one of these clients at some point in your career. While working with them may not be your favorite experience, it doesn’t have to be a total nightmare, either. Consider some of these pointers to help you keep your cool and communicate better:

  • Remind yourself that they ultimately just want what’s best for their business.
  • Thoroughly discuss your ideas and agree on how many revisions and changes will be made during the design process.
  • Showcase your portfolio and allow them to find preferences in your work rather than their own examples.
  • Keep communication open but do not let it distract you from the design process.
  • Accommodate when reasonable and practical; ultimately, it’s their website, and even if you dislike something they’re insistent about, it’s easier to give them what they want than stress yourself out arguing.

Hopefully, these tips and pointers will make you feel more prepared for the next tough customer you work with. Remember to focus on your design and try to take away something from each experience, even if it’s just greater patience.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.