It’s not the demands, reasonable or otherwise. The one thing that has shaken me more than anything else about a handful of clients is the lack of trust.
When people come to me looking for help, we meet and get to know each other (or we do it over the phone if it’s a long-distance project). If we click, my main task is to gain the trust of my client. If the client doesn’t feel like he or she can trust me to handle their project in a professional, caring manner, nothing else really matters.
I’ve actually had this happen only about two times in three years. The first time, we’d gone through layouts and revisions and were ready to begin coding the site when the clients decided they wanted to scrap all of that and have me just code something they’d ‘thrown together’ one night after they bought Illustrator.
As an Internet retailer for 9 years, I have some experience with ecommerce sites. I told them honestly what I thought – that what they had done was not going to help them. There were issues with the theme, the navigation, the support of their brand. They weren’t interested in hearing any of that – they only wanted me to code it.
I left that project not just because I’m not a ‘coder-for-hire,’ but because they suddenly decided that my input was not valuable. They didn’t trust that I was looking out for them anymore.
The other experience was a longer-term issue and much more straightforward – I was accused of not keeping up my end of the agreement, of nickle-and-diming the client to death, and of shoving their project to the back of the line. None of those things were true. I did finish that project, but no longer work with that client.
So I guess I would not have figured that trust is so important to me as a designer, but it is. I have to put forth a lot of effort to get to know my client, really listen to them, and to understand their problem in order to gain that trust, but generally that’s a pleasant part of my job. It’s hard to treat a client as a partner in the process otherwise; if there’s no trusting relationship I might as well be an employee…