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by Martin Turner  |  January 20, 2022

Turbocharging Your Graphic Design Business: Managing Difficult Clients

Turbocharging Your Graphic Design Business

We kicked off this blog series last week by talking about improving workflow. Today, we’ll explore working with difficult clients and using QuarkXPress‘s compatibility capabilities to meet clients where they are to better manage their requests and changes.

We all have stories about difficult clients. However, difficult clients aren’t just difficult for you — they’re difficult for everyone. If you can learn how to meet their expectations without ruining your work-life balance, then they can become your strongest advocates. The client who couldn’t get anyone else to do it right will tell everyone else that you did.

Work the Way They Work

Designers want to receive final, proofread text, only once, with all the graphics fully brand compliant and the final images at print resolution. Clients, on the other hand, want to keep changing their text right up to the last moment, and want to give you their graphics as Microsoft Word art, Excel charts, or things they cobbled together in PowerPoint.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, “The layout looks great. Can I have it in Word so that I can edit it?” There are three things you can do here. First, you can try to get Word or Acrobat to convert it for you from a PDF file. Unless the layout is the kind of straight text which Word is good at, the results will generally be terrible, and, what’s worse, nothing you can work with when you get the files back. So, you can try doing that, and listen while the client complains that it isn’t how it looked on the PDF. Or second, you can tell them ‘No,’ and they will go off and find someone else who will convert it for them, and you’ll get the blame for not being able to do it, and for the conversion looking bad. Or third, you can give them the file in Word, allow them to edit it, and seamlessly reimport it afterwards.

Obviously, the third option is preferable. Begin by explaining to the client that they will be getting the text which they can edit, but they have hired you for the design part. Use the ‘Save text as’ in the Word format. This will output the text with all the text formatting that Word supports, but, more importantly, it keeps it in your style sheets. If you tell your client to stick to those stylesheets, when you reimport the text, it will be ready formatted.

You’ll likely need to clean it up since it’s likely the length will have changed and it may no longer fit your boxes, but all your styling work will be intact. Suddenly, their unreasonable demand to be able to edit everything themselves becomes a big time-saver for you. To accomplish this, just make sure you ‘include style sheets’ on the reimport. You can choose to have all the style retain your formatting in the subsequent dialogue.

>Work the Way They Work”><p>The same goes for client-produced Excel charts and PowerPoint diagrams. Use QuarkXPress’s ‘Convert to native objects’ function to turn any PDF output from any application. If the application outputs vectors, rather than just images, you will be able to edit those vectors afterwards. </p><p>That means you can quickly style the elements using (for example) item styles, and have them conforming to the client’s brand, rather than whatever Excel happens to produce. Be sure to tell the client not to style it themselves — the more style they put on, the more you must take off. Note that these are not auto-updating — if the client sends you a new chart at the last minute, you’ll need to do the work again, but that’s a key reason to use Item Styles and other <a href=Quark tools so that you just make the design decision once.

Convert to native objects

For Excel tables, you can have them auto-update in QuarkXPress, retaining their styles. As with everything, you have to balance whether it’s really worth it: if the client sends you wildly varying tables, then there’s not really anything to ‘update,’ but using Table Styles can be a time saver.

Manage Their Chaos

The most creative clients are often the most chaotic. They don’t think linearly, they think iteratively. So, having done all the work to get the text and images right, they may then decide to change the tagline, or even the title of the project. This is the last thing a designer wants to hear, because titles and taglines appear across a variety of different documents, and tracking them down is crucial, otherwise you have an inconsistent brand.

QuarkXPress’s Content Variables and Shared Content features can be massively useful in this case. If there’s any prospect of multiple documents finishing more or less together, it’s always worth establishing Content Variables for short, shared text, and Shared Content for longer, shared text. Right up to a deadline, you can change something somewhere, and it changes it everywhere. Again, this can be tedious if the new text doesn’t match your box size, but you can identify that much more easily with the text overflow search function along with a visual indicator.

Content Variables and Shared Content features

The third and final blog in the “Turbocharging Your Graphic Design Business” series will discuss how to emphasize your expertise and therefore move into more high-yield work.

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