At Dare conference in September, I saw a great talk by Kevin Hoffman on “How To Rebuild Amidst Crisis.” I loved this talk, there was so much in it, but one thing struck me as something I could carry over into my work: Kevin said he included “ask any question and I’ll answer it” in his contract.
This might seem like stating the obvious at first, but really there’s nothing obvious to a client who is new to you, and your process. And this is even more true for a client who is new to having a website built, or working with web professionals for the first time. There’s no book on how to be a client, and many of us (regardless of whether we’re on the client or consultant side) can often be fearful of asking the wrong questions in case it shows us up as ignorant.
I want my clients to feel comfortable, and that they know what’s going on. I’m sure that sometimes I don’t explain things as well as I could do, or fail to explain some things at all, so having something in my contract that lets a client know that they’re encouraged to ask questions can help make up for my shortcomings. I also believe it’s good for a designer to be challenged. I’ve said before that communication and justification are a large part of our work as designers, and encouraging clients to ask me “why” will only make me better at understanding my own design decisions.
This is the new section I’ve now included in my contract:
Ask me anything
I want you to feel that you understand what’s happening, and why, throughout the duration of the project. Please feel free to ask me any question that comes to mind. I’ll always be happy to answer your questions, explain what I’m doing or how I work.
It might make a difference, it might not. Contracts are a great way to set the tone of your working relationship with your client, so I hope that this will do just that.