5 Ways Clients Waste Our Time as Designers

By
Molly Cornfield
July 21, 2022

Being a designer is great. One of the things that could make it even greater is if we could just spend more of our time, well, designing. 

Unfortunately, we spend many valuable hours doing things other than design. Most notably:  handling clients. If you’re a freelancer, that’s almost a given. But even if you’re an employee, you still have clients — you might know them as the marketers, product managers, or other stakeholders. But no matter who’s on the other side of your brief, they always seem to be on way-too-tight of a deadline.

Clients are wonderful in that they give us money, but in many other ways, they’re also… slightly less than wonderful. Way too often, they seem to have us confused for their personal assistant, therapist, or literally anything other than their designer.

Here are five, among many, of the time-wasting tasks that are definitely not design.

1. Overwhelmingly unnecessary meetings

Sure, some meetings are worthwhile. Some may even be essential. But when clients hold meetings for the sake of holding meetings, it’s not only a blood boiling spatter of unnecessary conversation — it costs us time that could be better spent adjusting pixels, picking hues, or generally away from the harsh blue light of our gazillion-pixel screen

2. Unclear design briefs

As any designer knows, a design brief should explain everything we need to know to create the client’s ideal content. Nothing is more frustrating than a half-thought-through brief with no clear direction and scattered clues requiring us to piece together some semblance of the project’s goal.

3. Hours spent searching for images

No one knows the pain of digging through endless folders, only to find that one perfect image for the design like we do. Is it under “projects/awesome-brand/final/approved”? Or is it under “Jim/summer/whatever-Jim-had-for-breakfast-that-day”? Finding an image can feel like being thrown in the woods with nothing but a hand-drawn treasure map with a very faded “x”, and no mention of that pit full of alligators along the way

“In order to deliver what a client wants, we have to understand what a client wants. ”

4. Miscommunications

In order to deliver what a client wants, we have to understand what a client wants. And yet, so often, we’re stuck in situations where images, wording, or concepts haven’t been approved internally — running us in circles and stealing precious hours we’ll never see again.

5. Waiting

And waiting. And waiting. Waiting for them to approve the draft we sent them. Or waiting while look for that one very specific image that they’re sure is hiding somewhere on their hard drive (or Google Drive or Dropbox). We sit tight. Tap our toes. Twiddle our thumbs. And though we may have been patient at the start, once we’re days into a who-knows-how-long wait time, we’re about ready to chuck our 4k retina display at the wall.

---

So what’s the point here, really? We’re not just here to rant about annoyingly out-of-touch design clients (although that is one of our go-to ways to pass that waiting time). 

Here are a few ways that we get through the most maddening of design-related moments.

1. Say no to meetings

As you may have heard from your therapist, doing things you don’t want to do just to be nice, isn’t actually nice. Kindly set your professional boundaries, explain your reasoning, and minimize your meetings only to the ones you should actually attend.

2. Make a list of brief essentials (And try to really follow it)

Create a sectioned design brief that lays out all the necessary items, so you can help your client get it right before they have even had a chance to mess up your workflow.

3. Organize your assets with a Creative Asset Management tool

Google Drive and Dropbox are great general-purpose tools, but when you’re trying to find that needle in a haystack, you’re better off using a tool built for designers.

4. Add in some buffer time

You can’t prevent every miscommunication, mishap, and wait time. But you can make it all a little bit less infuriating. Adding in buffer time will leave you less pressured for time and less likely to end up in nail-bitingly, nerve wracking, frustrating situations. Anyway, nothing makes you look responsible like crossing that finish line a day early. Under-promise, over-deliver.

5. Smooth out their processes

You do this all the time, they don’t. Use your extensive creative project management experience to devise a structured workflow for approval and ask the client to implement it internally. You might find you’ve given them more than they ever expected, and branded yourself a designop master.

---

Now that we’ve all blown off some steam, we can take a deep breath and gain some solace in knowing we’re not alone — these moments happen to everyone who thinks in pixels. 

And while these productivity hurdles won’t just magically disappear, there are definitely things you can do to be more productive as a designer and spend more time on the work you enjoy. 

Our team at tagbox.io is working hard to help improve one such hurdle: by using AI wizardry, tagbox.io automatically organizes your team’s design assets, and provides helpful filters to make sure you can find anything instantly. Take it from us — after all, it cleared enough time for us to write, edit, and publish a 1,000-word rant.