Are Your Customers Flowers or Plants?

Having consulted for nearly ten years, I’ve worked with a lot of different clients. Most of these have mastered everything I believe is important to being a great client:

  • being able to specify and communicate their requirements and goals for the project
  • being a good communicator - listen and stay open to the possibility that you should change your view on something
  • respect - this really can’t be stressed enough - there are tons of things I don’t know about your business, so I’ll have thousands of questions. What I do know is how to create engaging digital user experiences, so I’m open to questions and suggestions, but let’s respect each other’s professions.

As time went on, I realized that I have two distinct types of clients. In order to enjoy my best work and actually enjoy it, I need both of these types. They trigger different drives in me as well as help me reach my financial goals. I call these two types of clients flowers 🌼 and plants 🌱 .

Flowers

Flowers are clients that have projects that are intense and usually one-offs. They are like flowers, giving me a lot of joy for a very limited amount of time and no matter how much I water them, they’re not going to stay around for more than a couple of weeks/months. A rose is beautiful, but it’s not going to smell lovely for more than a couple of weeks. Realizing that it’s bound to wither is the most sane thing I can do for myself (and for the flower). Respecting that it’s out of my control and making the most of it while it’s fresh is the best option. A typical flower project for me would be a branding project or even a website.

Plants

Plants are a bit different than flowers. Plants require almost the opposite approach. Thoughtful care over a long period of time is how a plant thrives. This can mean leaving it alone to grow slowly into something a lot stronger than when you first got it. Plants can be smaller projects spread over long period of time. Don’t place them in direct sunlight and don’t over-water them. Just show them so love when you see that they need it. They’ll let you know when they need you to water them. In return for your somewhat passive approach, they will with you for years and years. A typical plant project for me would be a conversion optimisation project like Frank or product design like E.ON.

What should you choose?

Depending on the industry you’re in and who your customers are, your garden/green house is going to vary. Some might prefer to just have flowers while others can’t stand the requirements that come with it. Some prefer plants (like my wife who doesn’t like the smell of flowers - WHAT?) because they are in some regards less high-maintenance.

Personally - I love, and need, the mix of both flowers and plants. While flowers give me excitement and something new, I love the progress and process of seeing a plant grow and thrive, going from a small seed into a full-scale tree 🌳.

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Books

User Experiences that Matter (2016)
Mastering Freelance (2017)

If You're Getting Started in UX

What's a 'User Experience' Anyways?
How Do You Learn UX?
Working as a UX Designer

Next Steps in UX

Working as a UX Lead
Defining a UX Strategy
Writing as Part of the UX Process

Thought-pieces

AI Ethics - A New Skill for UX-Designers
Designer Ethics & The Moral Implications of our Apps
The Future of the UX-Designer
Voice Input’s Effect on Social Norms

The Work We Do

Chasing Growth
New Tools Don’t Always Equal Productivity
Why Designers Need to Write
The Tools I Use to Run My Business

Featured Writing & Interviews Elsewhere

Q&A With Anton Sten, Author of User Experiences that Matter - Adobe
What the F*#!ck is a UX Designer anyway - Working not Working
It’s Time for a Code of Ethics for Designers - Medium Modus
The Art of Going Freelance - .Net Magazine
It Takes Time - Being Freelance episode 100

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