I saw a great phrase in an article recently: “Clients often self-diagnose their problems. But they can be wrong. You are the expert. That’s why they’re hiring you. Slow down your process and warn potential clients that you are not the “emergency” designer.”

And it hit me: we are not emergency designers.  We never have been.  We ask tough questions and spend time in discovery and research.  We dig and dig before we ever start designing.  We make recommendations.  We’re not “yes” people; we’re “why” people.  When you tell us your website needs a feature, we don’t just agree; we ask why. Then we push you (and ourselves) to dig up a better answer or provide a foundation to back up your request.

And yet, we end up “hurrying up” more often then I’d like.  We tend to take on emergency projects even though they don’t fit our general mold of process and project management.

It’s not that we can’t build a site quickly; we certainly can.  It’s more along the lines of our initial approach to a project.  Once we get to the design and development stage, we’ve already done our due diligence and the process can fly. But we like to know we got there with good reason and research.  We like to know the stakeholders are all on board with what we’re about to produce, and we like to know that every conversation that needs to be had has been had.

We’ve had a virtual onslaught of new project inquiries in the past few weeks.  And that’s a great thing, of course. We’ve been working hard on great projects and launched this gorgeously redesigned site and have been out writing, speaking and getting to know folks. Our clients give us fantastic referrals to everyone and anyone. We’re busy and loving it.

Of the new inquiries, a handful are really great, qualified, well-fitting projects for our team. Clients who want us to spend the time digging and learning and researching before we build; who want us to labor over the details and create really polished, beautiful web and mobile apps.  Who want us to thoroughly test the products before they launch.

And another handful are looking for “emergency” designers to take over a project that went south or start on something immediately that was supposed to be done last week (I need this 200 hour project launched by mid-February!).

Next time you have an emergency, open this box.

Next time you have an emergency, open this box.

To these emergency clients, how fast we can get them a proposal reflects on how fast we can turn the project around – when in fact, the two are not at all related.  We need time to spend doing our research before creating a proposal. We need time to determine the best platform and approach and our own resource assignments.  It’s a complex matrix and it all takes time to do it well.

That said, we’ve taken on quite a few projects that weren’t going well and turned them around – but those clients recognized that the process would take both time and hard work.  They brought us realistic expectations and we turned out some awesome work.

It’s amazing when expectations meet reality, isn’t it?

I’m feeling liberated in this realization.  It’s yet another “red flag” for my arsenal of client selection tools that help us determine fit for new projects, and a step forward in solidifying our approach to design and development.

Do you find yourself providing emergency design services?  How to you react and how do those relationships turn out?