Kelly Zugay, Co-Founder of With Grace and Gold®
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For many small business owners, gathering feedback is what drives their creative process forward. From interior designers and copywriters to brand designers and web designers, gathering and applying client feedback equips creative small business owners to serve their clients well.
So, if you’re a client who has hired a small business to perform a creative service — perhaps you’ve hired a copywriter or a web designer — how can you give kind yet helpful feedback to ensure you come away with a final product you love and feel proud of? That’s what this week’s episode is all about!
How to Give Kind Yet Helpful Feedback
Why does giving feedback matter? If you’ve hired a small business to perform a creative service for you, it’s likely you’d like to come away with a final product you love and feel proud of. While we can’t speak for all small businesses, gathering our clients’ feedback is a valued and valuable part of our design process. In every step of our design process, gathering and applying our clients’ feedback is a built-in, natural step of the process that equips us to accurately, effectively, and efficiently work toward a final product our clients love and approve of.
Giving feedback matters for a variety of reasons. In the case of hiring a brand or web designer, by giving feedback, you’ll feel engaged in the design process. You’ll fully experience the collaborative, communication-driven process your designer has created. And you’ll give yourself the best chance of coming away with a final product you love and feel proud of.
Every person is unique, but perhaps, for you, giving feedback doesn’t quite feel natural or easy. Maybe it’s challenging to provide feedback that is both kindhearted and effective. Maybe it feels like feedback is innately mean or unkind — and finding a way to communicate your vision feels more challenging than simply agreeing and moving forward.
Whatever your position may be, we are so hopeful the following action steps equip you to give kind yet helpful feedback to those you hire to complete work for you or for your business. By doing so, you can create a better process for yourself and for any creative small business you hire — while better ensuring your final product is one you truly love and excitedly approve of.
- First, know your feedback is welcomed and expected. Again, while we can’t speak for all small businesses, at With Grace and Gold, gathering our clients’ feedback is a valued and valuable part of our design process. In every step of our design process, gathering and applying our clients’ feedback is a built-in, natural step of the process that equips us to accurately, effectively, and efficiently work toward a final product our clients love and approve of. So, as you approach the process of giving feedback, know your feedback is welcomed and expected. There is no need to apologize for or explain why you are giving feedback, because the creative professional you’ve hired is likely eager and excited to gather and apply your feedback.
- Begin your feedback with positive words. Beginning with a simple ‘Thank you!’ can go an extremely long way. It’s possible the first presentation you received was hours, days, or weeks in the making — and the creative you’ve hired has poured a great deal of strategy and purpose in along the way. When you thank a business owner for their time and acknowledge the work they did, you can kick off the feedback process in a positive manner. If you think of your own business and your own approach, it’s likely hearing “Thank you” and having your work acknowledged makes you feel appreciated, keeps your morale high, and keeps you motivated. So, as you provide feedback, we hope you’ll consider beginning with a kind word.
- Next, be specific. Unfortunately, phrases such as “I’m just not feeling this” or “This missed the mark for me” aren’t quite helpful for creatives who need to know exactly how to move forward or proceed. So, when preparing to provide your feedback, determine which specific details would you like to have changed, and if possible, how you would like to have those details changed. For example, “I would love to see a more modern option for the title font style.” Or “I would love to see a color palette with more variation.” If you aren’t sure, perhaps your feedback could be “I would love to see more color incorporated.” Or “I would love if this captured more of a romantic feeling.” Providing specific feedback with purpose and direction will equip the business owner you’ve hired to know how to move forward or what direction to begin walking in.
- Along those same lines, focus on what you do want to see. Hearing what you don’t like or want to see isn’t always as helpful, encouraging, or positive as hearing what you do want to see. Further, it doesn’t always clarify the direction someone should go in as they move forward. Instead, if you can begin your feedback with “I would love to see…” doing so can keep your tone upbeat and kind, while also providing a clear and helpful direction for the creative you’ve hired. Behind-the-scenes, we are personally much more excited, eager, and prepared to apply our clients’ feedback when we’re asked for what to do more of, rather than only told what not to do — and this aligns with research, too! According to a TED Talk called “The happy secret to better work” when people feel happy at work, they are more creative. And according to a study from Stanford Business, when people are happy at work, they’re more willing to put in extra effort and help people around them.
- Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Whether you provide feedback virtually or via phone or video call, using “I” rather than “you” helps to avoid sounding accusatory or confrontational. Perhaps it can be helpful if you think of the creative you’ve hired as someone who is on the same team as you, working with you toward a common goal. Putting them down, blaming them, or accusing them of overlooking something won’t help to keep morale high or equip the business owner you’ve hired to confidently, excitedly work toward a final product you love. Instead, it can create a strained relationship, or cause the business owner you’ve hired to feel discouraged, unmotivated, and ill-prepared to move forward in a positive way. Even when providing communication with our client, we always focus on the subject of the sentence rather than using the word “You.” As an example, there is a major difference between saying, “I would love to see more detail in my primary logo design.” versus “You didn’t include enough detail in my primary logo design.” Or “I wonder if a different title font style could create more texture.” versus “The fonts you chose don’t even feel creative.”
- Lastly, end with positivity and kindness. Thank the business owner for their hard work, for gathering your feedback, and for their continued collaboration and work toward the final product. Doing so may sound simple — like the Golden Rule — but I promise saying “Thank you” can go an extremely long way. Just like in everyday life, we likely don’t know about the personal or professional struggles the business owners we’ve hired are experiencing. Asking rather than demanding, assuming the best rather than assuming the worst, and practicing gratitude can all make a meaningful difference in how your client experience feels and in everyone’s morale overall.
Over the years, we’ve gathered and applied a great deal of feedback, as we’ve helped creatives journey through the brand and web design process. From our experience, we can confidently say, kindhearted, supportive, and encouraging feedback always helps us to produce our best work. This is likely true for you, too — because more than 80% of employees agree that recognition improves their experience, relationships, engagement, and happiness at work.
We are so hopeful this week’s episode equips you to provide kind yet effective and helpful feedback to the business owners you are currently working with — or the next business owners you hire. When you do, you can better guarantee a positive experience and a positive outcome for all involved.
About Brand It, Build It Podcast, Hosted by Kelly Zugay
Hosted by Kelly Zugay, co-founder of With Grace and Gold, The Brand It, Build It Podcast is a leading small business marketing podcast for small business owners, creatives, and founders. Weekly, brief, actionable episodes will equip you to build a successful, sustainable small business.