Marketing and design are intuitive. I'm a believer in delivering surprises, little bits of delight that a buyer may not have known she wanted or needed. The skill, the art, lies in determining what those are.
Yet in the consulting and design service business (whether design is architecture, interiors, industrial or graphic design) the other challenge is scientifically separating the client who makes decisions in a clean, linear fashion from one who requires iterations to understand what will have the greatest upside. Neither is better than the other; the art is in matching the process with the client, which requires knowledge or right intuition up front.
Last week I was talking with a friend who owns a development company, and he was wishing for a tool that would help him determine which clients were linear and which would be iterative--who will stay on script and who will want to improvise a bit. All design firms would be more profitable if they gauge this accurately before starting work. And again today, I was reminded that sometimes turning down a project beats forging a relationship that may not work for the client or me.
What am I suggesting? It's equally if not more important to understand the nature of the relationship and establish some rules of engagement before getting engaged. If the personalities and expectations mesh, it will be a whole lot easier--and more fun--to work together. Whether you are a client or a service provider, know with whom you work well and with whom you don't, and make decisions accordingly. Life's too short, and great projects are too much fun to get bogged down in experiences that don't delight. Love what you do, like who you are doing it with.