No matter how long you've been a freelancer or how beautifully you've curated your brand to attract just the right clientele, sticky situations will pop up. Miscommunications or difference in creative opinion have you screaming at your computer screen "but I went to ART school, trust me here!" Today we're discussing a few preventative measures that will hopefully limit these frustrating interactions and help you keep your cool and professionalism when they arise. *Suggestions in bold if you're in a hurry, specific examples italicized if you've got all day. xo
1. EDUCATE your client beforehand. When meeting to discuss their project or event, be overly specific about what you offer, what they pay, what they get, how and when you deliver, what happens if they back out, etc. Get as much information from them about their expectations and ideals; the key here is to limit future surprises for everyone.
2. Make sure you're a GOOD FIT. If during these initial conversations you realize you might not be best suited for the job, say so. I know that especially when you're starting out, any work seems like good work*, but if the project doesn't help push you creatively or you know you'd be miserable the entire time, that's something to consider. (Note : this isn't a snobby rejecting of clients, rather it helps to ensure that you create work you are proud of and excited about doing. This makes for better artists and happier clients.)
For instance, if a couple uses the word "photojournalistic" five times and I know that my style isn't truly photojournalistic, I say so. It might be a misunderstanding of the word -- again, educate -- or simply that I'm not what they're looking for. I give a few specific examples about my approach and if that's not ideal for them, kindly provide a couple names of talented photographers that might be a better fit. When presented in a gentle way, they realize you're looking out for their best interest, pairing them with a creative that will better suit their needs and you're not stuck trying to create in a different style.
3. STAY AHEAD of the game. These folks are investing in you and partnering with you for a final product about which they're excited. Regardless of your medium, there's a customer service aspect to every one of our fields. It's literally your job to keep them informed and up to date on your progress and their project. Even if they've been told that they'll have a logo in two weeks, a quick email one week in letting them know that you're making progress and are excited to share your work with them keeps them informed and feeling valued.
Even though my turnaround times are clearly listed in my contract and something we address during our initial meetings, I typically get an email from every client two weeks after their wedding asking when images will be ready. I now send a "hooray you're married!" update-email reminding them of the timelines with a little sneak peek which continues to make them feel value and informed and keeps me from getting discouraged repeating myself.
4. REVISIT, ANALYZE and ADJUST. If you find yourself writing the same email over and over or running into miscommunications at the same point with each client, take an afternoon to do some deep cleaning. Try to figure out where the miscommunication occurs and how to avoid it next time. Write down a detailed description of your ideal client. Where they work, shop, their ages, their hobbies, the way they decorate, what they do on the weekends… and then make sure everything about your brand and your content is consistent to attracting that individual.
Ashley provides her design clients with an online quiz that she created to have a better understanding over their visual aesthetic. She found a method that her clients enjoy that also helps eliminate some "no, not that one…" conversations down the road.
5. Regardless of how many preventative measures you've taken, there will always be the folks that are tricky to please. We find it helpful to digest their responses, take a BREAK and BREATHE deeply, then address the issue when you've cooled down. Never respond to an email if you're feeling heated. As a creator, it's easy to take client feedback personally but remember that most often the work and the artist are completely separate to them. If it's a particularly sticky situation, verbally processing with a fellow creative can often yield helpful responses.
*If you're just starting out and there's a necessity to take all work that comes along, we totally get that, we've been there. Implement the practices above and the work that you do, even if not ideal, can be done with good conscious and in a way that makes you proud as you build a portfolio.