It’s kind of a no-brainer -- the creative industry is perpetually fed by the “client list.” The stronger your client list is, the stronger you are? So it doesn’t take long for us creative types to begin feeling extremely protective of “our clients,” even begin to start feeling like we own them.
But if you ask me, that’s bullshit. None of us can own the people we work for.
And I’m going to take that one step further: I believe that we should consider it a privilege that we are welcomed into a client’s sacred creative space.
Now, I know it’s kind of difficult for confident independent creative types like us to accept that we’re not in charge of a story, but this isn’t far from simple common sense. So just think about it for one hot minute … What if you started treating your clients like the most important relationship in your life?
HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
Recently I had to tell a prospect that we were at full capacity with our video production. With overlapping productions in NYC and Cincinnati, along with conflicting deadlines, we knew that we couldn’t offer the quality digital film and motion design services that we believe in. It was scary, but ultimately, the prospective client was grateful and thanked us for our honesty.
So although we may have lost an opportunity in the short term, we left the relationship feeling like we gained respect and set ourselves up for success in the long term.
COMMUNICATION BUILDS TRUST
We live in a world where over-communication is cool. But what makes it even cooler is when that communication is all about shit getting done. During a project, keep clients informed on key benchmarks with simple status updates. This assures them that you are on top of their project and thinking about them all day. Regular “check-ins” via email or phone gives them permission to focus on other things and trust.
DO IT. THEN ASK FOR FORGIVENESS LATER
Several years ago, I was producing / directing a video project in ATL. I was feeling confident with the production crew I had hired, and everyone was looking forward to a great day on set. But I knew I was in trouble when the photographer showed up and he looked like he just left middle school. Armed with a point-and-shoot and a couple of flashes, he wasn’t ready for the cyc wall the size of a football field. No lights. No nothing.
I tried not to panic, but it was clear that I had selected the wrong guy for the job. So the first thing I did was walk into a board room full of brand managers and say, “Guys, I $#*!$% up.”
I then took a leap of faith.
“But don’t worry, I’ve got it under control.”
I knew I had an amazingly talented crew who would stretch beyond their hired roles and figure it out. And they did.
By the end of the two-day production, I ended up drinking beers and laughing with my clients. Although asking for forgiveness didn’t solve my photography woes, I believe it revealed my authenticity and desire to serve them well. To this day, we laugh about that shining moment in my career.
The moral? None of us are perfect, and you will inevitably fail your clients at some point. So when this happens, you can either shift the blame on them (classy) or you can figure it out like the creative problem solver you are.