Most of the time on the podcast, we focus on how to pursue artistic, self-started ventures. But, we know that another big part of most artists’ careers involves client work – or – services you provide for someone else in exchange for money, promotion, or other direct benefits.
In this episode, we’ll talk about some of the most important aspects int the relationship between clients and creatives, including how both can make and/or save money. We break our tips down into expectations, payment, and process.
Set Expectations (3:42)
Tips for Clients
Before clients begin talking to a creative about contracting him or her for a project, they need a full understanding of the goals of the project. Of course, you might not know exactly what you need as an end product. But, if you provide a list of goals and ideal timing, you can trust the creative to provide suggestions for how and when to achieve those goals.
More often than not, the first phone call from a client to a creative happens too early because the client has not nailed down why they want what they want. When it comes to setting your own expectations, remember:
Price, Timing, and Quality. Pick two out of three.
tips for Creatives (9:27)
Creatives must understand the purpose of the project before they can even think about taking it on. And that purpose never just to make something pretty or cool. It’s likely to sell something or build a fanbase for a business or brand. Produce your creative work for the target customer/audience. Not for yourself and not even for the client.
Be sure to lay out every necessary contractual detail beforehand. If you get into a bad situation with a client, take responsibility. Don’t blame your “bad client.” Blame yourself for not thoroughly setting expectations and restrictions. And when you inevitably leave things out of your initial contract, learn from your mistakes and correct it next time.
Another important expectation to set before beginning a project is who the key decision-maker is on the client side. If you don’t define a specific point person, you’re liable to run into a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario where you’re getting all kinds of feedback but don’t know which is most important.
Finally, if you get a grip on the expectations of a project and know you can’t deliver a great final product in the timeline specified, don’t be afraid to say no. You may have to pass on a job in the short-term, but it will only make you look more professional and in-demand in the long run.
Define the Payment (20:07)
Tips for Clients
The biggest difference in perspective on project budget happens because of a gap between creation and consumption. It’s easy to watch, listen, look at a great finished work. It’s hard to build that finished work from scratch. And if you try to cheap out on it, you’ll inevitably end up with a subpar product.
Clients need to understand the value behind the project they are commissioning. If the project is going to generate big profits, spend big money to build it right. If it won’t generate any profits, scrap the project. It will only frustrate you to pour money into a venture that doesn’t accomplish actual goals for your organization.
If you can’t offer creatives the money the deserve, it’s okay to offer alternative forms of payment such as writing a good review, blog article, or social media post to promote them. Just be careful not to insult a creative by assuming you’re doing them a big favor by offering these things.
Tips for Creatives (25:36)
The key to getting paid more in the long run from client work is to avoid being desperate for money now. Get a short-term side job waiting tables or serving coffee so your rent money is covered. Then, work after-hours on fun, cool projects for free or cheap in order to build an impressive resume and portfolio. Even if you’re not getting paid much money when you’re getting started, ALWAYS get something in return for your work. As mentioned, this could be free promotion, a good review, or a blog feature on the client’s website. If you don’t have enough mutual interest, the project will turn into charity work, which will likely frustrate both parties.
You should always get some money up front. NEVER accept a deal where your pay as a creative is dependent on the success of your client’s product or launch. It’s best to maintain some form of leverage against the project until the client pays you – for example, a watermark over a video which you don’t take off until after you get paid.
Finally and most importantly, CHARGE MORE!!! Michael references the seanwes podcast, which teaches creatives the simple formula:
If you can double your rate and lose less than half your clients, you’re not charging enough.
If you’ve picked up experience and have made your time worth more than when you were just starting, don’t be afraid to charge people for it. If a client leaves you because of it, fine. You want to keep the people that understand the full value of your time.
Develop a Process and Communicate Consistently (33:05)
Tips for Clients
To test a creative on how professional they are, ask them about their process. If they can’t give a good answer, they likely don’t have enough experience to be an ideal candidate.
On the subject of process, Will reads a note from his friend, Ali Nelson, a calligrapher who works with clients a lot:
As a designer, it’s my role to take the ideas and plans and holistic vibe of a dream and condense it down into something beautiful and efficient. And that can be tough. The conversations around it can be even tougher.
Knowing that your creative has a great process in place is the simplest clue that they will be able to pull off this “beautiful and efficient” final product.
Be sure put communication processes in place throughout your contract with creatives. Set up a regular time to discuss progress and feedback. It will help avoid you and your artist/creative getting on two different pages.
On the topic of giving feedback, here are some commonly used phrases that drive us creatives crazy. DON’T SAY THIS STUFF:
- I want this to “pop more.”
- I want a “simple, clean” design.
- Make the logo bigger.
- Add more color.
Finally, if you are a client giving feedback, don’t assume everything is a “quick, little change.” When making requests, always be open to the idea that your small tweak could easily take days to perform.
Tips for Creatives (42:57)
Creatives need to record and refine a specific process for how they do a job. The best way to develop your process is to keep a journal while you work so you can look back after projects are complete to see what time was well spent, how you could’ve avoided problems, communicated better, etc. In time, your process will become one of your most valuable offerings to clients. You can also turn your process into case study articles or Ebooks that act as great promotional materials for your brand.
When a project is in-process, never take the client’s feedback personally. Be open-minded to their ideas (even if they’re terrible ideas). Learn to communicate in a way that makes them feel heard even if you don’t ultimately utilize all of their suggestions. If you get into a frustrating situation where the client wants something you don’t know how to deliver, lay out multiple, specific options for how to move forward instead of just refusing to make any changes.
A Few Final Thoughts (47:07)
- If you’re a creative with a website, including a thorough contact form is a great way to vet potential clients and speed up communication (especially if you’re trying to weed out “bad clients”).
- Always ask for referrals from clients. Consider offering them discounts on work as additional motivation. Reach out to them on a regular basis to see if they have any hot leads.
- As a creative, remember that the better you get at the business stuff, the more enjoyable (and profitable) the creative side will be.
- Whether you’re a client or creative, put a premium value on copywriting. It is often the most crucial element of a video, graphic advertisement, or website. If possible, hire a professional writer to write your piece.
- As a creative, establish a team of other creatives around you. Always be networking. Look for opportunities to pass off jobs and do favors for your fellow artists. Most of the time, it will pay back with interest.
NOTE: Special thanks to Freepik for the wrench icon in the episode cover art.