What I Have Learned From Clients

I’ve been self-employed for 18 years now, and I truly love being self- employed. What I love about it, though, may really surprise you.Key to Success It’s not just the freedom to work when and where I want to work. Or even the chance to work on a variety of projects. Or even how much I learn about my client’s products and services as I am helping them choose the best solution for their needs. Although all of those factors weigh in, there is something way more powerful about the work that I do with my clients.

What I love most about being self-employed is helping my clients figure out what they REALLY want and seeing their delight when the solution exceeds their expectations!

Having worked with big Fortune 100 companies and teeny-tiny startups, with mid-level managers and C-level executives, I have seen over and over that MOST clients have no idea what they really want.

That may seem shocking, but when clients contact me they THINK they know what they want. They ask for it directly. Then, I begin to ask them intelligent questions on how they want their idea implemented, and I really listen. I connect the dots and make sure I am understanding them correctly. That is often where the disconnect is revealed, if there is one (or more). Yes, professional butts have been saved. Repeatedly.

If they had hired a less-experienced person, then they would have gotten only what they requested, and would find out later that it was money wasted (for design and materials implementation). Heads would have rolled.

Some of my clients have been shocked when, upon realizing a disconnect so large it didn’t make sense for them to hire me, I suggested they use another vendor. I am not sure why this surprises clients. Why wouldn’t I do that? I am building long-term relationships with my clients! Steering them in the wrong direction just so I can make money would be short-sighted. Making sure my clients are successful is a win-win that helps everyone.

In addition, I pride myself in being professional, skilled, resourceful, reliable, and a huge asset to the clients who hire me. Creating a long-term, positive relationship with them is also a reason why they speak so highly of me. You can read some of their testimonials here. When you do, ask yourself: do we feel this good about the creative person we hire?

Get the Most from Creative Professionals, Part 2

This article is a continuation of the discussion from Get the Most from Creative Professionals, Part 1.

How long should it take?
Ok, if you need your project completed tomorrow morning and it’s already 5:15pm, then you probably know that your deadline is insane. Unfortunately, everyone experiences this kind of insanity every once in a while. However, if this type of deadline is more the rule than the exception at your company, it’s time to get some better time management tools. With such tight deadlines, it’s best to call someone you’ve worked with before who can hit the ground running, and you should expect to pay a premium for a rush job. It’s the cost of doing business on the bleeding edge. If you need to save money, start by planning projects well in advance to keep costs down.

However, if you have no set deadline, but don’t want to be caught in a never-ending project, either, then start with a reasonable deadline for the project. Do some research or ask your seasoned creative professional what is a reasonable deadline to design, review, tweak, and have a final review for your project before you sign on the dotted line. They will be able to guide you to less expensive options, if the timeline works for you.

If additional outside services are required, such as printing, add the outside services to the project timeline. For instance, a brochure may require photography of your product first, then design, then printing, then mailing. Allow two weeks for the design and then add the time for photography, printing, and mailing. A seasoned designer already has photography, printing, and mailing house contacts they trust, unless you have specific companies you prefer to work with. If you have such preferences, let the designer know that when you first approach them for the project.

Also, if the designer estimates that the project will take 8 hours, do not assume that those 8 hours are consecutive (i.e., 8am to 4pm). The truth is, the creative process is rarely linear. First, it’s not uncommon for the creative person familiarize themselves your project, then they will go off and do something else, while having your project in the back of their mind. Psychologists call this subconscious processing. Most creative folk will think about your project, on and off, 24 hours a day, until they have met your deadline. Lucky you, you are only paying for the time when they have resolved the creative issues and actually put the pieces of the puzzle together for you!

The person who sits down and does only what you asked them to do in a consecutive timeframe, without any other creative input (such as a copy center employee), is a production person…not a creative professional. Expect to pay this person much less, and get much less, than the person who is adding value to your project by using their creativity.

Have some comments about hiring professional creatives? Put your comment below…

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