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Professional Confessional: Relationships

Your knotted stomach rolls while your breath and heartbeat resemble a jazz band. You’re not staring at a vicious mammal intent on making a meal of you or another dreaded danger that would soon enough end your life, or worse, your career. You’re staring at an email with each letter hitting you like bullets. A beloved client who trusted your ability and vision is not happy with your work.

Believe it or not, they’re right and you’re wrong and that’s okay.

Male taking photo in round mirror 

But if this is true, why do we react to someone’s critiques such as we would to the imminent threat of death? Today I’ll warmly welcome you to the idea that not everything you do means the world to everyone. You’re a creative visionary by day, sure. But what you are not is a shrinking violet or thin-skinned. Immediately remove these terms from your self-talk vocabulary.

You just care, and that’s perfectly fine.

You care and that’s fine.

Firstly, you’re not betrayed or useless, you’re attached to the work and detached from your client’s wishes. You as a professional have the burden of uniting the two. In times of static between you and your client over a finished product, side with them whenever you can and make an effort to ensure the remedy is both timely and constructive to a point that you and your client develop a deeper professional relationship.

Not all bad experiences are bad, just like Charles ‘Chuck’ Swindoll famously said:

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

Take the high road and the one that allows a more fruitful result for you both and the thoughts of dread will be behind you. Time spent living in the past is time spent that could have been used to remedy the situation for your client, because that’s exactly why you’re here. 

Person in painted colours 

Not everything you do for a client has to be “art”.

How liberating is this? Knowing that everything you are commissioned doesn’t have to be the Mona Lisa or Shakespeare? We touched on the common ground of being a creative for hire earlier and this can truly be a liberating experience once you realise that not everything you do for them has to be high art; it can be what they need.

The delicate balance of doing what feels right by your creative skill set and what the client wants has to tip in favour of the client, but trust me, this can be good. The trappings of perfectionism we can go through trying to create the ultimate expression of art can border on obsessive. Thankfully, for a client that doesn’t require this, you should not by any means be pulling your hair out over the greatness of your work, just the right fit. If your client asks for a metaphorical pair of shoes that are comfortable, don’t bring them glass slippers that hurt their feet. Unless it ultimately goes against your better judgment, in which case…


You don’t have to be ‘right’

Occasionally, you will hold on to your position with white knuckles and be damned sure you are doing what is best for your client – after all they hired you for a reason. The best course of action here is just to put your best case forward with some example outcomes of why it is the best course, complete with somewhat could go wrong and simply let it go.

You’ve said and done your piece and the time for bargaining was at the start of the job or project. Now is the time to focus on the future and getting this revision right whilst building on your professional relationship with the client.

Male with bag leaving officeFall apart with glue in your hand.

Sometimes you’re just not going to keep it together. That thing you did that took weeks of your life for a high-profile client ended up in the trash and you feel hollow that you won’t ever get that time back. When in fact, you put in the time and effort to hone your craft and get better. Besides, if they’re really unhappy with it, keep it on your backburner and repurpose it or use it as your own. Your time is never truly wasted if it helps you hone your craft or the end product can be repurposed.

In summary, care enough to give them exactly what they need and hold tight to your professional authority if you think it is in the best interest of your client. Ultimately, it is their choice to do what they want with your work and if it doesn’t suit, repurpose it for your own goals when possible.

Go forth into the fray and keep the dream of your clients alive.