The Soft Sciences of Professional Practice: Thing 3

This blog series based on a talk I did originally for a class of LCAD students in November of 2016

In college (or whatever way you learned your thing) you learn how to DO your craft: Visual hierarchy, rules of layout, color theory, how to use design programs - the mechanics of it. And if you're lucky, somewhere along the way you also get taught about doing the WORK of your craft: How to hustle new work, manage clients, invoicing, project management, etc.

Here in Soft Sciences, I'm going to talk about some of the touchy-feely, soft and squishy places in-between those two things.

 

Thing 3: Clients (Almost Always) Make Your Work Better. Get Over It.

Okay. This is hard. I know. Especially when you spend lots of time proving your authority and expertise in your field, it can be a big hit to your ego to really embrace client feedback. Because you spent so much time and thought and energy doing it right the first time! You thought through all of the problems! You did your research! You painstakingly adjusted the spacing and the lines and the color to be fully imbued with intentionality and brilliance!

You send it to your client. They like what you did. But.. "We'd like to see a version with such-and-such...". Or, "What about trying it without the..."

If you're anything like me, initially your internal reaction to reading those words is something like a burning hellfire of rage and righteous indignation. But, at that moment, you have a choice to make. Do you want to be good at your job or not?

It's easy to forget that, while we are creative professionals, we're essentially working in a service industry. Part of being great at this job is taking excellent care of your client- which includes making sure they feel heard and understood. 

You know what works your creative muscle like nothing else? Take less-than-ideal feedback, put it through the filter of your brilliant mind, and then improve upon the already awesome work you created. It's so grueling, but the payoff is almost always extraordinary. Really. Almost always, integrating challenging client feedback has made my work better than I ever could have imagined it to be.

This is, of course, both incredibly rewarding and impossibly frustrating.

Remember! Your client is not your enemy! They are your partner in creating magic. Who else will give you money to create beautiful things? Right. Nobody. So treat your client with the excitement and respect that relationship deserves.

And hey. Sometimes feedback / revisions can go on for way too long. That's usually when we're tempted to stop caring and just give the client "exactly what they're asking for" (read: give the client shit work that you'd be embarrassed to show anyone ever). Right? But I promise it's worth the effort to push through. Swallow your pride and try to read past their words and through to what they are really trying to make happen. Stay helpful and humble. Try and always make work that you'd be proud to show off, even when the brief or the feedback is less than ideal. You should always be proud of the work you're creating.

Or you can boil it all down to this: Don't be too precious about your work. Your client is not the enemy, your apathy is. Be humble, helpful, and make great work.