Freelance Creatives – Why it pays to be nice.

A rude awakening.

If you’re making the transition from agency to freelance life, one thing will be glaringly apparent; very quickly. You can’t get away with the shit you used to back in the office. It’s very different out on your own. As jack of all trades you’ll be suit, accountant AND creative genius and this can leave you a little short on time and fuse.

The truth of the matter is that a client is only interested in your creative talent. They don’t want difficult. They certainly don’t want stubborn or snippy. If you display any of these attributes to a client – be worried, because bad news spreads and it’s only a matter of time before the phone stops ringing and the bank balance dries up. Like you, clients want an easy life – you can’t argue with that.

So many freelancers let their ego take centre stage in place of providing a quality, stress-free service. Everything should be about your relationship with the client so how can you make them happy without making yourself miserable?

First things first.

To avoid the onset of working tensions between you and a client, I would encourage talking at key stages of any job – at briefing and presentation stage at the very least. If you or your client have any questions they can be answered right away. This will avoid misunderstandings from the outset.

All in good time.

Be on time for your meetings, calls and deadlines. Always.

Different day. Same smile.

Consistency of service is vital. If you’re having a terrible day don’t let it show to your client. Give the same service each and every time you interact – if you’re chilled and responsive one minute and then gripey and argumentative the next, you’ll come across as a bit of a mentalist so make sure you’re always the same happy to help person. Even if you’re secretly planning ways of killing them.

Here’s one I made earlier.

Stay in control of your client by staying one step ahead of them. Preempt any “issues” before you present your work, and always have a few solutions up your sleeve. Never say “can’t do…” without having a “could do…” to follow. Clients don’t want a problem any more than you do, they’ll respect that you’re brimming with other options.

Show off.

Over deliver on a job – do what you’ve been asked to then add a couple of “you could also do this…” concepts a couple of colour options or an alternative layout. Your client will think you’re the best!

You don’t understand me.

Never assume a client is incapable of understanding your creative genius. It’s your job to ensure they know where you’re coming from. Presenting your work well is key – If they ask a stupid question – listen patiently, then answer politely without a hint of an eye roll. Arrogance is a huge turn off, so no matter how ridiculous it gets, be professional and courteous – weld a smile on your face if you have to.

Pistols at dawn.

It’s important and healthy to challenge your client from time to time, but do pick your battles wisely. Nobody wants to squabble over an en-dash or comma so be prepared to just suck it up once in a while. Fight the bigger battles firmly but politely, but realise when “No” really does mean “No”.

It’s good to talk.

Whether it’s a vague brief, horrible interference with your work or just a really rude client – you must remember that you are in control of the outcome. Problems can be ironed out with good communication. That normally means picking up the phone. Email rallies take up too much time and are open to misinterpretation, magnifying problems rather than solving them.

Bide your time.

If you’re starting to feel like you’re losing control of a job, take a step back, take a deep breath, take a nap, scream at the wall, smash a plate… Do whatever you need to do to vent – then put on your fakest smile and pretend like nothing ever happened. Prepare for a assertive rather than aggressive battle. You’ll be surprised how simple it can be to bring a client around to your way of thinking with the right attitude.

Say goodbye. Nicely.

If you’re at a point where you’re really not getting anywhere with a rude client. Assess the loss, and if it’s tenable, cut the cord. Again, do this in person or via telephone – explain calmly but assertively and without losing your rag why you’re doing what you’re doing. (Make sure you get paid for any work you’ve already done). The client may well back down and you’ll keep the job, but if not, follow up professionally with an email wishing them well. Avoid bagging them on social media – it’s a small World.

Thanks for everything.

When you finish a job send a thank you for the work – be sure to say you’re available for anything else.

Me again.

Keep an open dialogue with all of your old clients – send infrequent emails to say hello (even if you dislike them) – and always remind them that you’re available for work.

Keep smiling.

There is a lot to smile about as a freelancer, so it’s vital that you remember this every day! Stay positive when you’re dealing with your clients and you’ll have them for years. And we all know, a regular pay cheque puts a smile on your face – FOR REAL.


Lee Jackson, Freelance Art Director & Graphic Designer – –  @heymrleej



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