When I was younger – like, two years younger (we’re not really going back very far, are we?) – whenever I heard someone say “client” it felt weird and pretentious. Heck, when I heard people say it a couple of months ago it felt weird and pretentious, but that might be down to the people I heard say it.
Now, I’ve got a client. Sort of.
In a matter of extreme Grown Up Business, a group of us in college met with the clients over a coffee to discuss an extracurricular media project. I won’t be giving away the details of that meeting – or of the client – until we’re actually in a position to share the content as it’s released by the client. That’s not the point of this post. No, I want to talk about the actual experience of Grown Up Business.
Specifically, I want to highlight some of the important considerations for dealing with someone in a media/content creation meeting.
- Who has creative control? We were fortunate enough to not have to ask this question, but here’s the thing: if you don’t know, then you don’t have any creative freedom, without the risk of doing “useless” work. Today, our clients gave us creative control, within some guidelines that fit their vision. Whether you work for someone who sees your ideas and abilities as having precedence over their own ideas – which might see as limited – is entirely down to the individual making the decision. The important thing is to know.
- Does the client have an idea of what they want? Here’s the tricky one. Many people don’t realise they know what they want until – hey – they have to tell you. The best thing to do is to ask, and to have an idea of your own capabilities as an individual or as a group beforehand so you can determine whether or not you can actually produce what they have in mind.
- Do you have any ideas? This might seem like an obvious question, but it helps to enter a meeting with an idea of what you want to do. Your idea may be shot down straight away, but it helps to demonstrate that you have ideas, that you know your own capabilities and that you have the client’s brand and organisation in mind.
- What sort of timeline are you working to? This should be a joint decision made by both parties, and should take into account (a) when the client needs the finished product and (b) how long the project could reasonably take to complete. When you know what you’re producing, that’s an easier problem to address, but it needs to be made clear from the initial meeting when you’ll be handing up your final work. It’s sort of like being in school again, but with more coffee and meetings and being a capital-letter Grown Up.
- What sort of budget are you working with? Something to keep in mind: if you volunteer to help, you may be working on your own budget, without remuneration to speak of. If you’re in the business of making money for your work, you need to enter the meeting with an idea of:
- Your working rate, and
- Expenses across various sectors including:
- Actors or models,
- Additional equipment, and
- Hiring out a location.
Having that information at hand is important in determining whether or not a client’s ambitions for a project meet their budget allowance. It is possible – and likely – that someone from a Marketing Department may be placed in charge of arranging a project t hat requires outsourcing (to you) without a clear idea of their budget or the costs involved in making ideas a reality. That’s fine. That’s normal. Until you’ve worked in a field, it’s difficult to know how much it’ll actually cost you.
Involvement in Grown Up Business is new to me on a personal level, but thankfully I pay a lot of attention when people start talking about working with clients – either IRL or in a book. If you happen to work freelance – for clients, whether you actively call them that or not – what other advice would you offer?