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5 Things To Keep in Mind When Dealing with Clients


Continuing my "Sit Down Chat" videos, today I share five things to keep in mind when dealing with clients. We often address working with bad clients, but what about the good clients you work with? How can you make those relationships better? Let's chat about that.

Full Video

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Notes and Sources

Here are the 5 principles covered in this video:

  1. Establish a Deadline
  2. Talk a Little and a Lot
  3. Don't be Somebody Else
  4. Give A or B Choices
  5. Adopt Their Babies

Don't forget to read the How to Avoid Working With Clients You Want to Avoid Working With article mentioned in the video.

Show Video Transcription

Hey, guys, what's going on? My name is Adam Everett Miller, and I am the site editor here at ae.tutsplus.com. Today, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about clients, not so much on how to avoid bad clients or red flags to watch out for. We actually just posted an article about that here last week. Today, I want to talk a little bit more about how to keep good clients and how to make your relationship with them stronger so they'll continue to come back to you. Alright. So, I have five things that I want to cover. Let's jump right in.

Alright. So, the first point is to establish a deadline. I think a lot of times as we hear the word deadline, we think, "If I don't get it done by this time, I'm dead." Okay. That might be true, but that's not the point of the word. If we look at the actual origin of the word, it comes from the early American prison system, where the guards would paint a solid white line right by the fence, but just inside the fence, and so anytime a prisoner would cross that line, it's understood they would be shot, shot dead.

This was really brilliant on the guards' part, because this meant that now they don't have to worry and be stressing about how close are they getting to the fence or what are they doing over there in the corner. No. If you cross that line, if you even get the fence, they're not going to be a problem anymore.

We should view our projects that same way. Once a project gets to the deadline, the project dies. I don't die, the project dies, and here's why this is so smart. I was just sitting in the studio, I think it was maybe a week ago, and my buddy, Mwita, who works with me, he turned over and said,
"You know what, I'm in the middle of four projects right now, but I have nothing to do today." What happened is he started all these projects, but he didn't establish enough deadlines, and all of a sudden he's a slave to client feedback.

He didn't dare move forward to a different project, because what if I hear word back, then I've got to be ready to switch gears and jump right in. He couldn't move forward with the current projects. He was just stuck in the state of limbo, and that's really kind of a stupid waste of time. It's not a good place to be.

If you can establish a deadline right off the bat and say, "Okay. It's Monday now. If you can give me those alterations by Wednesday, then we'll record the voice over by Friday." You can start to be a little bit more intentional with your scheduling and your planning, and you don't find yourself stuck, waiting. Make deadlines for the client to protect yourself more than something to add stress to your life. Okay. So establish a deadline.

The next point is talk a little and talk a lot. Probably should be talk a lot and talk a little, but I like a little and a lot better. Well, let's start with a lot. Talk a lot. By this I mean update your client regularly. Keep them in the loop with what you're doing. I've never once in my time of doing video production ever had a client say, "Okay. Adam, dude, I've got it man. You don't have to let me know that much." No, are you kidding me? I mean, that might happen someday, but, no, they want to know what's going on, "Okay. What's the latest?"

But the key is talk a little, as well. So, don't write four paragraphs and spend a half hour doing that. They're not going to like that. No, be working my project. But if you can just drop a quick little one sentence thing and say, "Hey, dude, just want to let you know," don't say dude, but,
"Hey, just want to let you know, we got the voice over recorded. I'm looking for music right now, and I kind of have a couple of template ideas ready to go."

If you can establish just regular updates with the client, they're going to feel like they're in the loop, they're confident, they can rest easy. Really, this is their paycheck, this is their livelihood, so it's like you're babysitting their child. I mean, of course, they want to know what's going on, so keep them updated regularly. Talk a little and a lot.

Alright. The next one is don't be someone else. I was going to say be yourself, but that just sounds really stupid. So, don't be someone that you're not. Everyone can tell when someone's being fake with them. "Hey, how's it going?" "Oh, not a problem. We can take care of that for you."
"Okay, yep, all right." "Oh, yeah, OK, bye-bye now." "Bye-Bye." Shoot me in the face. It's horrible. So, don't try to pretend that you are bigger than you are.

I was on a road trip recently. Someone had gifted me this book "Rework" by 37 Signals, the guys who make Basecamp. The book was okay, a lot of kind of just like don't do this, and this is stupid, and don't do this. But one really cool thing that I walked away from was they said, "Bigger is not always better." Why have 20 guys when you can do a really good job with five? Why have five people when you can do a really good job with you and a partner, and then you subcontract a lot of your work?

Don't always pretend like you're a bigger organization. What you're going to do is get in over your head, shoot yourself in the foot--that's two idioms in a row--but you're going to take on more than you really ought to, and you're going to stress yourself out, because you're pretending that you're bigger. No, focus on your strengths. You're small. You're very mobile. You can make the client a priority, whereas other companies maybe can't because they're so big.

I think a lot of times there's a fear in admitting that, "Okay, yeah, it's just me, and I subcontract my audio work, and I subcontract a lot of my shooting." Oh, then the client's going to look at me and say, "Okay, this guy's not legit." That might happen, but if you can deliver and your work speaks for itself, then the client shouldn't have anything to fear. I mean, a big company is made up of a lot of little people just like you and me. So don't be fake. Be yourself. Be yourself. Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams. Be all that you can be. Okay.

The fourth point is give A or B choices. A lot of times clients need to interject; they need to give their input, and that's great. The worst is when you have a panel of people that are all looking at it, and then they start just throwing out stupid preference changes for no point, like, "Can we make the text blue instead of red?" "Yes, I can make the text blue instead of red." So, then later as they're watching it, "You see that text?
That was me. That was my idea." It's just stupid.

When you establish, "Okay. Do you want it blue, or do you want it red,"
then it's an easy choice. They can be assertive and say, "Blue. Let's go with blue," and you're giving them a choice rather than, "Okay. So, what were you thinking color-wise?" Okay. Then it's just leaving them so loose that they don't even know what to deal with or what to do with it.

Another thing to keep in mind with that is questions are always a safe way of communicating. No one ever is going to be mad at you if you say, "Okay. So, what kind of emotion are you wanting for this piece," or "What do you think about this," or, "How soon are you thinking?"

I mean, anytime you can twist something to be an interrogative statement where you're actually asking a question, there's nothing offensive or condescending about that. That's, "I want to know. What do you think. Help me out here. Help me help you." It's a very soft way of communicating that has always served me really, really well, and it goes over a lot better than trying to educate, because a lot of times you do want to educate the client.

I mean, they don't know what Particular is, they don't know what Ease and Wiz is. They don't know any script or plugin or tool that you use, and they might not even know any of these animation principles, or even video production or shooting principles. So, it's very tempting to be like, "So, are we going to white balance or . . . ?" Don't be a jerk. Say, "Okay. Now, boom."

It's a different way of approaching things. Always make it a soft, kind of,
"What about," or "What do you think?" Okay. So, give A or B choices, and then that also helps you to move forward a little bit. If everything's,
"Well, we'll talk about it later," okay, then we need to go back to establish a deadline and say, "Alright. Can you have a decision to me by Wednesday?"

Backing up to that, not all projects are going to be like, "Okay. We'll be done by Friday, the 27th of August," or whatever. Some of them, okay, this is a bigger project, but at least establish iterations, like, "Okay. Let's have a checkpoint. We will have the script and the voice over recorded by the 15th of August, okay? And then at that point, we'll reevaluate, see how we are, and then the goal is, hopefully, before September, we'll have the project done." At least establish a checkpoint. There needs to be a date. There needs to be a trajectory. Otherwise, you're going to be floating in this amniotic fluid. I don't even know what I'm saying.

Alright. Speaking of fluids, adopt their babies. I just had a baby. I had a baby. It was good. Adopt their babies. Get passionate about what they're passionate about. If they like things sleek and modern and minimalistic and simple, you can even use words like sleek, modern, minimalistic, and minimal. I don't know, whatever.

You can use the same words that they use, because that shows that, okay, we're on the same page here. Don't be a copycat, but if you ask questions beyond just simply, "Okay. So when do you want this done? What was your budget again," but you can say, "Okay. Where do you plan to head with this," or, "What other big plans do you have for the company or for this product? What's your overall grand scheme? Are there any other things that you kind of have on the back burner that you'd like to get done?"

If you're asking questions beyond this initial project, it shows them that you really are interested in the well-being of the company, or the well-
being of even their career or their position. If you do that, it starts kind of putting this little seed in their brain, thinking, "Okay. You know what, this guy really cares. Maybe I can bring him along for the long haul, and he can be a part of helping me make this thing happen." It's just smart, practical business.

I guess I'm going to come back to update. I should've mentioned this with the update. I have a client right now. I'm working on a project for him. The only way for me to update him is I actually call him, like I'll call his house phone. I don't know that there's a cell phone, but I call his house phone. He doesn't do texting, and he's really bad with e-mails, so I'm calling his phone, "Hey, just want to let you know, this is where we're at." That's fine. To each his own. Some people prefer e-mails. Some people like using Basecamp. Some people actually like texting. To me, that's intrusive, but that's what some people like, so learn their communication style.

Last one is--This is free. This is like the floating sixth point--if you have some referral person that kind of hooked you up with a job, and so they're now you're point of contact, and they're your "in" to this project, as soon as possible get to know other people in the organization, or that work with this product, or whatever the case may be. If you are just hinged on by one single person, if that person is let go or life changes or something and they move on, now you're left kind of hanging.

So, as soon as you can, establish a relationship. "Oh, hey, Jamie, how are you doing?" Like, "Oh, good to see you." "Hey, Jim, I remember you like the Jets. Alright. Good to know that." By establishing and kind of making a name for yourself within a company that you're working for, even if you totally have your point of contact, that's the guy I have to please, let me still try to get to know maybe the administrator of the school or the girl in accounting, because that means that even if your point of contact is gone, and your point of reference is gone, or your referee is no longer there, you still have a name with the company, and they'll be like, "Oh, yeah. Well, I know Adam. Yeah, yeah, he's a cool guy. We worked with him before." So, that's the free sixth one.

Hope there was something insightful in this for you. The reason I do it is because the best information is often had with a sit down chat, so that's what I figured we'd do. Again, my name is Adam Everett Miller for ae.tutsplus.com. Good luck. I'll talk to you soon. Bye.

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