Sean: Yeah, especially when as you mentioned you’re establishing, this is a new client, you’re establishing a new connection with them, their process may be slightly different than other clients, it’s much better to air on the side of too information. I mean you’ll find a balance but it is better to air on that side than to air on the side of not enough.
Chris: Heck, yeah.
Sean: But once you establish the relationship, communication can actually get really minimal, but you’re meeting their needs and the writers I work with now, there’s some that we discuss a lot at the beginning to assign it, they’ve got a due date. I’ll make sure that due date is two weeks to a month before it actually publishes, I don’t need to really hear anything from them until they hand it in, you know?
Chris: One of the big gripes with freelance illustration is you know, the client expects me to read their mind and I’ve found it to be more the client wants to read my mind. Early on, that was one of the things that kind of cultivated this over communicating habit in me, was I realized, the more just explain to them what I’m doing and explain to them my choices, the more they felt like oh, he’s in control.
Sean: Yeah, educating the client, I mean you’ve got to let them know what the process is if they’re not an art director, if they’re more like a micro business owner and you’re doing some illustrations and logo and branding for them. I mean they have no clue about your process, you may have to really map it out for them before you get started. Otherwise, they’re going to have a lot of anxiety.
Chris: But by and large, some of this mind reading conundrum might be that you’re just not talking to the client, you’re just sitting in your room painting and they have no idea what’s going on and all of a sudden you send them something that you spent forty hours on and they haven’t seen anything, no progress updates or…it might be you.
Sean: It’s another business strategy issue, I mean basically, let’s go back if it’s a little easier to discuss, the client that isn’t savvy, what is your client intake process? How are you outlining exactly how you get things done? How long it takes? You can literally map out when they’re going to expect to get sketches from the point of signing a contract, when they’re going to expect to get updates. If you’ve mapped that out, you can either refer to that when you communicate with them, I mean you can get specific with these things. If you’re working for an art director, you have to adjust to their process. So it’s a little bit different, you have to fit into their work flow and how they do things. You may have to log into their project management app rather than everything running through yours. I mean there’s really different spheres but in either case you can get very specific with how you control that process.
Chris: Yeah, and just one last thing on this note because it just came to mind as you were talking here, Sean. Don’t be afraid, especially young artists, I encounter a lot of young artists who don’t follow up and don’t communicate for irrational fear. There’s just an irrational paralyzing fear that has nothing to do with anything and they just clam up, they just don’t talk at all, they don’t communicate, they don’t check in just because they’re generically afraid.
Sean: I’m going to be honest, that still happens to me sometimes. I’ll have one issue and it’ll be like the one thing in my inbox I don’t want to deal with and there’s literally no good reason why. Okay yeah, it’s a bit of a difficult issue but it’s nothing like I haven’t done that before (inaudible), but it’s kind of human nature to have certain issues that just strike a chord with you and you can’t easily control fear, but you can manage fear. So it might mean you align three major tasks to do for the day, I mean you’re doing a bunch of other crap too but if you’re at least going to get these three things done, so put that thing that you’ve been putting off at the top of your list just to bang it out and try to get in a mindset that you’re able to just do it even if you feel apprehensive about it, just get through it. For me, sometimes I get a more problematic email than usual in my inbox and for some reason it just strikes some kind of chord and I feel like it’s the last thing I want to deal with and it’s not even necessarily aligning with what I think is my most important thing to do but it’s urgent or it has to get dealt with. So I just turn my email program off and I’m like I’ll deal with this at lunch time and after lunch I still don’t want to deal with it. But you just have to make it important, put it at the top of your to do list and just bang it out.
Chris: Yeah, my most productive time is my first four hours of the day and so therefore I try and always use that time on the most important stuff. But then there’s this constant, multiple times a week, this constant conflict of the time that I’m most able to deal with the stuff that I don’t like about the job is in that time as well because I have the most energy and I’m the most brave and on and on. So it’s just a constant kind of push and pull and tug of war of that.
Sean: That’s so insightful to say that’s when you’re the most brave. I can so relate to that. I want to be the most creative, I want to do my own personal writing depending on when I do my most critical editing where I’m literally like rewriting some passages and really being insightful with the stuff that I’m editing. I want to do all that kind of more creative work early on but at the same time there’s some business issues that come up that really require this same level of mental effort and plus bravery like what you’re saying, if you’re feeling apprehensive, you have to be like…you’ve got to put your Rocky suit on or whatever.
Chris: Exactly. So let’s move on to the last big reason freelance artists fail and that’s the general inability to affect a very specific clear art direction into one’s professional work. So to take notes, make changes and make the changes that the client is asking for, or more specifically the art director is asking for.
Sean: This is what you should have been walked through during school and kind of done it, like in design school we would put our stuff up and we would critique it and the teacher would…we’d get a direction and we’d go and fix it. With clients it’s more specific because it could be like you used a World War II helmet that’s got the spike on it and yeah okay, that’s actually the allies but it just reminds people of the Nazis or something. Technically it’s not, whatever it is. I mean some marketing guy could throw a red flag and you’ve got to adjust. So can you do that? Can you separate your art and bring in that business savvy where…that’s what you’re being hired to do. You’re being hired for your ability to adjust to this criticism. And it doesn’t mean you have to be walked over all the time either, you may have some insight back, probably less so early on because you don’t have that confidence, but someone may give you advice so you may be able to come back to them a little bit but ultimately you have to be able to have that kind of conversation and put it at the forefront of importance, because it is at the forefront of importance. If you’re not able to adjust to that, you’re not a professional. You’re just not a professional illustrator, I mean you’re maybe very good at your craft but you’re not good at the business.
Chris: Yeah, and I think that for one, the more professional you get, the less you care about fighting changes in a way because the more professional you get, the more you separate your professional from your personal work. And it’s not that you become apathetic about your professional work, it’s just that you realize that your work belongs to the client. And I think this gets you called back a lot in your sort of…in a way you’re kind of the advocate for the client. Now again, this doesn’t work when there’s no trust, this doesn’t work when it’s a bad client. Go to ChrisOatley.com/Bad-Clients for more on that but trusting that it’s a good client or that it’s a pretty good client, you’re providing for them a service. And I think there’s a difference too in changes like you gave there Sean which is a very specific, we just need to change the helmet, that’s more of a pragmatic note but there’s also the very difficult and more kind of foggy area of art direction.
Sean: Art is very subjective so who’s really right there? I mean does it really matter? I mean are they requiring you to completely restart the design and then the (inaudible) illustration? You should be charging them for that, but just asking you to change a few colors or something like that, you really can’t be married to your work. It might not be flexible with that kind of thing. They may have real reasons for that and they may articulate them to you, when they’re not, then they are a difficult client. But if they’re explaining a reason, I mean it’s a little easier to adjust to that. But in either case, you have to decide if you want to work with them or not. And if you want to get paid…