Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Working With Clients-The Challenging Concept Of Now!

clients, working with clients, illustration, freelance, illustrator
© Holly DeWolf

Now means:
1. At this present time. 
2. Without further delay; immediately; at once. 
3. Yesterday! 

Illustrators have a different concept of time than our clients. Our definition of now is determined by many things but with a more casual twist. A clients definition of now really means NOW or two days ago!

Most illustrators work independently in our very own studios. Our day consists of things like coffee, kids, walking the dog, projects, emails, promotion, social networking, looking for work, illustrating, sketches, phone calls, errands, laundry, eating, looking for more work and more coffee. It all depends on how your work day set is up. Some illustrators juggle another career or have the busy job of raising kids. Its going to be different for every illustrator. 

Then there is your clients day-this is completely different! 

Some clients are in different time zones with different work hours. Some clients have to answer to someone or work in a larger agency with many projects on the go.   

Along with all this time juggling are the many illustration misconceptions:
• Clients often assume you will always be home. 
• Some assume you work all hours of the day 24/7.
• Some clients assume that you can drop everything to address their concerns, requests or questions they may have.

Many of us work a lot-it's true but we do have to escape the office from time to time. When we do leave sometimes things can pop up! 

The scenario:
You check your email and your client wants you to revise an illustration that needs to be completed in the next 2 hours. Problem: You are at your child's recital. You wont be able to accomplish that task in the time frame requested.

Oh crap! 

What do you do?

First off, we need to be like Switzerland. We need to be in the neutral zone. This means we must be flexible within reason, diplomatic, willing to listen and help solve the problem. This can be very challenging especially on those days when the unexpected happens. 

Suddenly time can feel like the enemy! We cannot always stop what we are doing. 

First off, you must contact them immediately. You need to be straight up that you are out of your studio. You can tell them that when you get back, their project will be addressed immediately and that you will get it accomplished as fast as you can. Now if you're lucky, your client will be understanding. Most likely they wont act like Scrooge. If they do give you a hard time then the only solution is to do the best you can and get it done asap.

Unexpected moments can be emergencies, rescheduled doctors appointment, sickness, computers going on the fritz or unexpected guests arrive in town that pay you a unexpected visit. These things happen. If your at the emergency room, the needs of others will have to wait. 

How to prevent issues:
1. If you know that you will be out of the studio next week during peak times, let your client know. Send them an email in advance. 

2. If you only work on illustrations on the weekend or at night make them aware of your working schedule.

3. Tell your client the best times you can be reached. 

4. If you work part-time or full-time at another job-tell them. If your illustration workday begins 9 pm, let them know. In some cases this can be an asset if you work with international clients. You may be able to still carry on a flexible work relationship. 

5. You can always set your email to post an 'out of the office' reponse if you know you wont be around. This lets others who contact you know that you are out of the office right away. 

I believe the best thing you can do with a client is to let them know up front how you work, when you work, when you can be contacted and how you can be contacted. When it comes to projects and working with clients, never assume anything! Be direct, open minded and think of your client as part of the process. If things work out, a great working relationship can be established that could lead to more work and some great word of mouth publicity too. 

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