April 14, 2014

6 Ways to Avoid Being a Client from Hell

Andrew Follett

Alumni

Now that you know how to pick the right video production company, you need to know how to get the best possible work out of them. While a lot of that responsibility falls on the video partner you select, here are six incredibly useful things you can do as the client to end up with a video you love (and not end up on Clients from Hell).

1. Make sure key players are invested

There’s nothing worse than getting 90% done with a project only to hear that the big boss doesn’t like it and you need to start over. Trust me, we’ve heard it from clients on more than one occasion. Fortunately, this type of situation can be avoided by making sure all of the key stakeholders are involved, informed, and invested from the get-go. It sounds like a no brainer, but it happens more often than you might think.

Usually it goes something like this: the team involved on the project falls in love with an idea and moves full steam ahead, assuming the rest of management will see eye to eye. Towards the end of the production process when things are coming together, you decide to give management a sneak preview. That’s when the wheels fall off.

So instead of surprising management or the big boss when things are almost done, get all of the key players in one room to kick the project off and decide on a direction that everyone feels comfortable with. I’ll tell you now, this one simple step may save you thousands of dollars and weeks of revisions.

2. Provide specific feedback

In any type of creative field, there’s nothing worse than vague, indecipherable feedback. “This just doesn’t feel right” or “the music is too poppy” doesn’t cut it. Revision requests should always be actionable. If you don’t like a color, suggest an alternate, or better yet, provide the exact color code. If the music isn’t working, reference some music that you do like.

While providing some specifics and examples may take a little more of your time, it will most certainly reduce the amount of time it takes your production company to turn around new deliverables.

3. Avoid “and one more thing…”

Here’s the typical situation. We receive an email with what we think is all of the feedback. In fact, sometimes the client assures us everything is there and we can get started on revisions. Undoubtedly, 1 hour, 1 day, or 1 week later we receive another email, subject line “one more thing.” In addition to being annoying, it throws off the workflow by adding one more request (or in some cases, a few more requests) to the list.

Much like the first point, it’s important to get feedback from all stakeholders and consolidate it into a single document before sharing with your partner. Better to take an extra day or two confirming you have everyone’s input before sending off a string of “one more thing” emails.

4. Be timely

As a general rule of thumb, the faster you can consolidate comprehensive feedback, the better. Lately we’ve been asking clients upfront how long they expect to need to get us feedback on each deliverable. Not only does this set an internal target for them, it helps us set proper expectations with everyone involved on our team. Instead of twiddling our thumbs for a week waiting for a response, we know when to expect to hear back.

It’s not just about our time. Waiting more than a few days for feedback can kill the momentum on a project (on both sides). People get distracted with other priorities and whatever sense of urgency and creative inspiration was there at the start can begin to wane. Like most things, the longer you leave something on hold, the longer it takes to pick it back up again.

5. Welcome pushback

Hopefully you’re hiring a video partner for more than just their ability to take orders and produce a video. Ideally, they’re bringing years of video expertise to the table along with unique and creative ideas for your project. Assuming that is the case, you need to be open to hearing pushback from your production company and treat the relationship as a true collaboration.

In fact, I would suggest welcoming pushback from the very start. Ask your partner to challenge you when you bring up ideas or requests that may not be the best possible solution. And don’t just say it, mean it. When they do pushback, take their advice seriously and give it proper consideration. Sometimes, we see clients who seem open to being challenged, but when it comes down to it, it’s their way or the highway.

6. Be sensitive

I don’t want to sound all mushy gushy, but creatives can be sensitive. Creative work is, after all, an expression of someone’s ideas and creativity. The people developing the video (hopefully) have invested their time and talent into making something great. So when the first thing they hear from a client is “this is crap,” it’s easy for the people involved to take it personally, whether that’s the right response or not.

And while I know what you’re thinking, “this is business” or “toughen up and move past it,” there are simple things you can do to avoid a cranky creative. For starters, try to focus on the positive. Hopefully there are at least some things you like about the video. So start there. When you bring up things you don’t like, assume the best in people. Assume they were making their best effort and try to suggest some possible alternatives (see point #2).

Finally, as the manager of a large group of creatives, I know that a little praise can go a long way. We have a lot of amazing clients, and quite a few of them go the extra mile to send a thank you note or email once a project is complete. While the gesture may be small, it has a significant positive impact on the team and motivates everyone to keep up the good work.

A final note

Like any relationship, creating a healthy, productive video collaboration takes work. But if you select the right company and follow my advice, you should be well on your way to a lasting partnership and some truly inspired work.

Have a client from hell story to share? Or maybe some of your own advice for working with a video partner? Please join the conversation!

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